Since cementing its premium-retro-cutesy positioning in the marketplace, MINI’s been leveraging its two platforms into a niche-munching binge. Soon the MINI lineup will range from cozy Coupe to two-door “Sport Activity Vehicle,” and will include two convertibles, multiple versions of the two-door hatche, two-and-a-half-door hatch, and four door SUV. So what’s missing? A Moke? A Delivery van? What about a re-interpretation of the old Mini Pick Up? You and I may feel like the MINI brand already has plenty of niche offerings, thanks, but here is indisputable proof (found in a supermarket parking lot) that the market thinks MINI hasn’t chased enough niches. Carry on then, lads…
Typically, when a focused, well-branded company like BMW buys storied brands and then tries to combine them, the results are less than ideal for all involved. Thus far, BMW had actually been doing a fantastic job with its MINI and Rolls-Royce franchises, expanding into new niches while revitalizing potent brands with high-quality products. But putting the two together? It’s not clear how many buyers will line up for this Rolls-fettled MINI Goodwood (price estimated as high as £50,000), but at least the thing has good historical precedent in the Peter Sellers Mini-Rolls. And compared to some of the modern attempts to create premium city cars (hello Aston Cygnet), that makes this über-priced MINI-mashup something more than a mere cynical play for profits and C02 emission average reductions. In fact, it’s something of a tribute to BMW’s stewardship of two brands that could well have been botched over the past decade or so. Hit the jump for details on the Mini Goodwood’s posh appointments.
“Fine. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”
-Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight
What is it about human nature that forces us to destroy the things we love the most? Jaguar’s E-Type died long ago, shuffling off this imperfect mortal coil to take its place in automotive Valhalla. And, if we really loved the XKE, that’s where we’d let it stay, swathed in the immortality of the glorious yet out-of-reach past. Instead the E-Type is being destroyed in the name of love… and on the 50th anniversary of its birth, no less. For between €500k and €1m (depending on the number of takers) Switzerland’s Robert Palm will modify a new Jaguar XKR into this hollow mockery of the E-Type’s epic proportions and classic design cues. Called the Growler E 2011, this 600 HP beast is neither a high-quality, faithful resto-mod like the Eagle E-Type, nor a truly modern interpretation of the classic. Instead, what we have here is a wire-wheeled lesson in learning to let go.
I just returned from the press launch of a certain, shall we say unexpected convertible. The kind of vehicle that makes you stop and wonder what’s being put in the water at a certain product planning department. Look for a review tomorrow, but in the meantime, as a kind of innoculation, consider this Subaru STI drop-top modified for Manchester Subaru. It’s one thing to chop the top off a car that doesn’t lend itself to convertible versions, but it’s quite another to add picnic basket-handle roll bars and then top it all off with a huge rear spoiler. It’s no Transvertible, but death is still too good for this little monster.
In his recent review of the Lexus LX570, Michale Karesh noted that he
struggled to make this 5,995-pound, technology-packed, luxurious SUV make sense.
Apparently he’s not the only one. From the looks of things, the Japanese tuning house Invader Technologies is having a hard time making the LX570 make sense… at least to anyone who’s not a drug-addled, mobbed-up Russian gangster. I suppose that, by post-Mansory tuning standards anyway, the Invader L60 isn’t exactly breaking new ground… still, I’m amazed by how freshly insulted my optical nerves feel.
The tuning house Gull Wing America have a huge thing for vintage Mercedes models, resulting in such bizarre creations as a re-interpreted W-121 and a retro-fied SLS. But for its latest project, GWA has taken on the most ambitious gullwing Mercedes ever, the “forgotten gullwing” known as the C111. Based on a tubular steel chassis, and sporting a 400 HP Mercedes V12, the “Ciento Once” is more of a re-interpretation than a strict replica. Still, it’s heartening to see such an influential yet forgotten car re-appear on the automotive scene, if only as a one-off prototype.Perhaps it will even inspire the the boys in Stuttgart to come up with their own “take two” on the great gullwing C111.
While Brabus digs deep for ideas to keep its tuning business relevant in the EV era, Nissan has a less sophisticated approach to electric car tuning: the bodykit. According to Nissan, the Nissan Leaf Aero Style Concept includes new wheels, skirts, mirrors, front bumper and LED daytime driving lights. Because, in the words of the firm’s press release:
Equipped with an aero body kit that accentuates Nissan LEAF’s distinctive silhouette and character lines, this concept car expresses an image of futuristic sport EV driving.
Emphasis on “image.” The rest of the EV tuning equation is still largely a mystery.
This is the B55, a silly one-off project by workers at Mercedes’ Rastatt plant that involved shoving an old “55” AMG engine into a new B-Class, running a driveshaft through the “sandwich floor” and hooking it up to an old E-Class wagon rear axle. The result: 383 HP, a 0-60 time in the 5 second range, and what Autocar terms “surprisingly mature dynamic properties.” Possibly even more surprisingly, the whole project was done without a lick of help from the nutters at AMG, and required no frame modifications. Best of all is how comfortingly old-school the project is: the days of turning an FWD compact car into a V8 RWD beast are rapidly drawing to a close. Need proof? For the next-generation of A/B-Class, AMG is going in a very different direction, creating an “A25 AMG” which will use a two liter turbocharged four-banger, putting around 300 HP through a dual-clutch transmission and Haldex AWD. This “STI by AMG” will doubtless be infinitely more practical, efficient and useable than the B55’s old-school V8/RWD setup… but more than a few gearheads will be sad to see these kinds of unhinged anachronisms ride off into the sunset.
Where did GMC get the idea to take a short-bed pickup, widen the track, fit some Fox shocks and generally beef it up to create a factory off-road “halo” truck? Oh right, from Ford. If you’re not convinced that Detroit still has at least one foot firmly stuck in the past, this halo niche-chasing behemoth should help clear up some of that doubt.