Exclusive: MINI’s 2013 Three Cylinder Engine Driven

Last week we told you about the efficiency aspect of MINI’s new 120 hp engine meant for the Cooper models. However as we alluded, that engine is just part of an entirely new range of engines meant for the next generation MINI line-up.

Based on what we know so far the star of the show will undoubtedly be the 1.5L powerplant that will power the 2013 Cooper S. And we not only have the skinny on the specs but a first-hand account of the way it drives (and sounds).

First off lets talk specs. We expect power to generally remain the same around 180 bhp. Torque could be down slightly but in general performance should be identical to the R56 Cooper S. However that’s where similarities end. Like the 1.5L Cooper engine we reported on last week, the Cooper S will go from four to three cylinder and will leverage a twin scroll turbo and direct injection to produce the same horsepower as the current four cylinder model. The benefit of this downsizing is efficiency and weight. While we don’t have figures on either, we can generally expect the engine’s weight to be down and efficiency to be considerably up.

But how does it drive? Thanks to some well placed sources we have a first hand account of how a current generation R56 platform drives with the new engine. Now it’s worth pointing out that the R56 will not actually get the new engine (it’s only destined for the next generation MINI) and that this drive was part of a testing session held in conjunction with driving the current 2010 Cooper S. In fact the testers were not told which car had which engine.

The testers pushed the cars on a slalom course and generally put them through their paces. According to our source the three cylinder was noticeably louder with a very pleasing rumble on acceleration. Compared to the sound of the current 4 cylinder it almost seemed as if MINI has tuned the exhaust note to make you feel the car is going faster at low speeds than it really was.

After several runs back to back it became obvious to our source that the three cylinder MCS didn’t quite have the initial launch of the four in the current MCS. Specifically it lagged in the middle of first gear just a bit. However 2nd gear reportedly was “great” and the run up to redline was really satisfying (especially considering the sound).

In fact another source (who was at the same test) actually thought the 3 cylinder felt more powerful. Final numbers are still a couple of years away and we can expect the gearing to be completely sorted for production. We would also expect the sound to further refined but full of character that some find lacking in the current “Prince” family of four cylinders.

Look for the next generation MINI to debut in hatch form in late 2013 as a 2014 model. A little over a year later look for the convertible version to follow with a four door Clubman (based on the R60 Countryman) to debut in 2015 or 2016.