Next Generation MINI Revealed (Updated)

It’s been almost a year since we posted “Next Generation MINI Revealed“. During that time it has gone on to be out most visited story ever. Originally posted in March of 2005, the piece goes into detail after detail on what we’ll be seeing from the new MINI range due later this year. But a new year brings new scoops and we felt it was time to thoroughly update the existing article and add a new Traveller section. While most of the original article has proven to be spot-on in its accuracy, we specifically felt that a few areas needed a bit more clarity to give the reader a better picture of the 2007 MINI and beyond. So find a comfortable seat, grab a tasty beverage of your choice and read away:

(Portions in italics have been updated on 02.20.06. The rest was originally posted on 03.20.05)

Engine and Drivetrain

mini

One of things we know for certain is that the next MINI will feature a new BMW designed 4-cylinder engine range. BMW have joined forces with French automaker PSA (Citroen/Peugeot) to create a truly state of the art four cylinder engine range. Reportedly BMW did the majority of the work in designing and engineering the engines while PSA used their expertise to help with the logistics of manufacturing. Furthermore PSA’s engine plant in Douvre France will produce the blocks of the engine range with the MINI specific versions being assembled at Hams Hall in the UK.

Topping the new MINI range will be two engines pumping out around 120 and 175 bhp (the latter belonging to the new turbocharged Cooper S). All versions of the new engine include variable valve timing, composite camshafts, and an `on-demand’ water and oil pumps. The engine will be lower and wider but will weigh in at a respectable 120kg (in Turbo form). The 175bhp versions will include a twin-scroll exhaust turbocharger that will virtually eliminate turbo lag. The long rumored 140hp MINI looks to be just that, a rumor.

On the JCW front power is the big story. If the rumors are correct, (we don’t have much info on this yet) the JCW MCS should see an increase to around 230bhp and loads more torque than the current car. However those waiting for the next generation MCS JCW will have to wait a bit longer. The new version isn’t due out until late 2007.

With these engines comes even less required maintenance. Depending on running conditions and the driver’s style of motoring, oil service intervals will be approximately 20,000 miles. The spark plugs and air filter, in turn, only have to be exchanged approximately every 40,000 miles. The timing chain driving the camshafts is not only very precise and reliable, but also remains maintenance-free throughout the full running life of the engine. And automatic hydraulic valve play compensation serves last but not least to rule out any service or maintenance on the valve drive.

In general these new engines will offer exceptional power and a muscular torque curve throughout a very wide useful speed range, at the same time reducing both fuel consumption and keeping weight to a minimum. In fact since we’ve written this story we’ve had a couple of people write to give us their initial thoughts on the pre-production powerplants in test mules. You can read the story here. You can also check out the video of a 2007 MCS testing mule at the Nurburgring.

Expect the MINI to use a 6 speed manual on both the MCS and the MC. A 6 speed automatic will be available for both the Cooper and Cooper S as well. That means the CVT is soon to be but a footnote in MINI history.

Rumors persist of a dual-clutch, DSG style auto-manual being offered eventually. It’s been reported BMW has been working with a long-time partner on it’s own version of the transmission that the VW group made famous is such cars as the GTi and the Bugatti Veyron . However there’s no reason to expect this before a mid-model refresh 3-4 years down the road.

The long rumored all-wheel drive has a long and up-hill battle to fight before it sees production in the R56. Unfortunately this is more due to marketing and pricing rather than technically feasibility. In fact we’ve heard from sources that MINI could have brought the option to the market with the current generation (using the design and components created by Getrag) but chose to wait for evaluation at a later date. Unfortunately this rumors appears to be going nowhere quickly.

You can read more on the technical aspects of the new powerplants here.

Exterior Design

(The photo to the right was first seen on MotoringFile earlier this year.)

Here’s where things start to get interesting. Mostly due to new pedestrian crash regulations (and to some degree the new engine) BMW/MINI designers will be forced to change the now famous face of the modern MINI designed by Frank Stephenson almost ten years ago. As seen in the photo above, the shape will become more upright with the lights being moved slightly outward to the corners. Since the lights will be pointed towards the corners as well as the front, MINI will incorporate the main turn indicators within the hand-lamp housing. The foglights will remain integrated with the driving lights but will be moved up a few inches from their current location. MINI’s headlight design (both xenon and halogen) will remain similar to the current car.

The crease to the inside of the headlights (where the fenders meet the hood) will become much more subtle as the hood is raised to adhere to the engineering demands of the 2005 European pedestrian crash standards. The same standards will lead to a larger front bumper with a bit more of a rounded look. Also changed in the name of pedestrian safety is the cowl area in front of the windshield. MINI has moved the current exposed wipers down just a bit and changed the black air vents so that there is just a single vent that runs the width of the car.

In other news that’s sure to surprise, the hood will still be a clamshell design (despite what we had heard) however the headlights will not be integrated like the current car. Instead they will be mounted from underneath. Keeping the clamshell is a bit surprising as many of the UK mags had speculated this would be one of the first places looked at for cost cutting. Also integrated to the body rather than the bonnet is the new grille and plastic front fenders.

The Cooper S will again feature its much loved hood scoop but it will be slightly more angular than the current car. MINI will also give its sportiest model a more aggressive look in other ways. Another change will be a black mesh grille on the MCS in the place of the chrome grille found on the Cooper. The MCS will also have a much larger bottom air intake that is designed to mimmic the shape of the top grille. While the two grilles aren’t connected, they will look somewhat integrated due to the similar designs. Below this will be a more aggressive front air-dam.

(the above photo was published by Worldcarfans almost a year after this article was originally written)

On both cars the vents and side marker lights remain but will grow in size substantially. The new vent will extend all the way to where the hood/bonnet begins on the side of the car and the turn indicator will grow and become more round.

The side rearview mirrors will also change shape slightly and become a bit more aggressive and larger. The mirrors will lose some of their oval shape and come to more of a subtle point at the top. While this will help visibility, we’ve been told by several people who’ve seen the new model that the change may be a bit of a shock to current MINI owners.

Moving to the rear, the next MINI will feature a different shaped light cluster. The lights will be wider and shorter than the current car. They will consist of a large circular starburst red light with a yellow turn indicator inside it. The reverse lights will be a thin rectangle at the bottom of the cluster. Think the overall shape and design of the current Rolls Royce rear lights and then shrink.

The third brake light will move from the roof to just inside the top of the rear window. This will give MINI a bit more freedom in the design and manufacturing process of the roof and spoiler designs.

Speaking of the spoiler – look for the MCS to get a longer and shorter rear spoiler. It will have a support in the center unlike the current design.

(the above photo was published by Edmunds almost a year after this article was originally written)

In general the rear of the car should remain similar to the current car’s rather iconic design. The rear foglight will substantially grow in width (think 5-7 inches total) but should remain in the same place on the new Cooper. On the MCS that will change with dual foglights on either side of the faux difuser. The chrome or body colored strip on the handle of the boot will remain but will increase in height by an inch or so and become a little more angular.

On the MCS the rear will follow the front and get more aggressive. The faux grille area will get larger and the center tailpipes should remain but may look a bit more aggressive as well.

Moving to the side of the car the changes become much more subtle. The Cooper will get a BMW-like refueling door that you push to pop-open rather than pull. The MCS fuel cap design will probably remain similar to the current car. The wheel arches will grow in height but won’t actually flare out much more than is currently seen on the 2005 MINI. Due to a reengineered wheel well area, 18″ wheels will be more prevalent in the options list than with the current MINI.

Elsewhere the sunroof remains mostly unchanged and the roof looks to be the same.

Overall, the shape of the next MINI will very much be an evolution of the current car. In fact I’ve been told by a few people who have seen mock-ups that the average person on the street would have a hard time telling them apart. Based on everything I’ve heard, I’d imagine the exterior changes will be much less controversial than the new interior design. It’s probably also worth mentioning that I’ve been told by several people (who have first hand experience) that the new car looks fantastic and that these changes, as a whole, are exceedingly well done.

Interior Design

mini(Leaked and published originally by AutoExpress a few weeks after this story was first released in March of 2005)

Welcome inside the next MINI. The photo above (courtesy of AutoExpress) gives us a very rough look at what MINI is planning for the R56. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves yet. AutoExpress doesn’t have the market cornered on MINI scoops. We’ve been working on one of our own for the past week that includes much more detail.

If there was one area that MINI definitely needed improvement (except maybe that iron block and single cam under the hood), it’s the interior. Specifically, I’m referring to the quality of materials and the general use of space within the cabin. Our sources indicate that MINI designers have responded with a thoroughly rethought interior. What they’ve done is keep the overall layout the same, but alter (at times radically) some proportions of various pieces. That means the general design language will stay vaguely the same. However, designers have had free reign to solve a few of the current interior’s shortcomings.

mini(Leaked and published originally by AutoExpress a few weeks after this story was first released in March of 2005)

First off, the speedometer will grow in size to house a few other gauges and a larger digital display. On cars without the Navigation option (not shown in the above photo), that display will be a larger, two line version of what you see on your radio head-unit today. The speedometer in the non-navigation equipped MINI will continue to have a silver backer, the same as in the current car. In contrast, MINIs equipped with the navigation option (As shown above) will sport a large LCD screen located within the center speedometer. Speaking of that navigation system, don’t be surprised to see the new and improved version of iDrive bundled with the nav option on the next MINI (again similar to the 1 and 3 series BMWs).

The center stack will be slightly narrower and tapered (from back to front) for added knee and legroom. Below that larger speedometer will be the standard array of components, including a CD drive and controls (with no display as it will be within the speedometer), heating and cooling controls with a high quality finish and a simplified toggle switch area. Where the current car is black, look for the new MINI to feature a silver finish. We can expect the climate control and stereo components to function a bit more like they do in the new 1 series and 3 series. As seen in the photo above, the auto climate controls will retain some of the current, MINI logo inspired design.

(Originally published by Edmunds.com in late 2005)

Toggle switches will remain in the new car, but will change somewhat in functionality. They will also slightly grow in size. Directly under these toggle switches are the familiar cup holders. Only this time we are told they have been designed to fit more than a can of soda. And speaking of toggle switches, several of them will also move up near the rearview mirror for controlling things like the sunroof and interior lights.

The plastic trim will become smaller but will be offered in many new colors and materials. Burled wood, aluminum and several new colors (including a gorgous pepper white) will be offered.

Now it may be worth noting that we’ve heard a couple of distinctively different opinions on this portion of the car. One shared by several who have seen it is that the mock-ups have looks decidedly cheap and much more complex than the current car. specifically the plastics appear to be a step backwards and the usability of the climate control and stereo appear to be much less intuitive. However we’ve also heard from a few that have really taken to the new design and appreciated the extra knee room that the slightly thinner stack gives.

Turn signals and wiper controls remain similar to the current car but will be changed from silver to something more along the lines of anthracite.

For all those concerned about the placement of the tachometer, don’t worry. It will stay in its current location just behind the steering wheel on all versions of the car. The tach will also add a larger digital display that shows a illustration of a MINI. It’s assumed this would be an indicator of doors open, lights out etc..

(Originally published by Edmunds.com in late 2005)

In another sign of BMW influence, the next MINI will feature an ignition system similar to the new 1 and 3 series BMWs. These are essentially push-button systems that rely on a “key-fob” as opposed to a typical metal key.

On the wireless technology front, the Next MINI will also feature much better bluetooth integration that will come installed from the factory as an option. The display will most likely be integrated into the multi-purpose display within the speedometer like the 3 series.

The side mirror controls will move from their current location to something a bit more typical on the driver side door. And speaking of those doors, the overall design will become a bit more stylized and, from the looks of the photos we’ve seen, less useful in terms of storage.

The glovebox will remain about the same size but the mechanism for opening the door will move to the left and above the door itself. It will reportedly look similar to the current door pulls (sized down of course).

Look for more BMW-like seat controls, including a more intuitive mechanism to move the seat forward for rear access (similar to the 3 series coupe). That means the seat will most likely feature a handle that you simply pull upward to release the seat. At that point you just pull the seat forward with the handle. It should be much more intuitive than the current system. And speaking of the seats I’m told the standard version has been redesigned to be more comfortable and offer better support.

While the rear seat space will grow only marginally thanks to new front seat sculpting, the overall design will change to use higher grade materials. We’re told the result is a big improvement over the current car’s rear seating environment.

The boot will be very similar in size to the current car’s, but may add a few small but useful features. Since the battery will be reportedly moving near the engine (where it is currently on the Cooper), prototypes have had a shallow storage area under the floor (potentially similar to what is found in the current 3 series wagon). Further, the boot lid itself may feature a small amount of storage for umbrellas and the like. Finally the two panels on both side of the boot that currently house the CD Changer connector and some optional H/K components will be open and actually part of the boot itself.

In the end, I think many people will be a bit shocked at the amount of change MINI was willing to make to the interior of the car. While they kept much of the general shape the same, many elements have changed drastically.

It’s my guess, however, that many people will initially respond negatively to some of these changes. To that I say it’s important to keep in mind that there may still be a few alterations here and there before production. Also, keep in mind that there was initially quite a bit of negative reaction to the current MINI when it was first shown in the late 90’s. We all know how that turned out.

mini(Originally published by Edmunds.com in early 2006)

The Traveller (R55)

(updated 02.20.06)

The name Traveller may prove to be misleading since BMW is still has some work to do before they can legally call the mark their own. So for the time being we’ll refer to the extended wheelbase MINI has the R55 – BMW’s internal code for the new car.

The R55’s main difference from the standard coupe is the increased length which allows for a larger boot and more rear legroom. Also expected are a few styling tweaks that will make the traveller a bit more unique than the standard R56 Coupe. These tweaks will be seen in the roof and rear spoiler specifically. Also different then the 3-door hardtop will be a revised rear design and rear bumper.

Now for the question that many have asked. Will MINI actually build those twin rear doors (aka the barn-doors). We’re happy to report that the answer appears to yes. They will be similar in almost every way to the Traveller concept rear doors except they won’t be equipped with the trick parallelogram kinematics. In fact parallelogram kinematic hinges will be missing from the car entirely due to cost. However it is worth noting that BMW has recently taken out a patent on the mechanism and hope to use this technology in a future automobile.

Each rear door will also feature a single rear wiper. However unlike the Traveller concept, the rear glass will not retract. Above the doors will be a R55 exclusive third brake light that will run about 75% the width of the entire car.

However there is one pretty big feature that was actually missing from the recent traveller concepts that we can now confirm will be on the new R55; a rear-hinged door behind the passenger door. With a the rear suicide door MINI hopes to improve entry into the rear seats making the car easier for small families to use. Reportedly the door has no exterior handle and will be operated from the inside only. It’s about 14″ wide and the shape follows the rear edge of the main passenger door. This new door will lead into the larger rear seating area which features slightly improved legroom and much more usable boot space. The mechanism for opening the third door is reportedly not finalized however it will be interesting to see if MINI handles the design similar to what Mazda used for the RX8.

Expect the storage area under the boot to also make production as MINI looks for ways to make the R55 a much more versatile automobile than the standard coupe. That will definitely include the roof which will be much more rack friendly than the current MINI hatchback.

Exterior Renderings:

Autobilde published what look to be the first accurate renderings of the next MINI about six months after this story first ran. In fact we’ve heard from several people who have seen the new car that these are the most accurate rendering currently out there. You can see each below (click through for larger versions):