Star of the automaker's stand in Geneva, the Mini Clubman Concept previews the next production model based on the new platform underpinning the 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop. As the largest vehicle to ever wear a Mini badge, the Clubman Concept offers evocative style and enhanced functionality. It's a combination the automaker believes will bring competitive cool to this volume-build offshoot.
Some 10.2 inches longer, 6.7 inches wider and an inch taller than the current Clubman, the concept melds the latest take on classic Mini exterior cues with subtle aero tweaks culled from parent company BMW. This recasting also increases the formal door count from three to a more user-friendly four and brings a sleeker frameless design to the Clubman's existing split-style tailgate. Up front, the signature hexagonal grille gets a subtle 3D remake while the large circular headlamps are ringed by LED running lights. To enhance its wind-cheating capability, the lower apron of the Clubman Concept flanks its conventional inlet area with BMW-style Air Curtains.
That Teutonic influence also carries to the profile where the traditional "floating" top panel and prominently flared fender arches are complemented by the Mini's first use of flow-channeling Air Breathers just aft of the front wheel wells and a subtle but effective double-element roof spoiler. Other notable exterior highlights include 19-inch bi-color alloy wheels wrapped in performance tires, large Plexiglas panels in the top that mimic the appearance of racing stripes, Paceman-style horizontally-oriented taillamps and an aerodynamic rear diffuser.
Fully embracing the "maximum use of minimum space" mantra, the generously proportioned cabin of the Clubman Concept offers even more accommodating seating for five and their cargo. It also introduces more sophisticated overall design and new technology, at least some of which is destined to make it into showrooms. The basic appearance moves upscale thanks to the presence of Sky Blue, Berry Red and Black Nappa leather trims complemented by premium Tweed Grey and Black Twill fabrics set off ash wood and black chrome accents.
Building on upgrades introduced on the new Mini Cooper Hardtop, the dash in the Clubman Concept is cleaner and more user-friendly thanks to bolder graphics with a large interactive center display and "intelligent" toggles that can be individually programmed to control various driving functions. The switches also feature haptic feedback that permits eyes-free operation. Even the cargo area gets into the act, with a new double load-floor that adds utility.
Mini made no mention of the powertrain in the Clubman Concept, but U.S. versions of the production Clubman/Clubman S are virtually certain to carry the same BMW-designed TwinPower Turbo gasoline engines found in the Cooper (1.5-liter/134-horsepower 3-cylinder) and Cooper S (2.0-liter/189-horse 4-cylinder) Hardtops. The new-gen Mini Cooper Clubman and Clubman S are expected to arrive in European showrooms late this year. While there's no official word from U.S. Mini sources, we suspect it will be sometime in 2015 before they go on sale here, possibly as 2016 models.
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