MINI USA Says No to Diesels But Yes to Improved Efficiency

You likely read last week in our interview with MINI USA Product Manager Vinnie Kung. But we wanted to go over the decision and talk about what the broader picture of MINI’s engine line-up in the US.

First off MINI will clearly be without a diesel in the line-up in the US. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be alternatives. But before we get to that let’s recap what was said in the interview. MINI USA had planned on bringing over the Cooper D for the 2010 model year as early as 2007. The plan was to use the engine without urea injection until 2015 when new EPA rules would go into effect. However the 2008 worldwide economic collapse brought some unfortunately realities to BMW and all non-essential projects were cancelled.

Fast forward to 2009 and MINI USA was once again ready to get started selling diesels. However a new problem emerged when the EPA moved up a key date for cleaner emissions and thus urea injection became a mandatory. MINI USA investigated the idea and talked to everyone with the design and manufacturing process. The answer wasn’t pretty. The cost would be staggering considering the body in white would have to be altered to make room for the urea injection system. Once again the plan was shelved.

As we enter 2011 MINI USA is offering two petrol powered 1.6L engines with solid efficiency and good performance. But we all know that the MPG numbers both achieve will look antiquated in a few years. MINI and BMW knows this and engineers are busy within Germany working on the next generation of MINI powerplants.

What can we expect? We’ve talked a lot about the new range of 1.5L turbocharged three cylinder engines. More power, better MPG and lighter we expect great things from this new range of three bangers. But the engine strategy doesn’t end there.

As an official press release and spy-shots suggest, MINI is partnering with Getrag to produce a hybrid powertrain. We know literally nothing about this power plant. But what we can logically guess a few things:

  • It will be a plug-in hybrid given industry trends and a few sources
  • It will likely be featured in the larger models (like the Countryman) in the MINI line-up due to the extra components needed. In fact we’d be surprised if it was featured in anything BUT Countryman based models.
  • Because of the last bullet we look for this to be based on the 120 hp four cylinder Cooper engine from the current MINI generation.

Fast forward a few years and we could be seeing Hybrid Countryman and Clubman models with three cylinder hatchbacks and convertible all getting around or over 50 mph on the highway while being even quicker than today’s cars. And that’s not to even mention the new MINI City car coming around 2015. Not a bad future in our minds.

  • txdesign

    Will the Mini City concept car still be shown in Geneva?

  • Dusty S

    When exactly is the new redesign of the hardtop due out? Is it the spring of 2013, summer of 2012 as a 2013? I’m assuming this is when the new 3 banger rolls out.

  • Will the Mini City concept car still be shown in Geneva?


  • MINImofo

    I would definitely consider buying a City Car depending on what it looks like and how it performs. If It’s anything as ugly as the Fiat I won’t touch it though.

  • Jason

    Very excited about the city car. I really have high hopes and want it to be my next car.

  • Jason

    At this point, is it definite that the city will have the 3 cyl? Has there been any word of an S model?

  • rosvick

    As excited as I am to read about (and hopefully test drive) the new three-cylinder engines, I’m still aiming for an R58 S with a good old turbo four-banger next year. Still, the threes are good news!

  • JonPD

    Standard plug in hybrid is less than thrilling but still far ahead of a hybrid Countryman. I am sure BMW/MINI is going to do some interesting things with the 3 cylinder cars but I fully expect even with more hp the torque numbers will be down.

  • Nicholas Dawson

    BMW company sources have revealed that the three-cylinder engine family, will gradually be fed into this year’s new 1-series in both diesel (N37) and petrol (N38) forms. Highlights of the TVDI technology include variable-rate turbocharging, multiphase direct-injection, Valvetronic (dynamic valvetrain) and double-VANOS (adjustable intake and exhaust camshafts.

    The 1.5 litre 12V TVDI petrol unit is said to musters 75bhp (113i) 100bhp (114i), 130bhp (115i) and 155bhp (116i). The three-cylinder portfolio also includes a 185bhp edition for the Cooper S and an even brawnier 230bhp version for the next John Cooper Works vehicle.

    The same company source is reported to have said that BMW’s hybridisation approach to the series cars is top-down: 7/6/5/3-series and X5/X3. ‘Battery electric cars don’t make a lot of sense in the smaller UKL1 segment’ said a boardroom source.

  • Michael

    A 3-banger would definitely be out for me. How can a 3-cylinder be as smooth as a 4? How can you get the same horsepower and torque out of 3 cylinders as you can out of four? Wouldn’t it take the same amount of gasoline to get the same power out of either engine? Aren’t the laws of thermodynamics involved here somehow? How can BMW/MINI say it’s too expensive to design a diesel and yet here they are spending millions developing a new motor cycle engine for road cars? I think BMW is doing a lot of double-speak and wanting us to believe it. Just like governments do all the time.

  • Michael

    Gabe, I repeat, please get the mitsubishi ad out of the body of your article – There are things I want to place my cursor on, but can’t. Please correct this ASAP. Thanks

  • I don’t see it but every once in awhile lately Google has a bug in their serving software which presents the wrong ad. I know they’re working on it.

  • goat

    @ Michael: Some quick answers. 🙂

    1. Maybe it can’t be as smooth (is an I-4 even that smooth, in the broader scheme of things, incidentally?) but that might not be as bad as you think. See here:

    2. Yes, you can, just like a 4-cylinder can give as much power as a 6-cylinder depending on its configuration (e.g., use of Direct Injection, turbocharging, and tuning).

    3. No, it will not take the same amount of gasoline to the same power out of the engine… that is the point after all… fuel consumption should be notably increased with the I-3 engine compared to today’s I-4 engines.

    4. No conspiracy here. BMW is not the only manufacturer pursuing I-3 engines to be released to production over the next few years… just about every major OEM will have one within a few years and we’ll wonder why we didn’t have them before, at least in cars they will be suited for, such as presumably the forthcoming MINI “city car”.

  • goat

    Class, please direct your attention to the board and note a correction to answer #3: “fuel consumption should be notably DECREASED with the I-3 engine…” 🙂

  • Ever been on or listen to a Triumph 675? Nice.

  • Nicholas Dawson

    BMW are getting some very impressive fuel consumption figures for the three-cylinder engine, with 70-100 MPG being talked about, in conjunction with an all new dual-clutch semi auto gearbox being developed with Getrag. Who needs a hybrid?

  • Jason

    I have a Triumph Legend…very smooth and great midrange punch

  • alpinamike

    Vinnie, is the three cylinder a 6 split or a true ground up 3 cylinder?

    BTW I had a 3 cylinder subie, it did not have the power.

    Subaru went through the 3 cylinder game into 94′ and dropped it in the USA. You could even get it in a stick 4 wheel drive.

  • jbkONE

    @goat: “fuel consumption should be notably increased with the I-3 engine compared to today’s I-4 engines.” If the engines have the same displacement and it takes the same amount of power to move a vehicle at 60mph and the fuel has the same amount of power per oz, how can a 3 cyl do any better than a 4 cyl or a 12 cyl of the same displacement? (I know when you have more parts, the actual moving of the internal parts might take a BIT more power, but not enough to worry about).

    IMO, the REAL benefit to a 3 cyl is manufacturing cost. It should take 25% less parts to manufacture a 3 cyl head than a 4 cyl head.

    (I’m not an engineer)

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