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

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.)