BMW AG’s Mini brand will gain further momentum with the upcoming split of the range into standard- and long-wheelbase versions and the development of a whole family of new models.

BMW will launch a new standard wheelbase Mini at the Paris auto show later this year. While it looks very similar to the current model, apparently most (if not all) panels are different.

Forward of the windshield there has been plenty of engineering work to allow fitment of a totally new BMW-PSA Peugeot Citroen 4-cyl. engine.

The new 1.6L, to be built by PSA at its Douvrin, France, plant at the rate of up to 2,500 units per day, was designed by BMW.

The old Mini Tritec engine, produced in Brazil by Tritec Motors Ltda. and engineered by Chrysler Group, always was the car’s weak link and is to be retained only in the entry-level Mini One version.

Tritec began as a joint venture between Chrysler and BMW, but BMW pulled out of the union after Chrysler was acquired by Daimler-Benz AG. Tritec’s tooling now is rumored to be up for sale.

The long wheelbase Mini – the stretch is close to 7.9 ins. (20.0 cm) – is being added to provide for a Traveler station wagon and a proposed (and also taller) 4-door model due in 2009 to supplement the hatchback and cabriolet.

The Traveler, first unveiled as a concept at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, reportedly is set to bow by September 2007. It is expected to feature rear access doors, similar to those used on the Mazda RX-8 and some Saturn models.

BMW recently increased the capacity of the Oxford, U.K., plant to 240,000 cars a year and has hinted production could go even higher as the new models are introduced.

However, the auto maker reportedly has run into opposition from residents seeking to block a move to extend railway sidings across the entire factory site.

Extending the rail line would force the closure of part of the Roman Way, an historic right-of-way running alongside the plant.

BMW says the extended line would help improve productivity and save money, because it would allow parts made at the Swindon, U.K., plant, such as body panels, to arrive directly to the Oxford facility by train.

BMW sees the Swindon, Oxford and Hams Hall engine plants in Warwickshire, U.K., as forming the “Mini production triangle,” the Oxford Mail says.