Paul Tan has just posted a pictorial tour of his recent visit to MINI's British manufacturing facility in Oxford. The all-new second generation '07 MINI Cooper looks to maintain its spot at the top of the segment, with significant changes under the hardly changed hood. Even though most people will confuse it with the previous generation, it is a different car bumper to bumper. Perhaps a tour of the assembly line will help some of us see the differences more clearly.

As Paul explains it, the R56 MINI Coopers are produced in what BMW calls the MINI production triangle. Apparently, the three plants used to produce it form three points of a triangle on a map. At the top of the triangle we find the Hams Hall engine plant. The Swindon plant, on the bottom left, is where the body pressing and sub-assembly manufacturing is done. The Oxford facility handles paint and final assembly and is on the bottom right.

Paul points out that the final assembly plant can configure a new Cooper in one of several quadrillion combinations starting with just four basic models -- left hand drive with sunroof, left hand drive without sunroof, right hand drive with sunroof, and right hand drive without sunroof. Add in two engine combos and more than 300 different interior options as well as an additional 300 exteriors and you can see how they claim no two MINIs are likely to roll out exactly the same in any given year. Make sure you follow the link to read Paul's great commentary and photos covering the MINI's new "triangle of production."

[Source: Paul Tan]