When MINI launched the F Series they were following a template that has been well defined by BMW and MINI. That template included something called an LCI around the 3-4 year mark of production with engine revisions. In fact BMW even announced those engine revisions way back in 2016, telling journalists that the updated engine family would be more efficient and make 4%-5% more power throughout the model range. They had also planned for enhanced acoustic properties, smoother operation and even a weight reduction. So what happened?
WLTP or (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) happened. But it goes back further than that. It all stems of diesel-gate and Europe waking up to VW (mostly) installing cheat devices that allowed for much higher levels of CO2 output than advertised. Couple that with growing public outrage of how dangerous CO2 is in urban areas and the EU reacted with an entirely new testing procedure called the WLTP that uses tests that are much more “real world” processes and outcomes. Remember those diesels that would get 70 mpg in the old EU tests? They’re now getting 50 at best. As we had assumed for years those tests would nowhere near real world numbers and are now much closer to the figures we see in the US.
But how does this affect MINI? For the current models to pass the new, more stringent WLTP tests, automakers had to reengineer their engines to run cleaner. Normally automakers would have 5-10 years to plan and reach new emissions goals. However due to the public outrage and political pressure at the time, the EU rushed these new rules into the books in just two years – which took affect just a few days ago. For MINI that meant all planned engine development had to go on the back burner as all hands were on deck to revise the current range of engines to meet the WLTP. And some were even axed. We might not know it in America but MINI’s excellent SD model has been cut from the range and diesels have been dropped altogether from the three-door and five-door hatches
For automakers like MINI (and BMW) who never installed emission cheating software, it’s been a tough pill to swallow. And for MINI fans who have been wondering when revised engines would show up, there’s some complexity there as well. In Europe MINI has lightly revised the engines solely to meet the new WLTP requirements. To the MINI driver those changes really mean nothing and thus the work that has gone into them feels invisible to the consumer.
What’s Next and When Will We See More Performance?
MINI is still intending on upping performance of most models. The most extreme being the new 300 hp JCW Countryman (and potentially Clubman) which will use a new version 2.0L (B48A20T1 to be exact) that will generate 302 hp @ 5,000 – 6,250 rpm and 332 lb-ft. @ 1,750 – 4,500 rpm.
But what about the rest of the range? The JCW GP (above) will be offered with some flavor of the B48A20T1. We’ve heard anywhere from 250hp to 300hp from three sources. But most of us are concerned about the standard Cooper and Cooper S models. There the timing is unclear but we believe that MINI will introduce a power bump to coincide with a second LCI sometime around 2020. This will help the F series longevity as it will likely go beyond the normal 7 year model cycle as BMW continues development of the 4th generation MINI.