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MINI Beachcomber Concept SUV - Web Exclusive

Dec 15, 2009

If you’re one of the many people who have been wondering how Mini is going to crossover into the offroad/SUV segment, here’s the best clue to its final dimensions. The Beachcomber concept follows on from Mini’s Crossover concept that was launched in Paris in September 2008. It was the first clear indication that Mini was looking to diversify into the SUV market. The Beachcomber will be based on something very close to the final production version, but with some conceptual details to capture headlines.

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The new concept vehicle will be presented at the North American International Auto Show (16–24 January 2010) in Detroit.

The Beachcomber is a four-seat concept, which seems to borrow plenty of cues from the original Mini Moke recreational vehicle.

A new all-wheel drive system, to be called ALL4, in addition to the flexible interior make the Beachcomber Concept ideal for spontaneous or active experiences. It is designed without doors or a conventional roof. This allows the driver and up to three passengers to connect with their surroundings – whether cruising through town, enjoying rough tracks in the mountains, or breezing along the beach. Access to the front and rear seats is convenient thanks to the open doorways. The entry cutouts extend all the way down to the seat bottoms, allowing the driver and all passengers to get in and out in one smooth and flowing process. In the event of bad weather, drivers can either use the soft roof or lightweight door and roof elements, all of which fit easily and can be installed in a few minutes.

Based on the Mini crossover vehicle that will launch later this year in markets outside of North America, the Beachcomber is a symbol of the brand values packaged in a new style. Within the first decade of Mini’s re-launch under BMW ownership, the fourth model is set to enter the market. It will be a crossover with the typical style of the Mini brand, offering a different interpretation of Mini design.

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With the functional convenience of four doors, four full-size seats, a flexible interior, a new all-wheel-drive system and a high standard of driving enjoyment, the Mini brand can now be enjoyed for the first time beyond the beaten path. In its robust and versatile character, the Beachcomber follows in the footsteps of the Mini Moke, which became the epitome of adventurous motoring in the 1960s for leisure and sports activities in sunny coastal regions.

The Moke was released in 1964, just five years after the market launch of the classic Mini. Alec Issigonis, the world-famous engineer and creator of the first model, developed the open version of this revolutionary compact car. The body of the Mini Moke was made from little more than a floorpan, wide sills, a hood and a windshield. A folding roof served to protect the driver and passengers from precipitation. Production of the Mini Moke continued in Great Britain until 1968, with a production volume of approximately 14500 units. In the following years, production was continued in Australia and Portugal.

The Mini Beachcomber Concept takes the basic principles of the Mini Moke into the 21st century. By consciously reducing the body components and interior to a minimum, it clearly follow the tradition of the Mini Moke. This is further accentuated by design cues that are strongly inspired by the original Mini Moke, and is enhanced by various striking details such as the characteristic radiator grille.

Even all-wheel drive can be seen in a role model from the past. A prototype Mini Moke developed by Alec Issigonis in 1963 had two engines and an early AWD system. The test car, appropriately referred to as “Twini” had the front and rear axles each driven by a four-cylinder Mini engine.

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The Mini Beachcomber Concept measures approximately four meters in length, yet incorporates clearly defined load paths and deformation units, which absorb impact in a collision. The vehicle’s rollover safety also meets the highest demands of an open car and is able to withstand even extreme situations. The frame on the passenger cell is formed by substantially reinforced A-pillars, and the D-pillar bar is complete with an integrated lateral support element at the rear of the car.

The driver and passengers can access the luggage compartment though the rear panel, split vertically into two sections. Whenever necessary, the right-hand side may remain open for bulky objects extending out of the rear. The left rear element, in turn, is a window-less door hinged at the side and extends up to the seat backrests. The additional storage case fitted on the door is reminiscent in its round shape of a fully enclosed spare wheel holder. However, since the Beachcomber is equipped with runflat tires and does not require a spare wheel, the lockable case may be used to take along additional luggage, keeping beach mats, towels, surf shoes or similar odds and ends within easy reach at all times.

Like the MINI Crossover Concept presented for the first time at the Paris Motor Show in autumn 2008, the new model reflects the ongoing process of Mini design. Indeed, both the smooth and firm design of the body and proportions show this is clearly a Mini. Short overhangs as well as the wide wheel stance bear the overall look of the brand. And thanks to greater ground clearance, the advantage of short front and rear overhangs can be seen even more on rough terrain, allowing a particularly large ramp angle for even the toughest requirements.

The hexagon radiator grille comes with contour lines carried over directly from the front look of the Mini Moke. With its vertical position, three robust crossbars and additional integrated headlights, the grille gives the Beachcomber a powerful presence.

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The large headlight units integrated into the hood, as a new interpretation of a characteristic design feature, also boast a striking look. Accentuated by the chrome frame, the headlights follow the contours of the hood and fenders, again confirming the increase in stature and spaciousness. A large air intake at the bottom, and foglamps moved far to the outside round off the front view of the car. The powerful wheel arches boast large 17” light-alloy wheels with off-road tires.

Massive side sills along the front and rear entry points interact with the dark body frame to add a further touch of robustness, while the unobstructed view offered into the interior emphasizes the agility of this concept. Stylized push button elements around the entry point, like on the Mini Moke, indicate the option to fit a simple and straightforward cover for bad weather. The actual fastening and adjustment points for the soft roof, on the other hand, are not even visible from outside.

The graphic look of the rear end is formed by the asymmetric luggage compartment, the door element on the left and the storage case on the outside, symbolize the versatility of the car. Meanwhile, the open section on the left emphasizes the lightness and functionality of the concept.

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The interior design of the Beachcomber focuses on driving pleasure. With it being intended primarily for driving in the open air, the number of air vents has been reduced in the interest of additional loudspeakers, as well as instruments for off-road motoring. These instruments are spherical, reminiscent of an aircraft cockpit.

A liquid-sprung compass fitted to the left of the steering wheel tells the driver whether he is going the right way and moving in the right direction. Another special instrument to the right of the steering wheel presents an artificial horizon, showing the angle of the car around its longitudinal and transverse axis. Contoured seats and an additional handle on the front passenger side optimize driving pleasure on rough terrain.

The range of color and trim within the Beachcomber reveals a close link to nature. The surfaces and seat upholstery follow the elements of earth, air, water, and fire. All plastic surfaces on the instrument panel come with a grain look, resembling the structure of dry earth.

The trim surfaces in the cockpit are finished in magnetic paint, which has been used for the first time to create a special touch of liquidity. And last but not least, the individually designed seats again oriented in their colors to the four elements serve as a symbol highlighting the versatility of the MINI Beachcomber Concept.

The Center Rail that was presented in the MINI Crossover Concept plays a particularly important role in the new concept model. Extending from the instrument panel all the way to the luggage compartment, this fastening rail connects the front seats with the rear.

A special fastening system enables the driver and passengers to place individual elements and components on the Center Rail, such as external music players and other devices, armrests for the front and rear seats, storage boxes, shelves and holders of all kinds.

The MINI Center Rail comes complete with an integrated cable duct allowing the user to connect a mobile phone or MP3 player in any position to the car’s entertainment system by means of a holder fastened to the rail. Another option is to connect additional sources of light, a cooling box, a laptop or a GPS tracker safely and securely to the Center Rail, each with their own power supply.

The range of holders has been further extended for the Beachcomber, including a stopwatch made for the new model, a bottle holder, a compact meal box as well as a case for goggles, clearly reflecting the sporting character of this concept car.

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