MINI’s 2018 Refresh to Include DCT Transmissions

Beginning this fall you’ll be able to order your F56 Cooper S with a DCT (dual clutch) transmission. Over the past year we’ve written about the upcoming 2018 refresh (or LCI in MINI speak) and even broke the story on it including a DCT transmission. We can now confirm that they are coming and are expected to coincide with MINI’s 2018 model year refresh.

MINI Vision Concept from 2013 was meant to be a preview to the F56.

MINI Vision Concept from 2013 was meant to be a preview to the F56.

For full background on the refresh, check out this recent MotoringFile story. Here’s the executive summary:

  • The Refresh should begin later this year. We’ve heard two dates; July and September production. The latter would make more sense but we know the former is tied to several key updates as well.
  • The update will include a revised family of newly refined engines that will produce slightly more power and be slightly more efficient (Confirmed for the Cooper and Cooper S)
  • Exterior changes will include new lights bumper and wheel designs along with three new colors.
  • Interior changes will include new trim and leather options
  • Apple’s CarPlay will become optional for the first time along with MINI’s new touch iDrive

It’s shaping up to a rather massive LCI even before you get to the new transmissions. As we’ve reported MINI is prepping the launch of a dual clutch transmission option in the small car range. 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). The benefits of this change will likely be quicker responses when changing gears and overall a quick sprint from 0-60.

MINI Vision Concept from 2013 was meant to be a preview to the F56.

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.

Does this change make you (re)consider an F55 or F56? Let us know in the comments below. And if you want more info on MINI”s 2018 refresh, head back to our original report.

  • jcwcoupe

    This is a game changer. I hope they use the same shifting software the DCT M cars use.

    Anyone who has driven both a VW product and a BMW product with DCT knows that the BMW implementation is far superior. The transmission gives you the gear you want very fast and lets you bounce off the rev limiter.

    If I don’t somehow find an M2 at msrp before these arrive I’m trading my MK7 R for a mini with DCT.

    • Eric

      You cannot compare the many DCT that are available on the whole range of VW products or Audi products vs. a DCT dedicated to these exclusive mechanics such as /// M BMW

      • jcwcoupe

        Well obviously. However, my point being that since MINI + BMW are connected, I’m hoping MINI uses the same programming/internals as the M DCT application. Subjectively being:

        -Give me the gear I want, right when I want it (MDCT does this) -Rev out to the rev limiter (M does this out of the box, DSG can with a mod)

        The VW/Audi implementation in my opinion nullifies the whole reason for having a dual clutch box over a normal torque converter automatic. The shifts are slow, and the car doesn’t give you direct control over gear selection. The MDCT always shifted to the gear I wanted no matter what. (The only exception here, is that if it would overrev to downshift it then would deny the shift until it could get under max RPM).

        In the comment above I’m comparing the subjective measures of the two gearboxes from a black-box end user perspective. Of course I don’t work for VW or BMW. I just know as a former and current owner of MDCT, and VW DSG, I much prefer the behavior and programming of the DCT. This is what I hopes makes it into the MINI application of a dual clutch gearbox.

        Long story short, since BMW owns MINI then we should be able to have a very well implemented dual clutch gearbox head and shoulders above audi/vw applicaitons. If it isn’t better than the VW/Audi box, then they should have just kept the MINI’s normal automatic because it’s already as good as the current VW DSG in my opinion.

        • It’ll be an entirely different unit due to the front wheel drive layout and the packaging constraints of the UKL platform.

        • jcwcoupe

          Well as long as it’s not compromised.

        • Nick Dawson

          Not only that, such is the prodigious power and torque output of the all-new sixth generation M5 – scheduled to make its world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September – the existing seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is replaced with a new ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic.

          The new gearbox is allied to a specially developed version of BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system, which uses a multi-plate wet clutch located in the gearbox on the output to the front driveshaft. It provides a continuous variable split between front and rear axles, and in M Dynamic mode delivers 100% of drive to the rear wheels.

  • karrock

    I want a DCT in the Countryman (and Clubman), too! Is that gonna happen or what?

  • Kevin Bartlett

    As an owner of a car with the ZF 8 speed, though I’m sure a DCT can perform better, I don’t see it as a game changer. For pure performance the existing 8 speed is still a faster car then a manual car. But for driving enjoyment, if you are capable of driving a manual, a manual is the only way to go. I bought a fancy new 8 speed auto thinking it would satisfy my want to be able to shift myself. I was wrong, even though that transmission is great, there was no replacement for a clutch pedal and a transmission that couldn’t shift for you at all. Just my 2 cents, I think its a matter of taste for everyone.

    I know that spousal approval is a factor for many people, so a DCT that can function fully automatically will be more desirable and bring in more buyers who are cross shopping other brands that offer similar options.

    • jcwcoupe

      Agreed.. I’m interested in DCT because the traffic is a nightmare where I commute, it’s nice to be in D.

      • Kevin Bartlett

        That’s what I thought when I got my Auto…..ended up missing really shifting. My left leg didn’t know what to do.

  • The Mann

    I don´t think dual clutch belong in the future, is expinsive and only work with fat sales men with NO driving skills at all, mutch better will be normal clutch and a electrical motor in the gearbox. that is the future, call it Cerse system oir what ever.. that make the car much faster and less expensive to run and drive.

  • R.O.

    One thing I would have like MINI to address/improve in this LCI are the brakes! The F56 S brakes aren’t that good. Brake pedal travel is more than should be compared to the R50/53. The brakes themselves for me aren’t anywhere as good as R50/53.

    I’ve had occasions when I step on brake pedal and car only slows down but then requires much harder push of pedal to come to full stop. I’ve had a few scary incidents when it didn’t appear car was going to come to full stop in time. This is especially the case when driving in Green mode.

    I’ve had the brakes checked out at MINI dealer and they found nothing wrong. I’ve noticed on some MINI forums the same complaints. I know MINI changed brakes from Gen I & II due to complaints of too much brake dust but I’d take better stopping brakes over less brake dust. Just not a fan of the brakes on the F56 S.

    • Eric

      Thing is the F56S brakes shorter than Gen I & II…

    • Kevin Bartlett

      I never thought my R53 braked terrifically. I have an R56 now and I think it’ actually brakes better. I haven’t spent enough time in an F car to pass any judgement. I have put 40,000 miles onto a 328 sportwagon and actually find the brakes in it to be soft with long pedal travel, so maybe BMW brakes in general don’t have great feel, though the work fine and stop in a decent distance I’m sure. BUT we buy these cars (both BMW and MINI) for feel as much as statistics. Feel inspires confidence as much as measure performance for me. They offer M Sport and JCW packages for a reason I suppose. Those cars do ger much large and more aggressive brakes.

      Side note though, the brakes in my wagon claim to have another 40,000 miles of life on them. My R53 went through fronts every 30k to 35k like clockwork.

      • Eric

        I owned and appreciated an R53 then an R56, then again an R53, before my current F56, for what it’s worth I feel the F56 brakes better than the previous two generations (in addition to the shorter brake lengths)

      • R.O.

        My experience has been different. My 04 R50 brakes seemed much better than my F56. In fact the brake pedal travel in the R50 wasn’t as soft or as much travel as in the F56. I did have to have brakes replace due to wear at 30K on the R50. When I sold it w /68K brakes were still good.