(A longer version of this report can be found in our F56 Buyers Guide)
The Release Schedule
The 2014 MINI will debut in Oxford on November 18th and LA and Tokyo on the 19th. We will be at the LA premier (along with a host of celebrities who actually own MINIs) and go hands-on with the car at the LA autoshow the day after.
Most importantly it will debut here on MotoringFile November 18th at 9:15 am CST.
The F56 will go on sale in most markets in early spring of 2014 with European and UK sales happening in late winter. But this is just the beginning of MINI’s new product onslaught. The F55 five door will follow next fall with the F57 convertible hitting dealers in the spring of 2015.
Engines and Technology
MINI has grand plans for the F56 and the entire family of MINIs it will spawn. At the heart of all of it is this new range of petrol and diesel power plants. For the US that range will comprise of two engines at launch: a 1.5L three cylinder and a 2.0L four cylinder. The new range represents significant departures for MINI in both cylinder count and size.
The B37 and B38 3 and 4 cylinders were developed by BMW with the MINI in mind from the beginning. How did MINI make it financially viable? BMW believes in the MINI brand so much that they’ve decided to change course and develop a front wheel drive architecture that will not only underpin all MINIs, but also small BMW models moving forward. This will allow MINI to remain profitable while taking advantage of more BMW technology. When I asked MINI representatives if they were concerned about MINIs being too much like small BMWs, they turned the tables. Since the chassis and drivetrain is intended first and foremost for MINI, they consider the small BMW models to be along for the ride. Therefore the question should really be, how will those small BMWs drive and perform like BMWs? This could also be taken as a shot across the bow for all those naysayers who think that MINI has gotten too BMW-like over the years.
The B37/B38 are built on a modular platform that increases .5L for every cylinder. That means that these engines essentially 1/2 or 2/3 of the revered 3.0L BMW inline six. Crucially, both engines are now turbocharged. What that has done is re-align the models, with the Cooper joining the Cooper S in forced induction. In our minds, this makes the Cooper much more performance-oriented than before, but lets look at the numbers.
– Cooper: 134 bhp (up from 121)
– Cooper S: 189 bhp (up from 184)
– Cooper: 162 lb-ft (up from 114; a 30% increase)
– Cooper S: 207 lb-ft (up from 191)
MINI fans might be disappointed by the small increase for the Cooper S. We assume two things. First, efficiency will be up since this is a relatively unstressed 2.0L turbo four cylinder. Second, this engine has some serious headroom. When I mentioned this to MINI executives and mentioned the letters “J-C-W”, there were a lot of smiles in the room.
One other rather surprising area is the unchanged engine redline for these new engines. Unless the press release is wrong, the redline is 6,500 on both engines, as it is today on the R56. If correct, that tells us the power focus for both engines is going to be on torque, not peak horsepower. Think grunt — solid, elemental power to pull the car off the line and across the apex of corners.
Lastly, two key pieces of engine-related technology are also coming into the MINI lineup with these new engines. First, automatic Start/Stop is finally coming to MINIs in the US (As well as all BMWs sold in the US). Second, and more interesting, for cars equipped with a navigation system and the automatic transmission, gear selection is literally influenced by the road ahead. This way, the suitable gear is selected before reaching junctions or before cornering. The nav system is your new co-driver.
Look for preliminary MPG numbers shortly.
This is only the third time in the history of the brand that MINI has introduced an entirely new MINI chassis. It’s allowed MINI to address some that had been of concern since the R50. Yet it’s also remaining true to those factors that make the MINI such an engaging car to drive. First off, the new structure is even more rigid than the car already is today. Additionally, MINI has carried over its overall suspension design, but revised it to be both stronger and lighter. The latter point is crucial as it reduces unsprung weight – the enemy of good handling dynamics. Additionally the dampers on the front and rear axles have been de-coupled from the body by means of more complex struts. Also reducing unsprung mass are new wheels designed and manufactured with a new forging process that requires less material than before.
Upfront the single-link spring strut axle has increased rigidity which, combined with a new, modified axial kinematic movement, creates further rigidity. This allows the steering to be largely free from the influence of the drivetrain. In layman’s terms, that means a significant reduction in torque-steer or even steering wheel tug.
The F56 all uses aluminum in the pivot bearings, then high tensile steel in the front axle bearings and in the transverse rocker arms to reduce the unsprung inertial masses.
The new suspension also employs an innovative torque roll axial bearing that isolates engine movement under load. This component consists of an engine and a transmission bearing/bushing that together absorb the weight of the engine and also support the torque in conjunction with the engine swivel support. The engine block is hydraulically attenuated which further prevents the engine from surging under the influence of uneven road surfaces.
In the back, MINI has continued the use of high-strength steel to add greater rigidity in the suspension through similar technologies employed up front.
Finally, the F56 has a wider track both front and rear which further helps the geometry of it all. Very promising but what about how it feels? We won’t know for sure until we drive the car this January, but this next bit sounds promising.
MINI, unfortunately, isn’t ditching electric power steering. There’s too much efficiency to be gained in the system. However, they have a completely new system with new hardware and software that promises improved feel. The new system (which will be standard on all new MINIs starting with he F56) offers speed-dependent support for the steering force. Thanks to the improved suspension design, MINI is promising much more direct steering feel with this system. Logically it makes sense. The optimization of the front axle has a direct impact on the steering. Combined with less, if not eliminated, torque steer the new car should have a bit more purity in its steering response — giving it feel more similar to the R50/R53. Will it rival that system? It’s hard to imagine it will given that its electrically assisted. I fear we’re still about 5-10 years away from EPS matching the golden age of steering feel that we had with the first generation new MINI. Here’s to hoping, though. We’ll know more from behind the wheel.
Overall, we’re optimistic. The F56’s focus on decreasing unsprung weight will pay significant dividends in feel, performance and also in braking. The new brakes, for instance, are also lighter, helping with performance. They’re also utilizing optimized rotor coatings help to reduce residual braking momentum, thereby optimizing the vehicle’s rolling friction. Brake cooling ducts remain exclusive to the Cooper S but refined brake protection plates are standard on both models.
In an effort to allow for comfort while retaining that famous “go-kart” feel, MINI is introducing optional adjustable dampers for the first time as an option on both cars. The electric control of the damper valves allows the driver the choice between three settings, comfort, normal and sport all via a switch in the center console. This presumably going a long way in addressing issues of suspension compliance and general comfort over broken pavement. At the same time it allows drivers to dial up the suspension to more aggressive levels than the stock suspension (likely mirroring the sport suspension option). In other words its the best of all worlds. Comfort when you want it, aggression when you need it.
Weight, Rigidity, and Safety
While we’re not allowed to talk yet about the overall weight of the F56, we can give you a detailed use of lightweight materials and manufacturing techniques that are going into making the F56. Despite the focus on lightweight components, the F56 will be more rigid than its predecessors. The use of second generation, high-strength, multi-phase steel plays a key role in this rigidity. While its still steel (as opposed to aluminum or something more exotic), these new ferrous materials are lighter and allow for much more complex structures than would be possible with traditional steel. All while being just as strong as good, old-fashioned, carbonized iron. In addition to lighter-yet-strong structural steel, further rigidity is added via micro-alloyed steel and hot-formed steel used in the safety-focused zones of the chassis.
The F56 MINI’s weight optimization continues with the use of manufacturing techniques such as tailored, welded blanks and tailored, rolled blanks for key components. Additionally, welded and rolled sheet metal joints are widely used for the first time on a car this small.
The B pillars on the new F56 are coated in galvanized, hot-formed steel acting as a cathodic anti-corrosion finish. This also means additional structural measures that increased weight on the R56 could be avoided.
Despite all of this rigidity and weight savings, safety has also improved. A, B and C pillars, as well as side-impact bars are all better reinforced than before and should provide even more structural rigidity in the event of a roll-over — something the MINI already handles very well.
The front of the new MINI includes extra crumple zones to protect both pedestrians and vehicle occupants. For pedestrians, there’s more room between the hood and engine and a shock absorber between the metal bumper and the body cladding. All great for safety, but what does this mean for the front overhang you ask? Unfortunately, that discussion will have to wait until November 18th when the car is officially unveiled.
What Does all this Tech Info Really Mean?
If we just look at the figures here, the first thing that jumps out at us is how much faster and efficient the Cooper should be. The Cooper S is certainly improved but to us the big news there is what may be to come for both efficiency on one hand, and performance on the other. A 2.0L four cylinder gives MINI tons of headroom for future, high-performance JCW models.
Then there are the transmissions. A manual that matches revs is a key addition to the MINI driving experience. The lack of significant change in the automatic transmission choice, on the other hand, may disappoint more than a few of you. We had heard for the past couple of years that MINI was testing various transmission choices. Our assumption here is that we’ll see MINI move to a automatic with more gears in the next 2-3 years. Until then the decision to stick with the six speed Aisin unit may not be a bad one if the updated software and internal improvements are as good as MINI has lead us to believe. Software is a huge component of an auto’s performance and on paper, the new version looks promising.
The suspension design is generally carried over and that is a very good thing too. However there’s less unsprung mass and theoretically more precision due to higher structural rigidity throughout the design. Add to this steering that is powered by a more precise EPS system and we have what could be a vastly improved driving experience. More specifically, we could have some of that steering feel back we lost in the transition from the R53 to the R56.
– 522 XENON LIGHT
– 5A4 LED HEADLIGHTS WITH CORNERING LIGHT
Somewhat surprisingly Xenon’s won’t be the ultimate lighting available for the next MINI. The F56 will also include optional LED headlights. Keep in mind that this doesn’t refer to the LED daytime running lights that will be integrated in the rings around the headlights but the headlights themselves. This will mark the first time LED lights have been available on a small car from any manufacturer.
Because its temperature is very similar to that of daylight, LED light has a very bright beam, enabling traffic signs, for example, to be seen more clearly. Cornering lights turn on automatically when bends are taken slowly. All bends taken faster than approx. 60 km/h are the responsibility of Adaptive Headlights, which adapt smoothly to steering wheel movements and the speed to optimally light up the road ahead.
– 5DP PARK ASSISTANT
– 5DU PARK ASSISTANCE PACKAGE
– 508 PARK DISTANCE CONTROL (PDC)
– 3AG BACKUP CAMERA
Yes, the next generation MINI can park itself. Maybe a little less impressive than the same technology maneuvering a 4,500 lb 7 Series, but helpful nonetheless for those who are parallel parking challenged. For those that have been dying to see what’s directly behind their MINIs as you slide into that parking spot, your hopes have been answered with item 3AG: the backup camera.
– 544 CRUISE CONTROL WITH BRAKING FUNCTION
Radar sensors at the front of the vehicle permanently scan the road ahead. As your MINI approaches a slower vehicle, Active Cruise Control automatically reduces power output from the engine and gently applies the brakes, holding your MINI at a pre-defined distance to the vehicle ahead.
This distance is set as a number of seconds, not of metres, so that a safe reaction time is always available, relative to the current speed. When the lane ahead becomes clear, Active Cruise Control automatically increases your vehicle’s speed to your preferred cruising speed. Up to four different cruising speeds can be pre-programmed. A touch on the accelerator or brake pedal deactivates the system.
On curves, Active Cruise Control uses data from the Dynamic Stability Control and navigation systems to calculate whether the cruise speed needs to be adjusted, and to determine whether vehicles in the radar’s field are in the same or a neighbouring lane.
The high-performance radar sensor is heated in cold weather, ensuring year-round operation. Active Cruise Control is functional at speeds above 30 km/h and below 180 km/h. Depending on the model, this function is controlled by a paddle on the steering wheel or a button on the multifunction steering wheel.
– 6AD MINI HEAD UP DISPLAY
An F56 with Head-Up Display will be easily recognised by a small square depression on the dashboard. This contains a projector and a system of mirrors that beams an easy-to-read, high-contrast image onto a translucent film on the windscreen, directly in the driver’s line of sight.
The image is projected in such a way that it appears to be about two metres away, above the tip of the bonnet, making it particularly comfortable to read. Head-Up Display halves the time it takes for eyes to shift focus from road to the instruments and back. The system’s height can be adjusted for optimal viewing.
– 6AE TELESERVICES
– 6AC INTELLIGENT EMERGENCY CALLING
With the F56 MINI will be introducing TeleServices which utilize wireless communication between your MINI and your MINI Service Centre. This guarantees a personalized and thus more beneficial service as well as a quick reaction in the event of a problem.
When a service is due, MINI TeleServices will automatically sends all relevant data from the Condition Based Service system (CBS) to your Service Centre. They will then call you to arrange a service and discuss any extra work that may be required.
MINI TeleServices lets you to get in touch with the BMW Breakdown Service when a problem arises. Thanks to the data transfer our specialists can make a remote diagnosis and are often able to solve the problem from afar.
MINI Connected & Software
– 6NM MINICONNECTED
– 6NT MINI CONNECTED XL
– 4VA MINI DRIVING EXPERIENCE PACK
– 4V9 MINI EXCITEMENT PAKAGE
We’re not entirely sure what the XL refers to but we can certainly take a guess. There will be at least two different screens used in the new MINI. We suspect that 6NT simply refers to the version of MINI Connected compatible with the larger screen.
The MINI Excitement and Driving Experience package are a bit of a mystery to us, but we do know that MINI is planning on offering more dedicated software as options. We suspect these both offer extended functionality of some kind for that gorgeous new screen.
– 223 ELECTRONIC DAMPER CONTROL (EDC)
For years performance cars have enjoyed the benefits of electronic damper control. EDC will allow a driver to manually adjust the MINIs’ dampening to suit the driving conditions — meaning you enjoy outstanding comfort along with terrific cornering and on-road safety. EDC reduces variations in wheel load, ensures tyres have excellent traction and counteracts bodyshell movement regardless of the weight the MINI may be carrying or the state of the road’s surface.
Sensors constantly monitor all factors influencing the vehicle’s behavior in order to precisely adjust the damper control. In a fraction of a second, the signals are analysed by the EDC microprocessor and orders are sent to the actuators on the shock absorbers, which, with the help of magnetic valves, are variably adjusted to provide optimal suspension. Thanks to Electronic Damper Control, the tendency for the nose to dip when braking is practically eliminated. The influence of potholes and unevenness on the road surface is reduced to minimum.
In addition to increased driving comfort and improved roll characteristics on the tyres, EDC also contributes to vehicle stability and safety. By reducing the nose’s tendency to dip when braking and improving the tyre traction, EDC shortens the braking distance when braking heavily. The damper adjustment means that even when braking with ABS, the vehicle chassis remains upright on the road and all four wheels have the largest possible contact with the road surface.
The Driving Experience Control switch lets the driver choose between various programs (like ECO PRO, COMFORT, NORMAL, SPORT or SPORT+) and adjust the suspension to suit their individual needs.
With a car as expressive as the MINI, exterior and interior colors and trim are a big deal. So it’s with plenty of anticipation that we can finally reveal the full color line up (inside and out) of the 2014 F56 MINI.
Early this year we gave you a sneak peak at the new colors and options on tap for the 2014 MINI. At the time we could only confirm the two new colors on tap for 2014. Now we can give you the full picture.
To start with lets look at the exterior of Cooper S (US Spec):
– White Silver Metallic
– Midnight Black
– British Racing Green II
– Ice Chocolate Metallic (New)
– Thunder Grey (Previously GP exclusive)
– Deep Blue
– Volcanic Orange (New)
– Blazing Red Metallic (Carried over from the Countryman & Paceman)
– Pepper White
Inside things dark but mostly new for the Cooper S:
– Diamond Carbon Blk/Cloth & Leather
– Diamond Satellite Grey Cloth & Leahter
– Carbon Black Leatherette
– Black Pearl Cloth/Leatherette
– Leather Cross Punch Carbon
– Cross Punch Dark Truffle
– Leather Lounge Satellite Grey
All look good right? Perhaps but what’s on the list is as interesting as what’s not. And the biggest name not on the list with Chili Red. CR has been with MINI fans since the beginning as a color that defines the brand.
Will it come back? Our hunch is that MINI has made CR something of a JCW specific color and that it will come back but only when the F56 JCW launches in 18 months to two years.
When Can you Buy?
In the US cars should start trickling into dealers around the middle of March. As with other recent launches, MINI is allowing dealers to popular their launch with pre-specced cars as well as full customized builds.
But should you buy a launch car? By the time February production roles aorund, the Oxford plant will have over two months of production under their belts to work out the kinks. However what you may want to wait for are JCW factory options and accessories which will likely be available in the fall of 2014.
Then there’s the JCW model itself not likely launching until the spring of 2015.