MINI has been working feverishly to expand its lineup in the last few years, with more variants than most can keep track of, but now it appears that our spies have captured the first-ever images of yet another all-new MINI model: the Cooper S Hybrid all-wheel drive.
Previous reports highlighted a business deal made between MINI's parent company, BMW, and PSA Peugot Citroen regarding a tie-up to develop "hybrid systems for front-wheel drive applications," but the announcement did not specify exactly what types of systems would be developed. At the time, many assumed that the systems would involve a traditional hybrid drivetrain that would distribute all power through the front wheels, but our latest spy photos may indicate otherwise.
If you look closely at the photos showing the lower rear fascia and underbody of this red MINI Cooper S hybrid prototype, you can clearly see an electric motor driving the rear wheels. Our spies say that the system works by utilizing a traditional gas engine on the front wheels and electric motors for the rear, making it an AWD system with performance likely in mind.
Because of safety reasons, MINI was forced to place "Hybrid" decals on the vehicle's exterior in the event of an accident, which is what initially tipped our spies off to something special hiding under the shiny red body.
MINI has not mentioned development of an AWD Cooper S hybrid model before, but expect a production version of this vehicle to debut with the launch of the new generation something around 2012 or 2013.