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.