German manufacturer turns to an Italian coach builder to produce attractive version of a British car. Despite sounding like the start to some complicated joke, it’s real and the MINI Superleggera™ Vision is the end result.
We haven’t necessarily been the kindest critics to MINI’s latest styling direction – well, evolution of the same style, rather than ‘direction’ is probably more accurate. But semantics aside, we described the Clubman Concept from the Geneva Motorshow as looking like “a giant Wels Catfish” and we’ve struggled with the array of grilles and intakes fitted to the new regular MINI hatchback.
We’re fairly confident it’s nothing to do with what we’ve said, but MINI has turned to Italian coach builders Touring Superleggera to build them a beautiful concept car. The result is the Superleggera™ Vision you see here, that was unveiled at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este this weekend. Held in beautiful Italian scenery next to Lake Como, the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este event has taken place since 1929 to celebrate the most elegant and stylish cars and motorbikes made.
Along with the 50 historic cars, ranging from the 1920s to 1980s, the show also features a number of contemporary concept cars, including the aforementioned Superleggera Vision (sorry BMW, we’re dropping the ™ symbol). It’s probably also worth noting that BMW has been one of the key sponsors of the event since the turn of the millennium, using this year’s show to celebrate the 110th anniversary of its Rolls-Royce brand.
But we digress, back to the Superleggera Vision. Handcrafted bodywork is intended to evoke both the MINI brand’s history, whilst also celebrating Italian style and flair. Clearly retro-influenced, like the entire MINI range, the Superleggera Vision adds modern detailing in the use of carbon fibre for the front splitter and rear diffuser. That gaping front grille – which still looks catfish like, sorry – is actually blanked off as a subtle hint to the fact the Superleggera Vision is electric-powered; again mixing old and new.
There’s an abundance of intricate little details throughout the Superleggera Vision, such as the embossed bonnet ‘stripes’ or the delicate polished aluminium wing mirrors. Our particular favourite though are the 3D LED rear lights shaped to create the Union Jack. That’s a genuinely cool combination of form and function, and one which could feasibly translate into road car reality.
We’re less convinced by the fin mounted on the rear deck. It’s not quite tall enough to mimic the Jaguar D-Type race car, nor small enough to not detract from the overall shape. It would probably work just as well without in our opinion.
The interior is a lesson in minimalism with the generous use of bare aluminium; the sheet material covering most of the dashboard and a big chunk of the centre console. Another Union Jack appears in the door pulls, with gloss black criss-cross tubing and leather padding creating the shape. A gorgeously proportioned three-spoke steering wheel, chrome rimmed speedometer and a touchscreen instrument panel complete the simple interior. It frankly looks a world away from the busy insides of the current MINI hatch.
Will we see it on the road? Given that MINI has chosen to describe this as a ‘Vision’ rather than ‘Concept’ is interesting, as the last car to wear that tag previewed the new MINI hatchback. But, realistically, despite the end of the recession and the strong brand residuals the firm has, I doubt it’ll be producing a hand-built sports car anytime soon. Could it influence the shape of the next MINI roadster? That seems much more believable. Whatever happens, for now just enjoy the shape and details of the Superleggera Vision.