Video: F56 Mule Spotted Testing on the ‘Ring

More and more images of the F56 test mules are popping up around the web every day as MINI gets closer and closer to the final production version of the car. The folks over at Motoring Authority have some nifty video of an F56 test mule stretching its legs on the ‘Ring. Expect to see more and more of these videos popping up over the coming months. But for now lets talk about what we can really see here behind the swirls.

For those following along with the F56 spy game, MINI and BMW have been extremely clever in how they’re disguising the test mules for both the F56 MINI and the upcoming front wheel drive BMW. Beyond the normal swirly graphics, the BMW mules were mistaken for MINIs by most of the automotive press. But there’s an obvious color code of swirls that BMW uses to distinguish the two; BMW is white and black and MINI is yellow and black.

The actual F56 mules still have extra layers of body cladding and lights taped over top of their real shape and details. So a front end that looks like a bloated R56 in these spy shots is actually something that will look much more like the MINI Rocketman concept than the current car. Our sources have confirmed that, and here are a few other things we’ve noticed about these test mules:

  • Five lug wheels
  • Slighty more front overhang (Pedestrian impact standards in the EU make wheels and the corners pretty much impossible unless it’s mid-engined)
  • Tail-lamps mounted flush with the hatch
  • Odd side mirrors likely hiding side repeaters and some new aero
  • Plastic wheel arches already confirmed are definitely here.
  • Don’t pay attention to the front or rear lights as they have bolt on disguise means to hide the final form and position.

Keep an eye out here on MotoringFile as more and more details trickle in.

[Source: Motoring Authority]
  • It’s unfortunate Motoring Authority thinks the current Cooper S has 208hp and that the new S will match that but what is very fortunate is to hear this video!  Right at the beginning and in addition right at the end you can clearly hear the exhaust note and although possibly not tuned for final production, it seems to carry an exhaust sound very similar to the R56 or the BMW N20 engine (as opposed to the R53), meaning that it sounds gruff and has some deep character to it.  Whether with three or four cylinders (we assume this is an S and not an early JCW) , it will sound very promising!

    • Photo

      What do you mean “(as opposed to the R53)”? Was there a big difference?

      • I have no measurements only my observation but the R56 exhaust (S and JCW) I feel has a deeper tone and also a slightly lopey cadence (especially at idle) compared to the R53 which is smoother although not as deep.  This isn’t the best comparison, but make your own opinion:

  • Scamper

    FTA: “…replacements for all the different variants including … all the other bodystyles MINI is now offering.”

    Sounds like they’re including the Coupé and Roadster with this assertion, and I hope it’s true. Everything should see some kind of refresh, if only because it’s cheaper for BMW to support than maintaining a legacy platform. I know you’ve urged me not to get my hopes up, but with this article, they’re up again.

    • The F5X is the platform that all small MINIs will be based on over the next 8-10 years. The Coupe and Roadster should have 6-7 year life cycles so they will eventually move over – but obviously not for awhile.

      • jbkONE

        If they’re based on the convertible (which they are) and the convertible will be replaced in 2016, then it seems they’ll only have a 4.5 to 5 year lifecycle because they’re such low production models: I can’t see them keeping the platform in production only for those.

        • Not necessarily. We’ve mapped out the timeline before and the key thing to remember is that MINI has only so many resources to bring products to market – that’s one of the reasons variations are naturally staggered. So with that said if the F57 hits dealers in the spring of 2015 then I would t expect the coupe and convertible (if they are produced again – its not a guaranteed) to arrive no earlier than 2017.

  • j

    Hmm…I saw this on MotorAuthority yesterday and was waiting diligently for MF to bring it up. Either way, I think that its too early to make assertions about the cars ability, as many of the cars driving characteristics may be changed  and most manufactures tend to have mules for various stages of development. Seems to me that they were most likely focusing on suspension and cornering.

    • When they’re on the ‘Ring they’re likely doing either suspension, chassis or endurance testing. 

      BTW you will see an enormous amount of mis-information about the F56 in the coming months from sites like MotorAuthority. Don’t read them too hard as they are in it for advertising revenue derived from clicks and views. We have real sources in Munich and elsewhere giving us insight into the car.

      • j

        I agree with you and I’m looking forward to future updates from MF…

      • Kev50027

        Just to be clear, you too are in it for advertising revenue, correct?  If not, why are there advertisements on your website 🙂

        Nevertheless, I love the site and will stay tuned for updates.  Thanks for reporting on MINIs!

        • Yes absolutely but that’s not THE reason it was started and is still going.

        • JbkONE

           And I salute it being here and remaining for all of the MINI Community.  Regardless who pays the bills, currently this site is a service to the MINI community and I appreciate that.

          This isn’t really a response to anyone: just a thank you for the service you provide.


  • Mills

    Gabe, what is the timeline on this car? I keep reading things on here and other sites. When will we first see it? And when will it go on sale?

    • Previewed online late next summer, public debut in early fall and at euro dealer late fall. US might slip a few months.

      via mobile

  • Aurel

    Looks like someone is following around this mule with a video camera …

  • oldsbear

    Futile conjecture based on obfuscation: why do we participate? What an odd species we are.

    • Dr Obnxs

      If it weren’t for human nature, we’d be a pretty good species! 😉

  • I’m not sure, but in the first few seconds of the video with the car driving by, I thought I heard the telltale sound of a dual clutch gearbox. A nice BLAP.  But that could be my imagination.

    • Perhaps some others can chime in, but I have heard many dual clutch transmissions which do not exhibit the noise you are equating with a dual clutch transmission.  There has been a fad of late to add the burp/fart/blap you describe and the GTI is the first example that comes to my mind.  Compare a Mk5 GTI to a Mk6 GTI both with DSG and the Mk6 has a very pronounced noise at shift with the same transmission, the only difference is really the tuning.  More and more torque-converter autos also have a similar sound while shifting nearly as quick as dual clutch gearboxes; I’m thinking specifically the 650i I test drove not too long ago which was very subdued but still present.  More and more cars have smaller displacement engines with turbos and perhaps due to the speed of the dual clutch tranny and the various inherent designs of turbos to eliminate back pressure can make the sound appear amplified compared to a slower shifting methods.

  • Well atleast it sounds good. certainly doesnt look the part.

  • Kev50027

    I’m with James May, cars meant for the road should not be developed on the ring.  Anything that is developed on the ring comes out far too harsh for the awful roads consumers are going to end up driving it on.  I love my ’11 MCS, but even without the sport suspension it is a tad too stiff for public roads, especially in rural areas where roads are not maintained.

    • There are plenty of areas on the ring that have very rough surfaces and having too stiff of a suspension can actually be a detriment to grip.  Many manufacturers test on the ring because it reproduces most road condition found on standard streets.  BMWs for example have been tested on the ring for decades and have always been known as having a perfect balance between handling and comfort (compared to their four-ringed neighbor up until recently).  I’d much rather have my car over-engineered and know that the ring was only one of countless testing scenarios from cold weather in northern Scandinavia to death valley and everywhere in between.  Please don’t confuse a manufacturer testing a car on the ring to being [completely] “development on the ring” as you insinuate.  Also please don’t jump to conclusions that all cars that spend any time on the ring have harsh suspensions; have you seen the countless SUVs, station wagons, transport vans that are tested there?!  

      I had a 2006 MCS with JCW suspension up until recently which I drove through the pot-holed mine-field that is Boston every spring and although the R53 rides harsher than the R56 with the non-sport suspension and even though the JCW suspension is stiffer even than the sport suspension, it’s all about what your expectations are.  I was impressed that a car that handled so flat and linear on a track (compared to the sport suspension) felt better dampened on the road than the standard suspension on my 2003 MCS.

      That being said, if the shared F56 platform adds some comfort taken from BMW’s magic act of balancing comfort and handling I won’t complain as long as not an ounce of handling and fun is lost.

    • Dr Obnxs

      Don’t stay stock. Want a bit softer, go with Koni FSDs. They are a nice strut for those that want a little bit softer for most situations, while stiffening up in the twisties. Another way to go is a taller tire with a softer sidewall. Lots of ways to skin the cat. Really, a lot of the harshness of the stock set-up can be dealt with by ditching the run-flats.

      • veggivet

         Excellent advice. The modifications that had the most impact on my MINIs were changing to FSD’s, and mounting non run-flats on lighter wheels. My R50 and R53 were totally transformed.

    • Evan

      All cars should have development time on the ring. Those that haven’t would certainly benefit from the demands placed upon them there. It’s a multitude of different scenarios. German cars handle the way they do because of the demands for high-speed stability on the autobahn and handling required for the ring testing.

      The harshness in the MINI/BMW is really down to the run-flats. My R50 has a perfect balance of handling and ride on the standard non-run flats. When I switched from run-flats to the 3rd Gen Run-flats on my E90, the difference in ride was incredible and there was no loss in handling/steering feel that I could discern.

  • Imprezasearch

    Gabe, when is the next Countryman update and do you think it’ll move over to the n20 as well ?