Only last month Mini released pictures of a prototype John Cooper Works model being deployed mercilessly around the Nürburgring. ‘Oh great, another hot hatch at the ‘Ring,’ you likely sighed.
Except… it was a foreshadowing. What you’d call a ‘set-up’. The ‘pay-off’? Sometime in the future, because Mini is currently wrestling with what an electrified engine means for the rortiest of all the superminis.
“What’s going to happen in terms of go-kart feeling, sportiness?” Mini design boss Oliver Heilmer posited. “This camo car is showcasing that we are seeking out areas where we believe we might be able to find something that fits very well.”
Which is all fine and dandy, only… will the customers of the future even care about dynamics? Countless studies have shown car ownership is on the decline; the next generation interested more in technology, sustainability and mobility. Less on ‘feathering the throttle’ and other questionable terminology.
“I’m not sure how customers will experience our future Minis,” Heilmer conceded when we asked. “It’s not necessarily a pure driving, racing performance we’re talking about in the future, it’s about ease of use, the ease of driving it. That’s something I believe that will last.
“I’m still a petrolhead,” he added. “I personally believe there’s going to be a little part of emotional connection that we have to keep for our hardcore fans, in order to have those John Cooper Works products.”
His boss, BMW Group design head Adrian van Hooydonk, elaborated. “You have to differentiate the meaning of performance. I think a Mini can put a smile on your face within three corners. I think we will continue to be able to deliver that in a normal urban environment.
“You get in the Mini, three corners, you’re smiling. Few cars can do that. That’s understood within our company, and we’ll continue to deliver that.”
Heilmer noted the team is working on all aspects, including how you interact with a future Mini. “What is necessary to showcase in terms of high-tech? What is more subtle? We have to do the basics right, and on top of that we need to have some magic.
“It shouldn’t just be easy to use and handle, but it should be fun as well,” he added.