The 2018 model year will be a big one for MINI’s three and five door MINI hatch and likely the MINI Convertible. New navigation system, engines and a revised design are all on tap as MINI looks to inject new life into the brand’s core models. What will they look like and when is it happening? Read on.
MINI (and BMW) have a seven year model cycle with a refresh typically 3-4 years into that so this is a long expected nip and tuck. In BMW speak this typer of refresh is called an LCI which stands for (awkwardly) life cycle impulse. LCIs can range from light (the 2015 R60 Countryman) to expansive (the 2005 R50/R53). We believe that MINI’s refresh will fall somewhere in the middle. Here’s what we know.
MINI is thoroughly refreshing it’s range of three and four cylinder engines with updates throughout the drivetrain. The result will be more power and torque along with higher levels of efficiency. But beyond that we’ll also see enhanced acoustic properties (i.e. they’ll sound better), smoother operation and (this is key) and a reduction in weight
A revised turbocharging system will be a major part of the drivetrain overhaul. For instance the exhaust manifold and turbocharger will housed together in the cylinder head rather than separate. The turbocharger casing for the three- cylinder engine will switch to aluminum on the Cooper model, while the four-cylinder units will all feature steel casings.
The new engines will also feature a more advanced cooling system that serves to optimize the combustion process with the aim of reducing both CO2 output and other pollutant emissions. The new coolant pump will have separate outlets for the flow of coolant to the cylinder head and engine block, which should result in a far more effective thermal management.
The new engine will also feature revised balancer shafts ensuring smoother operation. These shafts are intended to iron out the vibrations that occur when power is transmitted to the crankshaft. Three-cylinder engines will in future benefit from a new balancer shaft complete with a modified drive mechanism that results in a weight saving, improved excitation and further enhanced acoustic properties.
Another way that MINI has optimized the acoustics is to fit the cars with a single-piece timing chain drive and a new L-shaped belt arrangement driving the alternator, water pump, torsional vibration damper and air conditioning compressor. This should help the engine sound noticeably smoother – especially on cold starts.
What does this mean for power? We know that BMW has the ability to tune both the three and four cylinder engines up in power pretty dramatically if it wanted. The 227 hp three cylinder in the BMW i8 for instance is essentially same engine in the Mini Cooper. Similar the 255 hp four cylinder in the 7 Series hybrid is the same 2.0L that is in the Cooper S and JCW.
But numbers like that aren’t going to happen for MINIs mainstream models. What we will see are horsepower gains in the 3-5% range with even greater torque improvements. In the Cooper S we believe this will manifest itself in a output of around 196 hp and potentially as torque figure as high as 220 ft lbs. The side benefit of not going quite as high with the power figures is that we could see a further cut in fuel consumption and emissions of up to 5% across models.
We believe that MINI will not revise the JCW powerplant for 2017 but may do so later.
Thanks to sources familiar with the brand’s upcoming plans, we can confirm that MINI intends to offer dual clutch automatic transmissions as part of this refresh. While we don’t yet know details of what models they’ll be found in, it’s a safe bet we’ll see the DCT option in the Cooper S and JCW models (if not more).
Moving from a torque converter automatic to a DCT is an interesting change of direction for BMW – a company that has thus far eschewed the use of dual clutch transmissions outside of M models and a few rare series models. The reason is that costs for dual clutch transmissions are typically higher given the complexity in design and manufacturing. The only way VW has been able to do it in mass is the sheer volume they can leverage. What appears to have happened is that BMW and MINI found a willing partner ready to bring costs down in order to battle the increasingly popular 8 and 9 speed automatics from ZF and Aisin.
This change will also have the benefit of further differentiating the smaller MINI offerings from the larger four door products that will continue to use the (very good) 8 speed torque converter automatic form Aisin.
What’s a dual clutch transmission and why should you care? Lets head to wikipedia for the formal description:
A dual-clutch transmission, (DCT) (sometimes referred to as a twin-clutch transmission or double-clutch transmission), is a type of automatic transmission or automated automotive transmission. It uses two separate clutches for odd and even gear sets. It can fundamentally be described as two separate manual transmissions (with their respective clutches) contained within one housing, and working as one unit. They are usually operated in a fully automatic mode, and many also have the ability to allow the driver to manually shift gears in semi-automatic mode, albeit still carried out by the transmission’s electro-hydraulics
Ok that’s a bit dry. What it’s really saying is that dual clutch transmissions use two clutches to allow for much more responsive, crisp gear changes. DCTs (as they’re known) shift quicker, and yet are nearly as seamless as the new breed of 8-9 speed torque converter automatics. They also offer similar MPG figures to the best automatics out there. In other words they offer more the performance without too much of a downside.
What you see above and below isn’t necessarily what we expect the refreshed cars to look like. But we believe it offers a few clues. For instance we know that MINI will focus changes to the front and rear bumpers along with slightly revised lights. We also have heard that MINI will revise the front bumper on the Cooper S given the negative reaction to the “chin” of the current model.
Lighting will be a focus with the headlights featuring new LED day-time lights that look more cohesive (and less like a series of small lights) than the current version. We also expect some tweaks to the rear lights with the possibility of MINI moving over to LEDs for some elements.
MINI’s original plans were to add the two-part front air curtain to the F56 and F55 LCI but it remains to be seen if we’ll see that kind of re-engineering go into the cars at this stage of their life-cycle.
In addition to styling tweaks we expect MINI to introduce 2-3 new colors and at least two new wheel designs across the range.
Inside MINI will swap out several interior trim and leather options as well as introduce more mood lighting as we’ve seen on the new Clubman and Countryman.
Technology – Touch Screens and CarPlay is Here
One of the biggest stories for the 2018 LCI will be technology. The new iDrive system is nothing short of a revelation. MINI has added much more than just touch control with this update. It’s an entirely new system and an evolved design and interactions that make it all much more intuitive and faster. Perhaps more important to many of you, MINI will introduce wireless CarPlay with this refresh. Look for Android Auto to be supported sometime in 2017 or 2018.
What Models are Getting Refreshed?
According to sources MINI will be refreshing it’s entire small car line-up including the MINI Convertible. Given that this includes the F56 three door and F55 five door hatch which represent not just the soul of the brand but the majority of sales, it’s a critical refresh.
What about the other models? We believe the engine refresh will likely be rolled into production for the Clubman and Countryman sometime in 2018 with a true refresh to those vehicles happening in 2019 and 2020 respectively.