What automatic will MINI use in the F56? That’s the question I asked MINI USA Head of Product Pat McKenna last week when MINI USA brought MotoringFile to its US Headquarters to discuss the F56’s technology. The response was unexpected; the current 6 Speed Aisin automatic. The immediate follow-up was, why would MINI stick with the six speed when competitors are moving to 8 and 9 speed quick-shifting automatics?
The answer was straightforwart. According to Mr. McKenna, MINI is happy with the performance of the Aisin unit for the time being. With some mechanical revisions and totally revamped software, MINI believes the updated transmission will keep pace with the industry – including the VW GTI’s six speed DSG (which is a DTC or dual clutch transmission).
When pressed a bit more about the effeciency gains to be had with with the new generation of 8-9 speed autos, Mr. McKenna mentioned that a new automatic could be on its way in the future didn’t make sense at this time. if we had to guess, that transmission would likely debut in the next generation Countryman in a few years time. That would also coincide with the refresh of the F56 in 2017. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
The moment I heard the Aisin auto was sticking around I thought of the thousands of MotoringFile readers who would likely be disappointed. And while we’re right there with you, all is not lost. Based on what we heard last week at MINI HQ, we expect the new Sport Auto version of the Aisin unit (a $250 option) to be surprisingly effective. There are three reasons for this:
– The optional Sport Auto has further enhanced software that allows for quicker shifts and more aggressive reactions
– The optional Launch Control will officially make the Aisin automatic faster than the manual in both the Cooper and Cooper S.
– The completely redesigned interior boasts pull-pull paddles finally ditching the push-pull design which seemed catered to latte drinkers more than enthusiasts.
And what about DCT in the future? We’d wager MINI will never go DCT. In fact, based on industry trends and sources, we believe the DCT will be a technology mainly tied to one company with a massive investment already made in the technology; VW. With ZF producing 8 and 9 speed autos that rival the DCT in shift speed and rev matching, all while providing a much more refined experience, there’s simply a better choice out there. Couple this with the new generation of automatics being decidedly more efficient than the DCT and writing is on the wall. In fact MINI’s parent company BMW already has made that choice; every 2014 BMW but M models (which are too torque rich for the auto) are now equipped with the excellent 8 speed ZF unit.
All this means we fully expect MINI to move to a 8 or 9 speed automatic in the next generation Countryman and refreshed F56. In the meantime we’ll withhold judgement on the revised Aisin six speed until we drive the F56 in late January.
And if all else fails, MINI’s revised six speed manual with rev-matching sounds pretty tempting to us. In fact it makes us wonder why we’re even worried about automatics.