Exclusive: An Early Look at MINI’s 2016 Hybrid Clubman

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Sources have been telling us for more than a year to expect something special in the drivetrain of the next generation MINI Clubman. More recently, we’ve had a high-level sources confirm that the Clubman will indeed see all-wheel drive in at least one configuration. What we didn’t realize was that both sources were actually saying the same thing. When MINI releases the 2016 Clubman next year, we believe they will also introduce the brand’s first hybrid model along with the rest of the normal range of petrol and diesel engines. But this isn’t just a typical hybrid system that we’ve seen on cars like the Prius for more than a decade. It’s something decidedly more interesting for people who care about performance as well as efficiency.

Sources familiar with MINI’s plans have indicated that the hybrid system will be identical to what BMW first revealed in the Active Tourer hybrid concept back in 2012. Given the detail that BMW released at the time, it was clear it would see production in some BMW Group vehicle. We now believe that BMW will debut this system in both the 2 Series Active Tourer and the MINI Clubman around the same time next year.

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Enter The MINI Clubman All-Wheel Drive Plugin Hybrid

At the heart of the new Hybrid Clubman will be the 1.5L three cylinder lifted from the F56 Cooper and powering the front wheels. Integrated into that will be a plug-in hybrid system (likely derived from the BMW i8) powering the rear wheels only. The beauty of that arrangement is the torque (which is abundant in electric motors) won’t overwhelm the front tires and instead will provide additional power in the most effective way – to the rear. Not only will power and torque be better distributed, but it will also allow for better weight distribution across the entire car.

The synchronous electric motor will likely have an electric-only range of around 15-20 miles. Obviously this would be ideal for urban environments.

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The system that BMW has shown in concept form (and has been testing for years in R55 Clubman mules) has an output of “over” 140 kW/190 bhp. Doing the math backwards (and assuming MINI won’t detune the 134 hp Cooper 1.5L engine) we can expect the electric engine will have around 60 hp by itself.

Given these numbers (and adding the extra weight of the system) we’d expect 0-60 times in the low 7s. More importantly BMW has said it expects the system to achieve a fuel consumption of less than 2.5 litres per 100 kilometers (94 mpg, 113 mpg imp), with a CO2 emissions level of less than 60 g/km. Granted those figures will be altered for the US based on the EPA’s own measurement but they will still be similarly astounding in production form.

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Hybrid Performance

According to BMW’s published report on the concept power plant, the electric engine has been developed in-house at BMW. With a fully charged battery, the electric only range should be over 30 kilometers giving the Clubman Plug-In Hybrid the ability to be in 100% electric mode for the majority of day-to-day trips that don’t involve high speeds. What’s more interesting, BMW has created a boost function that could be thought of as DRS or a “Push to Pass” system. It gives the petrol engine a sudden boost of power for what BMW calls “highly dynamic acceleration maneuvers” – BMW’s words, not ours. With this system the power is made available “spontaneously and without delay”. The best part? The maximum torque of 200 N-m is available from standing.

The hybrid system’s lithium-ion battery can be charged at any 220 volt household power socket. Time for a full charge hasn’t been published yet nor has time to charge from higher voltage sockets.

Regenerative power can be drawn from both axles of the BMW Concept Active Tourer and fed back into the lithium-ion battery so as to enhance the efficiency of the plug-in hybrid. While the electric motor automatically recuperates maximum energy at the rear axle during deceleration, a high-volt generator connected to the combustion engine additionally charges the battery whenever needed. Naturally we expect that same tech to make it to production.

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Hybrid Drive with Intelligent Energy Management

As part of the BMW Group’s typical Efficient Dynamics strategy, the hybrid system will use data provided by the navigation system, calculating in advance the most suitable sections of the route and driving situations in which to apply electric drive or charge the battery. This optimized charging strategy saves up to 10% of energy so as to extend the amount of travel time during which the vehicle runs on electrical power alone.

Additionally the default ECO PRO mode aims to maximize range in all-electric mode, something that is achieved by minimising the energy consumption of the ancillary units. To this end, ECO PRO mode will reduce the output of the air conditioning and other electrically operated comfort-enhancing functions when appropriate. If MINI uses the functionality that is found on BMW’s electric i3, ECO PRO could also provide driving tips, and the Bonus Range Display shows how many additional miles can be added to the car’s range by keeping to the fuel-economy-maximising ECO PRO mode on. Additionally MINI will likely use the i3’s Proactive Driving Assistant that works with the Nav to anticipate local conditions and send the driver tips to prepare for the situation ahead. In that car ECO PRO Route also plays its part in minimising fuel consumption by setting out the most efficient route based on volume of traffic, personal driving style and local conditions.

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When and How Much?

The MINI Clubman Hybrid will likely debut around the same time as the Clubman itself, in the second half of 2015. It’s unclear what MINI will name the system and what the model will be called. However it’s clear that the Clubman Hybrid will sit atop the model range in price given its combination of extra tech, performance and extreme efficiency.

As always, stay tuned to MotoringFile for more on MINI’s first hybrid. It’s not too early to get excited.

(Photos showing the a hybrid system accompanying this article are actually those of the BMW i8 which has a similar drivetrain albeit mid-engined powering the rear wheels.)

  • Jojo

    I just died and went to heaven! A 2005 MINI was my very first car and two others later, I left the brand to try something new with a 2012 Nissan Leaf (which I am also loving). I guess my buddy and I will be back to MINI very soon :)

    • ulrichd

      Wow, you’ve had four cars since 05?

  • scamper

    Very mixed feelings. I love that a German manufacturer is moving in the right direction, finally. Yay, that! I’m just not a fan of any of those bastardized Bloat-man designs, personally. Love the in-depth reporting with tech details though. Not trying to rain on any parades! I shall one day have my electrified (normal) MINI. I know: 2020.

  • les

    Sign me up.

  • http://www.mynameisjay.com/ Jay

    Sounds awesome – but I have a feeling it will be way out of my price range.

    • JefH

      Ya think? Drive train coming out of the $100k sportscar.

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        And a drivetrain shared with another small hybrid and produced at scale. This won’t likely be much different than a JCW in price.

      • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

        It’s not literally the same drivetrain, but it’s based on the same engineering. The setup in the i8 is much more extreme and has much higher power output.

  • racekarl

    Oh I am so torn! I love the shape of that camouflaged mule, and I love the idea of a longer 4-door AWD mini that’s more station wagon and less SUV. I’ve got three small children and live in the northeast US, so this is checking all my boxes. BUT, the one and only hard requirement I have for my next car is a manual transmission and there is obviously no way they’re going to deliver a drivetrain like this with a manual.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      We don’t know that yet but if it is auto only you can simply opt for the Cooper or Cooper S.

      • racekarl

        Yes, I read that there will be a 4-door Cooper S, but I do like the longer wagon-esque look above. Full disclosure: I am one of those weirdos that likes station wagons better than any other body style.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          There will be a Clubman Cooper and Cooper S along with a Four door hatch Cooper and Cooper S. This model is just a new hybrid iteration of the Clubman. Any model style that MINI releases will always be available as a manual Cooper or Cooper S in the US. In other countries the options are even greater.

        • racekarl

          Gotcha, sorry I’m a bit new to the MINI nomenclature. I thought the “hardtop” was the Cooper; didn’t realize Cooper and Cooper S are more like trim levels than model names.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          You’re right to be confused. MINI does a historically bad job of naming conventions due to the fact that their main model is also the name of the company.

  • Nick Dawson

    Academically interesting, but a political nonsense in a MINI.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Care to electorate?

  • ibilisi

    I like the looks of the next clubman. There just are not too many options for a AWD wagon-ish vehicle in the US. I’m currently in a 97 Subaru Legacy GT, but Subaru refuses to bring or make a non-bloated wagon here. True, the next clubman may not be a wagon, but it is a very viable option for those that need/require the extra practicality but still would like a lower riding vehicle with reduced body roll and more spirited handling. I just don’t think my 97 LGT will make it another year…

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      There are basically no options for AWD small wagons or crossovers available with manual transmissions, let alone any sort of performance prioritization. They’re not well known for it yet, but MINI has a very unique offering in that sweet spot of performance, utility, economy and premium features. The new Clubman will be another feather in that cap.

      • DuaneW

        Subaru does still have some of its wagons/crossovers with manual. Decent vehicles, but not performance priority or premium features. And I read the 2015 Outback loses the manual. Not sure about impreza, Forester, and Crosstek – they seem to have manual still, but mainly in base models. We have an Outback and it has been decent as a relatively plain utilitarian wagon.

  • chris94602

    now, if only they had kept the rear hinged doors instead of those pedestrian ones they put in.

  • Alain Coulombe

    Weight?

  • Bor

    yep, looks like my next car if the price and weight are reasonable

  • walk0080

    Very interesting but isn’t it about time MINI offer something radically different from their standard “MINI” design? They are stuck with all models looking very similar to the other just like a lot of BMW, Audi, etc.

    • ulrichd

      I think that is the challenge for all “retro design inspired” cars. What to do after the second facelift? In my mind, looking at the front overhang of the new design, the current safety standards have sufficiently diffused the current MINI design language that they may have to make a major design leap forward with the 1220 car.

  • carcrazed

    very very very exciting!!!!! Please offer a manual in this setup MINI!!!!!

  • writewright

    I think it’s superlative. Cost amy be the pivotal “big” question mark. Looks like it may be a candidate for third axle reconstructive surgery. You know — the stretch limo treatment. It is getting l-o-n-g-e-r and l-o-n-g-e-r. How ’bout calling it the new-age Oscar Meyer Wienermobile!

  • ulrichd

    Ok, feel free to eye roll. I want a hybrid drive Rocketman.

  • Bmwmike

    I think you all missed the biggest thing , where is that R55 factory body kit GP ‘ish side skirts and it’s lowered for the hybrid version ? 😉

  • jbkone

    Am I the only one who isn’t on the hybrid bandwagon? Why not a diesel that gets the same mileage but won’t ever have to have batteries replaced?

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      I’d rather have an SD ALL4 myself, but that’d still only get about half of what this system is reported to achieve in terms of mileage.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Stay tuned…

    • Scott Eaves

      I’m not a fan of hybrids. I’ve read this article a couple of times and still can’t figure out how this would be useful to me with an 80 mile round trip commute – 65 miles of highway. If the electric only is good for 15-20 miles, that’s half of my drive to work with no way to charge it at work. Even with recapturing energy during braking, I think I’d be running more on the gas engine than not. I just can’t figure out how it would justify the price premium – for my situation.

      • ulrichd

        I didn’t think much about hybrids until I saw a road test of the McLaren P1 :)