2014 MINI Previewed: The Technology

The preceding was discussed almost in its entirety last year when we walked you through what we knew (and what we could tell you) about the next generation MINI’s interior. However given some hints of new info and the constant questions we get for readers about details we’ve previously reported, we wanted to re-examine some of what we know around the technology of the next generation MINIs.

Beyond the basic details, the interior will boast a more straight-forward approach to interfacing with the car and its entertainment options. And the window into that world is about to get much larger. As we’ve reported, the next MINI will adopt a BMW-sized widescreen for displaying content. However, it’s what that screen will display, and what MINI positions around it, that’s interesting to us.

As you can see in the photo above, even though the center speedometer is gone in the F56, MINI clearly had plans for that central, circular area. The infotainment system will likely be available in two sizes depending on markets and options. The full navigation equipped MINIs will have a 8.8″ monitor which will likely display 1280×480 pixels. If MINI follows BMW’s trend, it’ll also offer a 800×400 6.5″ display as a lower cost option that comes only with MINI Connected functionality or other features. MINI may ultimately make the latter standard in some markets or offer it at a lower cost than the current MINI Connection only option. BMW is including a basic iDrive system with a smaller screen and no nav as standard in the US on recently introduced models (similar to MINI connected), it’s a possibility MINI USA will do the same.

Enter the Real iDrive

The test mule in these photos has the final spec screen but still has several components that are works-in-progress. Notably, the iDrive is a direct carry over from BMW prototypes we’ve seen around Munich. Will MINI adopt the BMW input system (known as iDrive) seen here or continue with the joystick we know today? We believe that MINI will adopt a BMW-like system, which will actually be a dramatic improvement over the current system. The new interface will likely offer physical short-cut keys and a next generation input device with touch control and even gesture recognition on the top of the knob. Sources familiar with the technology tell us that it dramatically improves interaction with system lists and the navigation map. You can see a prototype of this in action over at BimmerFile where our colleagues detailed the technology earlier this Spring.

The system will also likely include BMW’s revised system graphics with 3D elements in the individual menus. Expect at least a 1.3 GHz processor and dedicated 3D graphics card to create smoother and quicker transitions.

Along with the menu presentation, the navigation system and graphics will also be heavily revised and enhanced. The map and guidance information will be depicted with greater brilliance and sharpness than seen in current MINIs. Like BMW’s revised system, look for more functionality without having to leave the map view, allowing for real-time traffic and weather.

Information on the Highway

How is MINI getting at this data? Unlike the R56 generation, we’ve been told by sources that the F56 will have an onboard cell connection. But unlike current BMWs, that make due with an archaic EDGE connection, sources tell us that BMW will debut its new LTE onboard connection — allowing for a bandwidth of data to and from the car almost unthinkable ten years ago. This wireless technology is also 3G backwards compatibility. This new LTE speed could eventually allow “cloud” processing to help calculate larger amounts of map and system data without relying on the processing power of the in-car systems.

Because the screen will be so wide, the F56 will also likely divide up that screen space into a two separate active visual areas. This split-screen approach could allow, for example, a user to enter a destination while seeing the corresponding map at the same time. The zoom function can then verify whether the destination found by the system is actually where you mean to go. Anyone familiar with the current system can appreciate what a big improvement that could be.

There will also be enhanced high-level guidance features that are automatically activated when the driver reaches a certain distance before the next navigation instruction. At this pre-instruction point, the arrow display turns into a schematic, perspective view of the surroundings. This gives the driver even better orientation to where they are and how it relates to their next turn, thanks to an enhanced depiction of the location and even precise lane guidance. For an optimal picture, the perspective view changes in stages to a top view of the junction or intersection as the vehicle approaches it, while a dynamic vehicle indicator pinpoints the car’s current position.

Then things get really cool. If MINI follows BMW’s lead (and we believe they will), the F56 will be equipped with a new 3D city model view, offering a highly-realistic depiction of the surrounding streets and buildings.

Additional new technology and options
The F56 MINI will usher in a new era of technology to the MINI family thanks to being more closely aligned with BMW. The next generation MINIs will offer (some options, some standard) the following features:

  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Traffic Sign Recognition (Not all markets)
  • Adaptive Headlights (offering a wider angle of adjustment then the current system)
  • Advanced Emergency Call (Known as BMW Assist in the US market)
  • Connected Nav with Google Services
  • Rear view camera
  • Park Assist
  • ECO Pro mode (this will be marketed under a new name for MINI)
  • Auto Start/Stop (yes this is coming to the US as it is in all new BMW models)
  • 8 or 9 speed automatic transmission

What Else is New?
We love pictures like the one above because it allows us to reveal a few things we’ve known about, but been asked not to mention. Once it’s out in the open, though, it’s public knowledge right? One of the biggest misconceptions about the upcoming car is quickly disproved by these photos. No, MINI is not losing the toggle switches. In fact, turning the engine on and off will actually be controlled via a centrally located, large red toggle. However, what is changing is the location of the window switches. Yes, they are indeed moving to the doors where almost all consumers expect them to be. It’s a logical move for MINI, especially given ten years of negative feedback. Even though we like the central window controls, it’s a logical move. People expect a window to be controlled by a switch in the same general proximity to the window.

Very little of this technology would have been available without BMW deciding create a MINI-derived front wheel drive BMW (which actually won’t be available in the US). This allowed MINI to finally and fully take advantage of their parent company. A company known as the most design and engineering focused car manufacturer in the world. A company that pushes boundaries with technology, performance and efficiency while remaining independent. All of that has allowed BMW to take a huge gamble with MINI. The 3rd generation MINI is perhaps the biggest gamble yet. BMW is completely changing the way they design, engineer and manufacture cars, in order to properly support the MINI brand. They knew that MINI alone would not get the scale of production needed to afford the technology we’re describing above. So BMW has risked a great deal by bringing a car (the front wheel drive BMW) to market that is at odds with the brand’s history and core beliefs. All to make sure MINI has a future.

Thanks to that decision, that future looks bright to us.

  • that.guy

    “They knew that MINI alone would not get the scale of production needed to afford the performance and technology we’re describing above.”

    You did not describe any performance technology above. A paragraph on that would be great. (And, no, an automatic torque-converter transmission with 9 speeds does not qualify as “performance technology.”)

  • Ok, calling you guys out again. Seriously, all of the posts this week have already been stated and restated over the past few months. What’s the point?

    • William J Sisti

      I like these posts, it lets me read one article instead of digging through months of posts. I come here because I like how they curate the info the present. Yes, all of this info might of been covered in previous months, but I would not want them to simple create a new post that says “Link1 Link2 Link3) I want them to put it all together in a nice package and deliver it to my RSS reader. Mission Accomplished.

    • ulrichd

      It’s a ramp up to something. To what I am not sure since the official reveal is in the Fall. Unless there is a Geneva surprise.

    • jabostick

      Calling them out for taking months of rumours and thematically arranging them into a series of detailed posts to prepare us for the launch of a brand new generation of car we love? Yeah, I’m with you.

    • that.guy

      If you have not figured this out yet, MF is an extension of the BMW marketing organization.

    • The point is that we continuously get emails and comments constantly asking for a summary of what we know. So instead of posting the one or two new bits of info and sending people to links for the full picture we’ve take the time to combine it all together.

  • Ali

    It’s great that they’ll be integrating LTE into the cars themselves, but do you guys have any more details on how they’re going to implement this feature? Is it going to work as an auxiliary antenna for our smartphones or is the car going to use SIM cards directly? This concerns me because I rely heavily on using a US based VPN connection on my smartphone to stream music services such as Pandora and Spotify outside the US.

    I understand that I’ll still be able to connect my phone to the car and keep it as a source, but I’d like to take advantage of the car’s GSM antennas.

    • Jay

      I’m just guessing, but generally the point of having LTE in the car is to avoid the kludgey need to piggy back off a cell phone internet connection. The car is likely to have it’s own internet connection independent of your cell phone. In your case, the car would also need to have a VPN connection to the US. It seems really unlikely that a VPN client will be included, so I’m guessing you’ll still be using your cell phone for internet streaming.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      BMW has already rolled this out in certain markets- LTE is in the car as its own radio. This allows a lot of things to happen in an instant (traffic/ car to car communication/ live doppler). There will be more on LTE soon…

      • Kev50027

        This requires some sort of expensive subscription, right? Why bother when all of that info and more is already on our phone, where we already pay a lot for LTE?

    • It’s unclear all the services that will be powered by the car’s data connection but its assumed that the ability to connect to things like Pandora will still be handled by the phone.

  • gruswitz

    Any updates on the timeline for model release from last year? In particular, any updates imminent for the R60/F60?

    • The typical BMW and MINI product cycle is seven years. That would mean the F60 (the next gen Countryman) should debut sometime in 2018.

      • gruswitz

        So you would not anticipate a technology update before a new product cycle? I was curious if the technologies listed above would go into the R60 before the F60 update since it is 5 years away. I was also wondering if the Siri integration would be part of this technology update.

  • indimini

    Any sign of power adjustable seats? Why, with all this tech they are throwing into the cars, can’t they provide us with seats that don’t require manual adjustment?

    • b-

      Weight savings!

      Besides, how often does your seat get adjusted? Mine got adjusted once, two MINIs ago.

      • indimini

        If you have two or more drivers in the house that share the vehicle, they get adjusted frequently. However, it’s such a pain doing that in the MINI, it was easier to just get my wife her own Clubman.

        • Kev50027

          You just gave BMW a great reason to not offer power seats! More car sales! But in reality, if they can handle the weight of an auto transmission, and they keep making larger and larger (and thus heavier) MINIs, the argument that they’re leaving out power seats for weight savings doesn’t make much sense.

    • Personally I loathe power seats as they add weight and un-needed complexity. But I would be shocked if they weren’t offered as an option.

      • indimini

        Agree they add weight, but how much really? A few motors and actuators are hardly cutting edge re: complexity, when compared to all the other electronics they stuff into the car these days. I still think the lack of power seats as an option also runs counter to their sales pitch as a premium small car.

  • les

    I wouldn’t care if they just put BMWs iDrive in it and call it a day.

  • Stewart

    Well we have to get new stuff over this rehash of old news…..

    • We get email after email asking about the information recapped here. We will share new information when it becomes available. We’re not holding out on you.

  • Don Hopings

    If you don’t get the navigation system of Connected, I wonder what the center pod will look like?

    • r_k_w

      If the spy shots are representative, it will look terrible. A rectangular radio crammed into the round space. The shapes mismatch so much that it almost looks like a bad aftermarket installation.


      • b-

        I was under the impression that this was the cheap radio. I would guess that most people will choose the MINI Connected version as it will have a larger screen and not this little ugly square thing in the round hole.

      • Kev50027

        I’m almost certain the final radio won’t look like that. That car was a test mule with BMW parts. Look at the steering wheel.

    • John

      As per the article above…” If MINI follows BMW’s trend, it’ll also offer a 800×400 6.5? display as a lower cost option that comes only with MINI Connected functionality or other features. MINI may ultimately make the latter standard in some markets or offer it at a lower cost than the current MINI Connection only option. BMW is including a basic iDrive system with a smaller screen and no nav as standard in the US on recently introduced models (similar to MINI connected), it’s a possibility MINI USA will do the same.” Ever one will most likely have a screen.

  • ulrichd

    I hope the rear view camera is an option. I can’t stand those bumper warts.

  • Chilly

    All this new technology is fine but, unless they get the fundamentals right – steering feel, throttle response, suspension, reliability, etc – then none of these new features matter.

  • GoRixter

    What’s that dial at the base of the shifter for? Writing to too illegible to read

    • Eco and Sport controls.

      • John

        Gabe, look at the image used the interior article. The left toggle says “Sport/Eco”…something doesn’t make sense if there are two parts they have that.

  • Lemelou

    I wonder if we will be able to retrofit the new NAV in an R56 NAV equipped (IT SUCKS!!) 🙂