MotoringFile Interview: MINI Engineering Head Oliver Friedman & MINI USA Product Manager Vinnie Kung

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Todd and I sat down with head of MINI Engineering Oliver Friedman and MINI USA Product Manager Vinnie Kung today at NAIAS 2011. We hit all the topics as requested:

  • Paceman
  • JCW (lack and standard equippment
  • Hot turbos and engine issues
  • 3 Cylinders
  • Stop/Start tech
  • Clean diesels

In short we didn’t hold back on the tough questions. But we also had a great time chatting with two people that are clearly passionate about the MINI brand.

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  • Rakey

    Great interview, just wish you’d got them to give a date on the JCW update LOL

  • hardingsan

    thanks for closing with that question, gabe. i’m still struggling to understand how MINI and BMW will be distinguished from each other through driving dynamics, but it’s encouraging to hear both the head of engineering and the head of product planning confirm that MINI will retain it’s sporting nature.

  • Randy Rein

    Great interview. I would have liked to have also known about the software upgrade regarding torque steer, if that would be incorporated in the 2012 cars, and if down the road there is some fix for bump steer also.

  • DrDiff

    Why didn’t you ask if we will get the cool “Frango Mint” Mint green on the Paceman Concept?

  • Rick Kim

    What is the part number of that little heat shield you guys were discussing in the interview? I would like to get that for my MINI.

  • JonPD

    Great interview! Always great to hear from Vinnie and very happy to hear MINI Engineering being brought into the mix with Oliver. Great to hear the passion for the brand.

    I do have to call complete BS on the factory jcw. I honestly don’t think a proper suspension would change people making their cars unique. I would have to say still the peak of MINI performance is still the GP. Not that its the fastest MINI but reeks of MINI performance (in the very best way). I still believe that there has been one roll of the dice of a ///M variant of the MINI brand and that is the GP. In a great many ways I equate the GP to the original E30 M3. The difference is that ///M turned into a stellar sub brand while jcw feels like just another kit for the standard MINI.

  • hemisedan

    I’ll bet you have never driven a Factory JCW for over a 10 minute joy ride, right? I’ve had mine for three months now, and even in the snow. Does it drive like a race car, no, but it does definately drive like a hi performance car. Acceleration and braking. My only complaint that I have is the slight crunch into 2nd and 3rd gears occassionally. Is it perfect, no, but it surely puts a great big smile on my face, and I think that MINI did do some hidden changes this year that they don’t talk about. In performance.

  • JonPD

    Hemisedan I have taken a couple different Factory JCW MINIs around the track multiple times 30+ minute sessions. Its a good car, the standard suspension does do ok on the street but really shines as the weak point of this car driving spirited. I look at the car in the crowd and see a MINI, unless I am close enough to see badges or wheels the car just does not pop as being anything original.

    Just wonder if ///M would have evolved if they worked on turning out partially tuned cars lacking a sports sorted suspension. For something that is claiming to have go kart handling I would expect the suspension to be a major part of jcw.

    Glad you love your jcw. I was looking at it while it was being developed but after seeing the final spec I went with the GP. A perfect car, nope but is the closest thing to moving jcw brand towards the ///M ethic.

  • HERR26

    The new MINI Cooper SD.

    At the Geneva Salon in March as part of an exciting MINI Triple bill , The next phase in MINIMALSIM will take shape in the guise of the new MINI Cooper SD. Equipped with the N47 Single Turbo 143 BHP diesel found in subsequent BMW models, the engine in the MINI deliveres the highest Engine Torque output ever seen in a MINI product ( that includes MINI JCW). The standard manual transmission will also include Stop/Start technology an Automatic transmission will also be available as an option.

    Top speed on the MINI Cooper SD Hatch is 134 miles per hour/215km. MINI Cooper SD Hatch also weighs in with excellent fuel consumption @ 65.7 miles per gallon.

    MINI Cooper SD will be available as a hatch , Convertible , Clubman and Countryman and Countryman ALL4. No main styling changes will differ from the recent refresh to the “S” apart from additional “D” badges in Black. Full details about market changes to MINI models will be known soon including a new MINI Clubman Special Edition and the introduction of new Paint finishes including “Reef Blue” metallic.

    The new MINI Cooper SD Family make their world premiere in Geneva in March 2011. Sales begin in Europe this March.

  • JonPD

    I can almost feel DB groan in pain over another good MINI D that will very likely never make it to MINIs biggest market.

  • Rickston

    Compliments to you guys for bringing up the issues related to R56 oil line and even more encouraging to hear Mini has a heat shield mod. Like Rick Kim above I am trying to find the part number or service bulletin related to this. Thanks!