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Rumor: Next Generation MINIs to Offer 8 or 9 Speed Auto

Ever since the six speed Aisin automatic was introduced in the Cooper for the 2005 model year, MINI fans have been waiting for something better. We can now confirm that something better is coming.

With BMW co-developing the next generation MINI alongside a new family of small, front wheel drive BMWs, MINI’s component offerings are about to get substantially better and more technically impressive. One of the more important things on that list will be a new automatic optional across the range. Through sources close to the development of the new MINI, we’ve heard rumors of two different transmissions under consideration. The first rumor points to an Getrag sourced 8-speed dual clutch transmission. The second points towards ZF sourced 9 speed conventional automatic. Either option would be a huge improvement. But there’s on that stands above the other in our opinion. Read on to find out.

First lets take a look at the rumored 8 speed DCT. For those who know the technology behind the DCT, this is a huge improvement. While the transmission will default to a fully automatic mode optimized for fuel efficiency and drivability, it’s better to think of a DCT unit more like a manual minus the clutch pedal. Gone is the torque converter — the “slush box” that can so readily suck the fun out of a car like the MINI while adding weight, dulling performance and penalizing gas mileage. Instead, a good DCT transmission can give you back some of the control and direct engagement of a manual, but with the convenience of flappy paddles behind the steering wheel.

Then there’s the rumored 9 speed auto. While this is a traditional auto in the sense that it has a torque converter, it’s much closer to a DCT in the way it changes gears and matches revs. If rumors are correct, this 9 speed will be used for all front wheel and all wheel drive BMW and MINI products in the years ahead. It will likely feature (just like BMW’s similar 8 speed) a full lock-up and will shift as fast as a DCT while offering greater refinement and fuel economy. Can you guess which one we’d prefer? If this rumored 9 speed has the performance of BMW’s similarly designed 8 speed, it’s hard to bet against it.

Either option give MINI dramatically more gearing and a greater opportunity for efficiency. Depending on the final ratio, that many gears ought to both hold the power band in the lower gears and stretch the fuel economy in 7th and 8th (as is the case with BMW’s current 8 speed ZF automatic). In any case, the final experience will come down to the software than runs the unit. Will it be crisp, instantly responsive and predictable? We’re hoping and expecting so. The cryptic, inconsistent gear change responsiveness of the current unit is our biggest complaint by far.

Manual fans need not fret just yet, either. The F5X/F6X MINIs will still have manual transmissions as standard. Our information is that the changes will be incremental.

That said, we can’t avoid the inevitable question. Is the proverbial handwriting on the wall for the manual? Across the automotive world manuals are being wiped clean from the options list of many cars — and not just the appliance-like cars that dominate sales charts. What we do know is that the manual transmission has a place in the MINI world for at least the next ten years. But we can imagine a time, perhaps a generation or two from now, when it may hard to find on all but the most special MINIs.

What do you think? If this automatic (either 8 or 9 speed) turns out to be as brilliant as we expect, would you still get the manual?

Written By: Nathaniel Salzman

  • Edge

    BRAVO!  While I will always strongly prefer (and cling to) manual transmissions, I wholeheartedly agree with ANY improvement in automatic technology usage to improve their performance and efficiency. Death to the “slushbox”! :)

    …just don’t take away the Manual option… please!

  • lavardera

    I’d still get the manual, especially if it is $1000 less.

    But if I was flush, I’d try it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Campbell/685800803 Michael Campbell

    It’d be nice in traffic, but I still want a third pedal.

  • Gil-galad

    Exciting news…but didn’t ZF Getriebe manufacture the CVT?  I think I’ll wait a year to make sure all of the bugs are ironed out.

  • chad

    i currently have a 7-speed DCT. each day i regret making the compromise.

    however, for me the auto/dct decision is as much about the car as it is about the driver.

  • http://twitter.com/Rocketboy_X Erik

    Who cares if manual gives you much more control over your car in the winter, it’s just sooo hard to figure out how to drive…

    /s

    • R53tuning

      Really?……. It’s not hard. There’s many added benefits with driving standard Vrs Automatic. Service costs are cheaper, easier to repair, less power loss.

      Kudos to MINI adding this transmission. But be prepared, I don’t think this transmission is going to be built for performance but for more economy. Which MINI presenting the new 3 Cyl Engine, these transmissions will be more focused on reducing emissions. However, the brilliant German’s will probably have aggressive software for the Cooper S. :)

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        Actually the shift times for the 9HP ZF are faster than any human can shift- full lockup is at idle meaning it is locked like letting off a clutch, it utilizes multiple shafts allowing skip shifting to any gear directly without an intermediary- want to go 7 to 4 it will go as fast as you pull the paddle and load the last gear selected rather than going threw each.

        It weighs the same as the manual essentially, packages smaller and is capable of significant fuel economy gains. The gearing will be close ratio 1-6 with longer gearing 7-9 for economy. There will be standard, sport and manual modes. Paddles optional more than likely with an even sportier version (more aggressive algorithms) as an option with those said paddles.

        It also fully decouples AWD.

        This is a German engineered transmission designed for performance and efficiency.

        • http://twitter.com/Rocketboy_X Erik

          “Actually the shift times for the 9HP ZF are faster than any human can shift” That will come in handy, ohhhh, never.

        • jeff

           what it sounds like is expensive to repair.  if MINI/BMW are charging ~$3k for a new clutch i can only cringe at how much this will cost to fix…

      • http://twitter.com/Rocketboy_X Erik

        /s = sarcasm.

        Sigh.

  • Bee1000

    I’m ambivalent. As a motoring snob I did like the old days when buying an MCS meant buying a manual transmission (best compliment ever, from my friend: “I don’t want to get a Mini because aren’t they all manuals, and yours is so loud.”), but people choosing an automatic doesn’t really bother me.

    I like the manual in my R53, but on R56 Justa loaner cars I’ve had I’ve liked the automatic for the frequent 2-gear downshifts required for passing on the highway. Since an improved auto or DCT likely will be better than I am at shifting I think I would choose it over a 3-pedal car. Considering today’s Scion FRS reviews talk about how intelligent and responsive that car’s 6-speed auto is, I expect an 8/9-speed BMW unit would be great.

    Manuals not being available at all would be disappointing, but I imagine the automotive world will be such a different place at that point that a lack of a manual transmission would be a minor inconvenience compared to other issues that would lead to such a situation.

  • Nick Dawson

    Why would anyone choose an outdated manual box in place of an 8/9 speed DCTother than price. The DCT will give better performance, and lower MPG and emissions. In the longer term, the probability is that there will be no manual option in MINI 4 by the time it arrrives in 2020.

    • Mlavoie

      How about it’s actually more fun to do the work yourself? I find that to be a pretty major reason! An automatic transmission, as good as it can be, still isn’t as fun to operate than a manual for quite a few drivers. (Unless you are always stuck in traffic)

  • Yiangos Yiangou

    driving a stick makes you fill more involved, its more fun. however as i live in a city , traffic should also be taken into account, if there was a dct i would have ticked it:)

  • Dr Obnxs

    FWIW, there were three MINIs running around with the ZF 9 speed that were written up in either Automotive Testing International or something like that 3-4 months ago… The article didn’t specify who the development was for, but there are more recent articles that the ZF 9 speed will replace CVTs in Chryslers in 2013… They chose the MINI because it had similar sized engine compartment as the rumored target vehicle (the article guessed the Chrysler 200)… Driving impressions were favorable…

    But there is some serious mis-information on the torque converter. It has it’s use in the right places. It can provide torque multiplication at the price of viscous losses. It can handle gobs and gobs of power. and it can apply power to the wheels at very, very low speeds without slippage or wear of friction surfaces.

    On another issue. While many lament the “lack of engagement” without having to row the gears themselves, I’ve been noticing a trend amongst the automotive journalists that I occasionally spend some time with. The endless complaints about no manuals are slowly being replaced by appreciation of very timely downshifts deep into breaking and turn entry, the joy of having both hands on the wheel at all times through challenging turn transitions (this is especially true in places like the corkscrew, or other tightly coupled turn sequences).

    There was a time when the ability to double clutch was taken as a badge of honor on driving skills, and now pretty much none of us drive manuals without syncros. Our single clutching efforts are not lamented as “disengaged” but rather progress. Faster shifts and better control are two of the reasons that we like our synchros. Heel-toe work is going the way of the Dodo based on rev-matching in the ECU. Many say it makes the driving less special, but it sure makes getting that “perfect downshift” accessible to many, instead of the habit of a very select few. There are tons of examples of these types of manual actions that have been replaced by automatic methods (ever see the manual timing advance lever in the steering wheel of really early cars?) This isn’t the first one nor will it be the last.

    As a species, we have difficulty with change. This is just another example of how the new displacing the old brings both complaints, indifference, and anticipation. Some things in human nature are constant, and this mixed bag of reactions to the evolution of technology is just one of them.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      BINGO!

      A little history on ZF and Chrysler. Chrysler was developing an 8 Speed DCT with Getrag USA- Getrag USA went bankrupt during the recession and shuttered its doors. That transmission and all the patents etc will be battled in court for years (it is basically scrap). 

      Chrysler/Fiat negotiated with ZF to build the 8/9HP at its US transmission factory to further reduce those costs for Chrysler transmissions as the ZF was cheaper and offered the same performance with increased efficiency over the Getrag 8. The small FIATs will still use the FIAT in house transmission but the Chrysler 200 and others will use the 9HP, the 8HP will also be built by Chrysler in the US for its RWD offerings. 

      The caveat to all this is that ZF will still produce the transmissions in Europe for use outside Chrysler/FIAT products and there will be some variations, algorithms mainly. I heard this from a ZF employee not that long ago. 

      BMW has offered the 8HP since 2009 and it has been a hit, other premium brands are using it as well.

      With Chrysler offering the 9 HP, MINI can ill afford to not offer it or at least an equal or risk loosing its “Premium” image. Will the 9 HP make it to the MINI or will it be the 8 DCT, that is still the unknown as both have been tested according to multiple sources but the DCT is  going to be less cost effective because of the smaller scale. The 9HP is going to be used across many brands making it the most obvious choice from a price point perspective (look at the current auto in the MINI- that is as cheap as they come without going to complete crap) and will be as sporty as the DCT from a performance perspective. 

      I have heard from sources that BMW/MINI are also testing something more substantial in technology in terms of future drive trains…. all I can say now is Bloom energy and a slice of bread rather than the loaf.

  • Bdc

    Is this from a reliable source? Can you name the source? Can you at least say why it’s a teliable source?

    • Bdc

      Teliable = reliable

      • Bradchiasson

        Wow… Yes I’m new here which is why i had to ask the Question. Wasn’t accusing anyone don’t get so defensive. I’m used to sources being mentioned even if it’s to say. “according to unnamed source close to mini.” as one example. None was given so I wasn’t sure if this was wishfull thinking, speculation, educated guess or what.

        Sorry for the misunderstanding.

        Brad

        • Bdc

          Maybe this example will make my question more clear.

          If I say “next month Pepsi is changing the color of its soda to blue.” noone would believe me even if I wrote it on a successful soda blog.

          But if I said “next month Pepsi is changing the color of its soda blue. According to trusted sources from within the Pepsi Company.” would make it easier to believe.

          All this is said under the assumption that new readers are welcome. Since someone who’s been here would just know allready how things work here and wouldn’t have to ask.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      Yeah- good idea name sources and lose them. Brilliant. We are in touch with many sources at BMW and at MINI, are you new here?

      • hfred

        Well explained, BimmerFile_Michael. Thanks!

      • Matth

        Bully

      • http://twitter.com/radiationman radiationman

        It’s more than just that – MF and BF both have reputations for having well placed sources throughout MINI and BMW…  Both sites have a reputation based on both general longevity, accuracy, and those unnamed sources of being reliable sources of information.

        Unnamed sources are acceptible for major news organizations because they all have a reputation of using credible sources and fact checking…  MF and BF have earned similar reputations…

        With all the fly-by-night tech sites regurgitating “rumors” that they received from a friend of a friend whose aunt has a neighbor who has a roommate who knows a guy who cuts the grass at Apple – it’s difficult to seperate the legitimate sites from the ones who don’t have a clue…

        • Bdc

          Exactly, it is hard to seperate the legitimate sites from the who don’t have a clue.

          Evan more difficult if the articles on those sites don’t explain to new readers that ,”Yes, We have a good source for this information.”

          How am I supposed to know I can trust you “bimmer_michael” you won’t evan use your full name in your posts.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          I can’t use my full name due to clearances and contractual obligations. Not sure how a name even matters as many writers use false names anyways… My name is Michael Bimmerfile. And I didn’t write this article but maybe I should edit in a disclaimer about sources. We’ve been at this a long time and sometimes we forget- most established places don’t bother naming unnamed sources because it is usually understood. 

        • Brad chiasson

          Your right about the name thing while my opinion is that news sources even fan blogs should use full names an opinion shouldnt be put as fact and used as a thinly veiled insult. I’m very sorry. Truly.

          You said in your post that “we forget…” and “we present…” so i took that to mean you are speaking for the site is that an incorrect assumption?

          Give a single example of a reputable news site putting up a story as fact and not mentioning that they have a source for that information. CNN.com abcnews.com msnbc.com bbcnews.com any major news site. That will prove me wrong. I would be surprised if you find anything. I’ll look too when I get a chance. I don’t mind being proven wrong. I’ll even post here if I find that article.

          Then you just need to apologize for insulting me since clearly calling me “new here” was meant by you as an insult.

          Do that and we are good.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          My apologies then. I will make it a point to be sure we all use the phrase “according to unnamed sources”. I understand the use of sources and proper citing better than most, in my other gig I cite religiously. I will say that if something is labelled a “rumor” on the sister sites it came from a source, if it is conjecture or opinion it is categorized as such. Will we be better about stating that unnamed sources (or named) present us with info, yes we will. Thanks for the check, we all need that sometimes.

  • JbkONE

    I’m sure either “automatic” will be able to shift better than I can at all times.  I don’t heel-toe, I grind every once in a while and I stall probably once a month.  But rowing my own is SO MUCH FUN!  I don’t think pushing a lever can give you the same joy rowing a manual can.  I mean, my MINI is like a toy – and the manual just gives me more to play with. :)  A push button might be fun to play with in that it’s different, but as far as play-time goes I can’t imagine it would be more fun pushing a button than clutch/changing gears.

    And test drivers get to drive on tracks/secluded roads/etc.  That they’re saying you can hit a perfect downshift mid-corner isn’t surprising – I’m sure you can.  I’ve never been on a track – I really don’t care about hitting a perfect downshift mid-corner.

    I think the difference comes down to scientific vs emotional.  I don’t think I’ll ever hear anyone say “man I love shifting this DCT”… you might hear “I love how this DCT shifts”, but you wont’ hear anyone say the act of pushing a button is fun.

    You’ve heard the saying “it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast…”, well I think that about sums it up.  I’ll take the manual please – but I’ll definitely test-drive the DCT!

    And, frankly, anyone who drives a MINI could have bought a faster car.  It’s not all about speed.

    • Csmsart

      I have a new GTiI w/ APR stage 1 and a 6 speed DSG. It is very nice indeed. I just sold my 07′ JCW & replaced it w/ a 2012 Cooper S auto. All in all it is a very nice car but the auto is a bit underwhelming. When switching between the two cars weekly, I adapt to the differences  & drive the Cooper S accordingly. In the grand scheme of things the Mini S auto is plenty fun and not as slow or uninteresting as I feared. The stock programming is not great by any means so I wonder if the JCW tuning package on the MCS auto may improve thing a bit?  After years of driving sporty German cars & Mini’s w/ manuals I feel fine behind the wheels w/ good DSG & auto’s I have no regrets going clutch-less. Come on Mini: You can do better software on the current auto.

      FYI: At WAT & driving like a teenager the newest Mini Cooper s auto is plenty fun still. 

    • Dr Obnxs

      To each their own, and that is good. What a lot of people miss is that the end of the fun of rowing the gears isn’t the whole story. It’s replaced with another type of fun. Does that work for you? That’s up to each individual to judge. I’m agnostic on the proposition. I live where long drives usually involve a lot of driving where one shifts not for pleasure, but because of bad traffic or the like. Since it’s not a sporty drive, an auto there would be real nice. Some of the driving is where the manual shifts are added enjoyment, and some is so twisty-turny that a well tuned DSC or flappy paddle wouldn’t be step down in engagement because it’s more about the turns than the shifts. But that’s OK…. I think we’ll have manuals along long after they are technically obsolete because the people with money will want them. Some day they may go the way of the manual timing adjust or manual choke, but that won’t be for quite a while…

      And then, those that want them can still buy older cars….

      Matt

      • JbkONE

         I don’t live where there’s lots of traffic.  If I lived in Chi-town it might be a different equation.

        • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

          I live and commute in Chi-town and it’s not near bad enough for me to consider an auto. It’s all about what you (and or your significant other) want out of a car.

  • that.guy

    Having lived with a DCT for about a year now I can say I strongly prefer it on the track or when driving hard, but would much rather work an MT and clutch day to day and when driving under 8/10ths.  If you have never driven a DCT and think of it as an “automatic” then you should really try one. The 7-speed in the B8 S4 is very impressive and worth a test drive.   

  • sugurunishioka

    Glad to see they putting some serious work on the auto gear box, but I’d personally get another manual MINI, as long as it’s offered. I’d pay some premium (if I have to) for stick shift model even when it becomes an option with auto box as standard, just because stick shift is more fan to drive, especially on the car like or MINIs.

    Oh and your friends won’t be able to ask to test drive your MINI.

  • Mlavoie

    I’d definately take an automatic if it’s good like VW’s DSG…. and i’ve always been driving manuals.

  • Oxymoron

    My admitted “laziness,” long legs, and Atlanta traffic have persuaded towards my little clutchless auto. However, after years of reading about the levels of control, being “one with your MINI,” and the fun – – – my next MINI just may have 3 pedals.

  • Bilbo Baggins

    Definitely stick with the manual. Call me old school.

  • Gregepperson

    I would buy the Automatic! I would welcome the increased gas mileage, I hope they make it in a S model Clubman.

  • http://www.facebook.com/taiyo.nakashima Taiyo Nakashima

    Gimme a break. The brilliant Getrag 6 Speeder is precisely the reason why I bought my Cooper S. I will never drive a freaking Auto! I live in central Tokyo, a city known for its traffic jams. MUCH easier driving a manual than a auto. That awful electronic hand break in current Beemers can stay clear of MINIs too.


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