For the past few years, Mini has created a series of concepts for urban mobility that have seen the company grow into the successful brand we know today, with many of the concepts going into series production.
A common theme in the concepts and the success has been the creative use of space, a principle that enters new territory with the Mini Rocketman Concept. The study, which will be revealed for the first time at the International Geneva Motor Show (3-13 March 2011), harks back to the classic Mini in terms of its exterior dimensions, while its technology points to the future of automotive design.
A 3+1-seater with three doors and a length of approx. 10ft, the Rocketman responds to the fundamental requirements of mobile lifestyles in the big cities. Ingenious functionality, good agility, exceptional efficiency and irresistible design come together into an attractive and groundbreaking subcompact concept for the premium segment.
Displaying both an awareness of tradition, and talent for innovation, the Mini design team developed the vision of a car that takes up little space on the road but boasts a spacious interior. The innovative character of the study is defined by the systematic application of lightweight design principles. A carbon spaceframe construction, whose striking surface structure is visible at the front end, around its doors and in the interior, forms the basis for a weight-saving construction. Indeed, the Rocketman Concept offers the ideal platform for outstanding efficiency. To this end, it is designed to integrate a drive system, which combines enhanced sprinting ability with average fuel consumption of just 78mpg US. Wide-opening doors with double-hinge joints and integrated sills facilitate entry to the Rocketman Concept. The lightweight seats are contoured and can be arranged in a variety of different positions. This allows owners to choose between driving two-up, a comfortable amount of room for three occupants, or even an efficient division of space accommodating four seats.
The capacity of the luggage compartment can be adapted to passenger requirements just as flexibly. The two-part tailgate consists of one section attached to the roof that opens extremely high, and a lower section which extends out of the body like a drawer. The operating logic of the MINI Rocketman Concept is also geared to the multi-layered demands of a contemporary target group, whose mobility needs are shaped by their desire for driving fun, flexible usage and extensive connectivity to their lives outside the car. The central control unit can be taken out of the car and configured on a computer before the journey begins to update navigation destinations, the music playlist or contact details for mobile communications.
The Mini Rocketman Concept is shaped by an avant-garde interpretation of time-honored brand features. Innovative construction techniques allow the principle used in the classic Mini – of providing the maximum amount of room on the smallest possible footprint – to be carried over to the mobility challenges of urban areas in the 21st century.
The concept’s proportions display clear symmetries with both the classic Mini and the brand’s current lineup. The brand’s familiar appearance is therefore concentrated into a new set of dimensions, with the concept for a new vehicle segment remaining recognizable as a Mini.
Tightly contoured surfaces, large wheels and a basic form dictated by straight lines give the Rocketman a solid structure. In addition to its tell-tale proportions, a sprinkling of distinctive design features ensure that its brand affiliation is immediately clear – large, circular headlights and a radiator grille with chrome surround dominate the front end. While the exterior contours of the headlights fit the familiar visual template, their inner structure has been developed with centrally positioned LED units generating high beam, bordered by a light ring for low beam.
In the area surrounding the headlights and around the front apron and radiator grille, sections of the carbon spaceframe are visible alongside the painted and chromed surfaces. Its striking surface structure serves as a reminder of the study’s innovative construction blueprint. The windows taper as they extend back towards the rear, emphasizing the body’s wedge shape and offering a hint of the vehicle’s sporty character. The high waist-line, accentuated by a chrome frame ringing the vehicle, takes the form of a light strip on the concept and throws the study’s powerful silhouette into sharper focus.
The 18-inch wheels likewise leave no doubt about the sure-footed road-holding and sporty handling. The weight-saving wheels developed for the concept have an aerodynamically effective, enclosed surface structure. And the carbon wing contour of the directional wheels also helps reduce drag. An aluminum trim strip on the wheel rim adds a stylistic touch.
Among the car’s key design and functionality related innovations are the two side doors. Their length and the specially designed arrangement of the door sills allow comfortable access to all the seats. When opened, the doors pivot outwards complete with their sills, enabling the driver and front passenger to climb in right next to their seats. Entry to the rear seats is also made easier by the car’s unusual door concept. The carbon spaceframe construction, together with the stiffness of the under-body structure, allows the arrangement of the side sills to be combined with an extremely rigid body.
In addition, an extremely sophisticated opening mechanism ensures easy access into the car, even in tight parking spaces. The front-hinged doors have a double-hinge joint, which allows a large opening angle when space is restricted. The innovative character of this construction element is also evident when the doors are closed, the carbon hinges standing out in form and color from the rest of the body.
The rear lights of the Concept have a trapezoidal stirrup design – into which all the light functions are integrated – and work using projector technology. The lamp assembly projects the light onto the car body. The high-output LED units used for the lights ensure that even this indirect illumination concept produces the accustomed intensity of light for safety.
The roof also puts on an extraordinary light show. The full glass roof is segmented by illuminated braces to recreate the look of Britain’s Union Jack flag. When not illuminated, the braces glow a bright Porcelain White. In darkness, the integrated optical fibers give the interior of the Rocketman an indirect illumination.
The bright color of the roof and mirror caps – likewise painted Porcelain White – create an attractive contrast to the Bermuda grey body. The areas of carbon visible at the front end and around the doors add further striking touches.
The MINI Rocketman Concept also uses creative design for the luggage area. The split two-part tailgate consists of one section attached to the roof and a lower section which extends out 350mm from the body like a drawer unit. The drawer represents the development of the downward-opening tailgate seen on the classic Mini. This construction allows room for pieces of luggage and travel items, even when the car is carrying four occupants.
An intelligent folding mechanism makes it possible to lock the cargo drawer either higher up or further towards the passenger compartment, as required. This allows loads to be transported out of sight and protected from the weather. If required, items can also be loaded through into the passenger compartment. In addition, the open-top cargo drawer can also serve as a rear luggage carrier. Here, purpose-built inserts make it easier to transport snowboards and other bulky items of sports equipment. Added to which, the glass tailgate, which extends into the roof, helps enhance loading flexibility. It is connected with the body via a centrally positioned hinge with integrated gas strut system, which allows it to be opened when the rear carrier is loaded with gear.
The arrangement of the seats and control elements ensures maximum versatility for the widest range of mobility. The low-weight seats offer a high level of comfort and optimum lateral support for sporty drivers. The amount of space for the driver and passengers can be varied as required. Three individual seats slide fore and aft, allowing comfort with generous head, leg and shoulder room. There is also an additional seat in the rear, whose backrest can be folded down to serve as a stowage surface.
Three mobility scenarios have been developed to define the real-life usage possibilities offered by the interior of the study. In a layout designed specially to enhance a sporting driving experience, the MINI Rocketman Concept offers just the right amount of space for the driver and front passenger. The front seats are pushed back as far as possible and the instrument cluster also slides fore and aft to provide the ideal position for a full-blooded driving experience.
If an additional passenger joins the two already on board, the front passenger can move his seat forward again to take a position slightly further forward than the driver. In this configuration, the front passenger’s legroom is reduced to standard Mini levels to accommodate a generous-sized rear seat behind. The Rocketman Concept also offers a practical solution for travelling with four people. Once the driver has returned his seat and the instrument cluster to the standard position, a second rear seat allows a fourth person to climb aboard for shorter journeys.
The variability of the interior is complemented by the study’s pioneering technology. The intention behind the selection of materials and interior trim structure was to create a feeling of contemporary functionality and lightness. To this end, the carbon structure of the body frame has been exposed in the footwells and around the center console.
The door panels house the door pulls and the stowage compartments, which feature trim elements whose elliptical form reaches past the B-pillar into the rear compartment.
Inside, leather and high-gloss painted surfaces combine with armrests and trim strips made from a special paper that has been pressed and folded into the desired structure. The trim strips are backlit by LED-powered fiber optics. Plus, a light strip that wraps around the interior at waistline height generates a harmonious ambience. In addition to multifunction buttons on the steering wheel, the current Mini also has a joystick on the center console for operating vehicle-related, navigation, entertainment and communications functions. By contrast, the Rocketman concentrates all the control elements on the steering wheel. This reflects an ongoing commitment to keeping both hands on the steering wheel at all times.
A trackball is integrated into the right-hand steering wheel spoke. Inspired by computers, this allows the driver to control a wide range of processes. For example, to navigate through the menu levels the driver turns the trackball horizontally, while vertical movements allow him to scroll up and down lists. The driver then selects the desired function with a press of the trackball. The graphics in the color display of the Center Speedo are more diverse, higher quality and sharper than ever. High-resolution 3-D graphics open up new possibilities in the need-based selection of functions using the trackball and display. According to the driver’s preference and the driving situation, particularly relevant displays and alerts are moved into the foreground, while the remaining status displays remain visible on a display level further back. This makes it significantly easier to move quickly and intuitively between the navigation map display, music program selection and telephone contacts list.
The navigation, communications and entertainment systems in the Rocketman represent the further development of the functions already available through Mini Connected in current cars. Intelligent connectivity turns the car into a mobile element of the driver’s personal lifestyle. Internet-based services for communications, integrated navigation and an almost limitlessly expandable entertainment program play a key role in maximizing driving fun.
The removable control unit integrated into the Center Speedo can be configured on a computer before the start of a journey, enabling the driver to transfer new music files, a navigation destination and contact details for mobile communications and internet usage into the vehicle with maximum convenience.
The mobile control unit stores telephone numbers and email contacts, as well as navigation data, internet addresses and full websites or messages from online social networks, music files, photos and videos.