Details Emerge on BMW & MINI’s 3 Cylinder Powerplant

Our favorite public insider source for BMW news Scott27 has spilled some details on the three cylinder engine range we’ve reported on as the basis of the next 1 series and MINI line-up. While there’s no surprising details (we’ve already published a first hand account of driving a MINI with the new engine) there are some details leaked.

As expect the engine will also find its way into the X3 and then the 3 Series (eventually the X1 as well). So what should we expect? The new three cylinder will be part of a range of engines utilizing a new common 500cc per cylinder design while also making use of direct-injection and turbo-charging. The combination will create s surprisingly powerful yet lightweight mill that should dispel what we expect out of three cylinder engines.

First the version will show-up in late 2011 in the next generation 1 Series hatch. From there the new F30 3 Series sedan will then get a version following by the X3 shortly afterwards. But it’s the 1 Series and MINI that will benefit most of this new range. As we’ve previously reported BMW (and MINI) will be bringing several version of the new 3 cylinder to market along with a few larger (and surprisingly powerful) direct-injection turbo-charged four cylinders.

The idea of using 500cc per cylinder in future BMW/MINI engines which will rise from the 1.5 three cylinder all the way up to BMW’s largest V8s. The ultimate goal being is to save resources in engine development costs and engine production.

  • JonPD

    Its going to be a very interesting decade seeing how this works out for BMW/MINI. Lets hope the new engine puts the apprehension of it to sleep. One thing for sure though is that perception is a huge part of the equation in the US. I think the BMW Diesels show just how hard it is to change perception even with cold hard data. Lets hope that the market warms though to this change.

  • Peter Williams

    So perhaps we could guess that the 4-cylinder (in a JCW?) would be 4x500cc ie 2 litres? Hmm – tasty!

  • Matt Richter

    Look at the power coming out of smaller mills. The current 3.5-3.8 l V6s in the Camero and Mustang are both N/A mills with over 300 HP. They both perform at a bit more than 5 sec 0-60 times, and equal the performance of the top of the line larger V8s from the previous generation of cars.

    While many look at the number and specs of top of the line engines, one should look at the “effective effienicy” of the engine per liter of displacement, and that is still climbing quickly. That means we’ll all see smaller more efficient packages taking over where larger engines used to rule.

    So the V6 takes market from what V8s used to own. V8s put the V10s and V12s out to pasture, except for a few exotics or low production variants. I4s tread where the I6 and V6 used to rule, and I3s take over the entry level position, all without sacraficing performance, and delivering greater efficieny. This is all good news.


  • JonPD

    True Matt, still at the top end of the speed. As speed increases bigger engines actually come into their biggest advantage. Maybe not to much of a worry in the US but not certain how it will work out in Europe. Still think this a interesting move that will be cool to see how it works out.

  • Skuzzy

    I hope I am wrong here. Does this mean, in the near future, there will be no normally aspirated engine available in a Mini?

    If that is true, then I will be stuck finding another car. I was so hoping to get the new Coupe, but if there is no normally aspirated engine available, then the Coupe is off the menu. That would be a shame, if it is true.

    A more aero efficient Coupe with a normally aspirated Prince engine should get better gas mileage and be slightly quicker than the regular Mini. I would love that car.

  • Gabe

    If that is true, then I will be stuck finding another car.  I was so hoping to get the new Coupe, but if there is no normally aspirated engine available, then the Coupe is off the menu.  That would be a shame, if it is true.

    There will be no NA engines in the market place period in a few years.

  • invaliduser

    Just curious skuzzy, why are you against forced induction?

  • Hans

    Hopefully these will be more reliable with no timing chain problems (and HPFP, Direct Injection, ect problems). Can’t seem to be able to get mine fixed!

  • Ronald Campbell

    @invaliduser b/c turbo lag. If you have ever driven a Cooper S with the Auto, you know what I am talking about.

  • Mark

    Skuzzy, I can appreciate what you’re saying. I share your feelings.

  • CraigE

    Naturally aspirated motors will be going away almost completely in the near future on ALL cars. The only way to achieve the future fuel economy requirements while maintaining the power levels of current cars is with forced induction. Turbo charging allows a smaller lighter motor with less internal friction losses to produce the power of a significantly larger, heavier less efficient motor. In the USA at least, people are not nearly as willing to give up power for efficiency.

    If MINI/BMW can produce a motor that has the same performance as the current motors with the character we demand with the efficiency that the EPA demands, that is fantastic!

  • Skuzzy

    My reasons are for long term cost of ownership. I, typically, drive a car about 100,000 miles before parting with it. I have yet to see a forced induction engine hold up that long without a huge cost to the owner for maintenance.

    I am more than happy to give up power for efficiency in the car I have to live with everyday. More importantly, I want the lower cost of long term ownership.

    Drop the plain Prince engine we have to day, into the lighter and more aerodynamic Coupe, and the car will get even better gas mileage than the Cooper does and it will be slightly quicker.

    I do not know what the numbers are for the normally aspirated 3 cylinder engine, but if they match the Prince, the that would be fine as well.

    I have never liked a car company that chose to limit sales of a car by restricting options to it. The Coupe would be a fun commuter car with a normally aspirated engine. No reason not to offer it, except to introduce some artifical restriction to limit sales.

    When it comes time to replace my current Mini (2007 Model Cooper), I really hope it will be another Mini.

  • DDon670


    I can completely respect and understand your views, but Why would any Auto co want to limit sales by restricting options???? Aren’t they in the business of increasing sales.

  • Skuzzy

    Ddon670, I have no idea why BMW wants to artifically restrict sales by limiting engine options for the new Coupe and Roadster, but that is exactly what they are doing if they only allow forced air engines as an option.

    Like I said, take the Coupe and drop in the current non-aspirated Prince engine and tell me how that is a bad thing? It would run better than the R56 and probably get better gas mileage as well.

    How is that a bad thing? Why not do it? I can only conclude it is an artificial restriction to force the Coupe/Roadster into some market niche’.