Two years ago MINI unveiled a pair of new sports car concepts at the Frankfurt Auto Show, one called the Coupe and the other the Roadster. Now, just a couple of months out from the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show, MINI is giving us a preview of the production version of one of these concepts, the 2012 MINI Cooper Coupe.

The latest MINI, which is expected to arrive in showrooms early next year, will be the first of a new range of two-seater models and provide fans of lightweight sports cars with a very interesting option to look at when buying their next car.

The MINI Cooper Coupe, and eventual MINI Cooper Roadster, have been designed to be significantly sportier than their hatchback cousins, with everything from the selection of engines, chassis, weight distribution and aerodynamic properties all playing an important role in delivering enhanced performance.

The engine lineup in the U.S. will consist of 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline units only, with outputs starting at 121 horsepower in the naturally aspirated MINI Cooper Coupe, moving up to 181 horsepower in the turbocharged Cooper S Coupe, and topping out at 208 horsepower in the John Cooper Works (JCW) model, also turbocharged. Overseas markets will get a selection of diesel engines as well.

The fastest of the lot is of course the JCW model, which will sprint from 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds with its Overboost function delivering a momentary 207 pound-feet of torque. Top speed is 149 mph.

A six-speed manual is fitted as standard on all models, though buyers of the regular Cooper Coupe and Cooper S Coupe can opt for a six-speed automatic.

In terms of the chassis setup, MINI has reconfigured its electric power steering and stability control systems, upgraded the brakes and reinforced its basic front-wheel drive platform to improve torsional rigidity.

The suspension setup consists of MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link setup in the rear. The longitudinal control arms are made of aluminum, which cuts down on weight, and anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear. Owners of the regular Cooper Coupe and Cooper S Coupe will be able to opt for a JCW suspension kit that drops the car almost half an inch.

The Cooper Coupe comes standard with 15-inch alloys, while the Cooper S Coupe gets 16-inch wheels as standard. Opt for the JCW model and you get 17-inch lightweight alloys and run-flat tires. Brake hardware consists of vented discs up front with a diameter of 11 inches on the MINI Cooper Coupe, 11.6 on the Cooper S Coupe, and 12.4 inches on the JCW. Braking performance at the rear is provided by 10.2 inch discs on the Cooper and Cooper S models and 11 inches on the JCW.

Aerodynamic efficiency also plays a major role in the car’s performance, with both a roof spoiler and active rear spoiler optimizing airflow at higher speeds. This latter feature, the first on a BMW Group model, pops up automatically when the car reaches a speed of 50 mph and subsides once speeds drop below 37 mph. Drivers can also manually extend the spoiler at the push of a button.

The exterior dimensions give the MINI Cooper Coupe very sporty proportions and a low, forward-thrusting profile. Its wheelbase comes in at 97.1 inches and its front track is 57.4 inches while the rear one is 57.8 inches. Its overall length is similar to the regular Cooper model but its roof is almost an inch lower.

For the interior, oval recesses in the roof liner provide extra headroom though we suspect it will be a tight fit. As mentioned, this is a strict two-seater, with the rear portion being taken up by an adjustable boot, accessed by a rear-lifting tailgate.

For now, MINI has only released these official spy shots of its 2012 MINI Cooper Coupe but stay tuned for undisguised images as we approach its world debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show this September.