MINI’s 2020 Technology Revealed in the 2016 BMW 7 Series

If MINI and BMW follow protocol much of the technology we see in the 2016 G01/G02 7 Series should make its way to the 4th generation (2020) MINI. What is it and why does it matter? Read on.

As part of BMWNA’s 7 Series launch our sister publication BimmerFile was invited to spend some hands-on time with a couple of pre-production 2016 7 Series. From a MINI perspective there was plenty of design choices and technology that was worth making note of.

In the new G02, BMW has packed 25 all new innovations, 13 of which aren’t offered by anyone else. But the G02 7 Series promises much more than simply technology. With the new range topper BMW has set out to redefine luxury for both itself and the industry. While money can buy you more, BMW’s focus was to bring a new level of luxury and technology to the mass produced automobile. And once BMW begins mass producing technology costs fall fast and these features often make their way across the range.

BMW_iDrive

Touch Screen and Gesture Controlled iDrive

At the center of the 2016 7 Series interior is the heavily revised iDrive now with touch and gesture control. BMW has defined five gestures for controlling audio levels and incoming calls among other things. In addition to that there are two configurable gestures that can control a number of other functions should the owners want to further customize the experience. There’s a learning curve to master the gestures but doing it once or twice is about all you need to master the gestures. That said there is a slight lag to the system reacting to gestures that isn’t there when using the touch screen or iDrive. That lag very well could render the gesture based input secondary for power users.

Gestures are interesting but it’s another input model that had us curious. BMW has for years told us about the dangers of touch screens in cars. Yet here I am using my fingers to tap, slide and pinch and zoom my way through iDrive. The truth is it works beautifully as if the system had been designed from the outset to accommodate fingers. While the official line from the company is that the iDrive wheel is still the safer input method, there’s no doubt that the touch screen is a compelling and quick way to get where you need within the system. How quick? While it’s not quite at the level of an Apple iOS device in terms of user reaction, it’s quick enough for you to forgive any subtle lag. In fact the system has quicker reflexes than even Tesla’s massive touch screen system in the Model S we tested earlier this year.

The thing that no one is talking about with this new touchscreen approach is the systems inherent compatibility with Apple’s CarPlay and Android’s Auto. The whisper we’re hearing is that we will see both systems in MINIs and BMWs within five years.

G11_7_series_85587

Laser Lights

A few weeks back we reported on BMW’s work in bringing laser lighting to the US. Quite a task considering our 50 year old automotive lighting laws. By why are they worth fighting for? Laser lighting is an important development for a number of reasons. In the laser headlight, the beams of light are bundled together to attain a luminous intensity that is ten times greater than conventional light sources such as halogen, xenon or LED. BMW Laserlight has a visual range of up to 600 meters, twice that of a headlight with conventional light technology. BMW Laserlight surpasses energy efficiency compared with already highly effective LED light technology by a further 30 percent, thereby providing considerably greater light intensity and a marked reduction in electricity consumption increasing overall efficiency.

Finally laser diodes are ten times smaller than conventional light diodes, enabling the height of the reflector to be reduced from 9 cm to less than 3 cm. This, in turn, creates more space in the headlight and also reduces weight, thereby creating new design possibilities for the vehicle.

Laser lighting is optional on both the i8 and 7 series. We fully expect it to make its way to the 2017 5 Series, 2018 3 Series and ultimately across the entire BMW range.

G11_7_series_85622

Wireless Charging

Also inside the new 7 Series BMW has given us wireless charging based around the protocol used by the new Samsung S6. While iPhone users (the majority of 7 Series owners we hear) will find that useless, BMW will provide a pouch for you to plug your iPhone into that accepts wireless charging. Given the space constraints in the MINI and the multiple wireless charging standards still in place, this may be a long shot for the MINI even in five years.

G11_7_series_85620

Key fobs with Digital Screens

While a few of us actually think this will be DOA by the time MINI is read to adopt this technology, it’s worthwhile speaking a bit about. The optional touch-screen key fob is the same one as found in the i8 that offers owners the opportunity to see data on the car (range, interior temps etc) as well as tweak settings remotely. Sounds fantastic. But there’s a problem. It’s slow. The lag between input and action on the small screen is awkward at times. And the interface, while elegant looking, lacks polish that Apple and Google have had years to perfect. What’s a button? What’s interactive? What can I control? Those were all questions I had within 10 seconds of picking it up and starting to use it. Thankfully the core functionality of locking and unlocking doors and the trunk are independent of the screen based navigation. But for us it’s an option that squarely falls into the nice to have category at best. At worst it’s a really big key fob that you have to constantly make sure is charged in the conductive charging spot you’ll want to use for your phone. The reality is by 2020 we’d expect our phones to play this role.

G11_7_series_76663

Carbon Fiber

Leveraging the learnings of the i3 and i8 projects, BMW engineers set out to build the new 7 Series out of a myriad of materials in order to reduce weight while despite dramatically increasing the standard and optional equipment and safety measures. This foundational design choice shed almost 200 lbs on the US spec car allowing for a car that is (on paper) more nimble and dramatically quicker than any 7 Series before it. In case of the 750i with xDrive that means 0-60 takes only 4.3 seconds. To put that in perspective that’s as fast as the E92 M3 and faster than the 1M. More importantly that’s a full half second faster than the Mercedes S550. If BMW could bring costs down enough to use on the next generation UKL platform, we could see MINI’s weight start to head the other direction.

G11_7_series_78427

Safety

Safety is another area where BMW is using the 7 Series to debut a handful of features we’ll likely see on the MINI and other BMWs in the future. For one the HUD is dramatically larger than before (75%) allowing for more information to be place in the driver’s line of sight. As you’d expect also included in the new 7 Series is a frontal collision warning and automatic braking system. But more interestingly BMW has enabled this feature at parking speeds which will save drivers from those embarrassing parking lot mishaps that no one here has ever experienced. In addition to that there’s also a killer 3D parking perspective feature that gives drivers a few of obstacles form any angle around the car. Basically if you hit something trying to park the new G02 7 Series you might want to reevaluate your life or at least your parking game. Perhaps all of this is less relevant in a small car like the MINI. Nevertheless it would be welcome technology to most.

At highway speeds the 2016 7 Series features an active lane keeping assistant that will give you corrective steering if you drift out of your lane. Plainly put the car will tug you away from leaving your lane inadvertently. Using that same technology the new 7er will also tug you out of the way of cars that might drift into your lane. This feels like real world need and one that should make it to the MINI eventually.

The new G02 7 Series will debut at US dealers on October 24th in both 750i and 750iX form with prices to follow in the coming weeks. The 2020 MINI is expected to debut the second half of 2019 with or without the technologies lists above. However if history is our guide, in five years we’ll be on a configurator asking ourselves if laser lights are worth it and if we really want another large screen in our pocket.