While the first official images were released earlier this summer, the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe held its public coming-out party in Frankfurt. Set to go on sale worldwide this fall, the newest member of the automaker's ever-expanding lineup aims to carve out its own little piece of the Mini legacy.

The first Mini variant to seat only two and use a "three-box" body design, the new Cooper Coupe is based on the existing Hardtop's mechanical architecture and uses the same powertrain and suspension elements. However, the automaker says the Coupe's unique formulation of those basic building blocks has yielded a super-compact sports car with "unrivalled handling agility and the best performance figures of any model in the Mini line-up."

>See more new cars unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

Despite its outside-the-box exterior configuration and bespoke front/rear lighting and trim treatments, the Mini Cooper Coupe clearly maintains an undeniable visual link with the rest of its iconic family. Although virtually identical in wheelbase and footprint to the standard Mini Hardtop, the Coupe is an inch lower, thanks to more steeply raked A-pillars that lead into its "helmet roof" with aero-enhancing integral spoiler. Adding more GT flair to its aft quarters is the first fitment of a functional active rear spoiler. Designed to complement the effectiveness of the roof unit, it automatically deploys at 50 mph and retracts at 37 mph to help reduce rear lift and improve overall balance. 

Like the Hardtop side of the Mini family, U.S. versions of the new Coupe will be available in three levels of potency, all powered by the current cadre of 1.6-liter/four-cylinder engines -- and all touted as being the fastest and quickest-accelerating volume-built Minis yet. The naturally aspirated unit in the Cooper Coupe makes 121 horses while the turbocharged Cooper S Coupe boasts 181 ponies and the JCW variant cranks out 207 force-fed steeds. Backed by the standard six-speed manual transmission, Mini says the Cooper Coupe will run 0-60 mph in 8.3 seconds and hit a top speed of 127 mph. Those performance figures change to 6.5/142 on the Cooper S and 6.1/149 on the JCW model. While the latter can only be had with the manual gearbox, both the Cooper and Cooper S Coupes will be available with a six-speed Steptronic automatic that offers optional steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.

To help ensure the Coupe would have its promised world-class handling prowess, engineers enhanced the basic body shell with a series of supplemental reinforcing elements in its front/rear/side-sill areas to create a singularly stiff and rigid platform. This was matched with a specially tuned variation of the Mini's MacStrut/multilink suspension and electrically-boosted power steering plus model-specific wheel/tire/anti-lock disc brake fitments. While all versions of the Mini Coupe will come with Dynamic Stability Control, and the fun-enhancing "sport" button that tweaks steering-effort and throttle-response curves the John Cooper Works model adds the Dynamic Traction Control system with Electronic Differential Control Lock -- which will be available as a Cooper/Cooper S option.

Inside, the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe embodies the same kind of design approach found elsewhere in the package, sharing where it makes sense -- as in the dash and basic control layouts -- but taking full advantage of any opportunity to establish its own distinctive character. For openers, all Coupe variants feature Carbon Black primary trim with an Anthracite headliner while offering a number of different colors for the sport buckets -- including a Coupe-exclusive "Toffy" hue and available leather (or Punch Leather with beige accent) upholstery -- set off by contrasting painted metal elements. Larger bins in the doors and a trio of cupholders enhance passenger compartment stow space while oval overhead recesses and height-adjustable seats make travel more pleasant for taller occupants. Its diminutive overall scale notwithstanding, the Coupe's large, Hardtop-like decklid ensures easy access its surprisingly spacious 9.8 cu ft trunk and a generous 14x8-inch pass-through adds even more utility.

The U.S.-spec 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe will feature a long list of standard comfort/convenience items, including a full range of power assists, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with AUX input and rear Park Distance Control. Mini will offer an equally impressive roster of options, including bi-xenon Adaptive Headlights, Comfort Access keyless entry/starting, an on-board computer, automatic climate control, heated seats, a multifunction steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, the Mini Visual Boost Radio, a Navigation system with a 6.5-inch full color display and Mini Connected plus a harman/kardon premium audio system. 

Pricing for the 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe -- which hits U.S. showrooms on October 1, is set to start at $22,000, with the Cooper S variant opening at $25,300 and the John Cooper Works model basing at $31,900. Buyers can match the Coupe's nine standard body colors with a contrasting roof panel done in Jet Black, Pure Silver or, in the case of the JCW, Chili Red. Those of a more sinister bent also can opt for a Midnight Black/Jet Black combo. And, yes, model-specific sport stripes also are on the menu as well as a host of accessory items from the new Mini Yours and John Cooper Works boutiques.

As for the rest of the 2012 Mini Family, base prices on all but the John Cooper Works Hardtop and Convertible rise by $100 with the sticker on the JCW duo going up $800 due to the previously optional Aero Kit moving into the standards column. While changes on the Hardtop ($20,200-$30,600), Convertible ($25,650-$35,800), Clubman ($21,900-$32,100) and Countryman ($22,450-27,750) are largely limited to minor interior/exterior trim tweaks, the aforementioned Mini Yours -- in package or individual element form -- makes its debut and offers a host of premium items including a soft-touch leather covered dash, two-tone leather wrapped steering wheel, unique Soda Pattern Lounge leather seat trim, bespoke 17-inch alloy wheels, and "Soda" mirror caps with a 3D look.

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