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.