Last week we went hands-on with the new mini interior. This Week MINI has take the wraps off of its new (circular) in-car digital experience and we can Finally Give you our hands-on impressions. While it looks great on at a glance, there’s much more going on below the surface.
MINI is reinventing every aspect of the brand and it starts not just with what’s under the hood but what is on the dash. We recently went hands-on in Munich with the new 2024 J01 MINI Cooper Electric and its circular OLED display, experiencing the new MINI OS9 in-person. While we can’t yet spill everything about the car, we’re excited to finally lift the veil on this revolutionary new digital experience.
Last week we showed you the new MINI Cooper Electric interior. Written from inside the car itself, we walked you through every inch of the new MINI interior design. But the singe most interesting thing about the new interior was also the one thing we couldn’t talk about – that circular OLED screen at the center of everything (or as MINI calls it, the MINI Interaction Unit). Today we can finally talk about this radically different digital experience and its circular OLED display – the first ever in the automotive industry.
A New Experience For All Future MINIs
This digital experience will spread beyond just the all new J01 MINI Cooper Electric. We will see it in all new MINIs – from the all-new 2024 Countryman to the 2025 Aceman EV to even the heavily refreshed F66 ICE MINI Cooper. It’s also worth a reminder that the car we see here, the all electric J01 MINI Cooper Electric, will be available in Europe, Asia and South America at launch early next year. Plans are underway to bring the J01 in North America as soon as possible. The first product the North American market will get with this new experience will be the U25 MINI Countryman (available as both ICE and EV) followed by the heavily refreshed (ICE) F66 MINI Cooper and Cooper S.
We are taking a massive leap into the digital world with the new MINI family and, in so doing, underscoring the charismatic heritage of the brand. The iconic central display in the new MINI family is round and will be filled with round content for the first time. I am convinced that the digital power of the new models will delight MINI customers around the world.Stefanie Wurst, Head of the MINI brand.
Hands-On With the New MINI Digital Experience
Let’s start with the specs. The circular OLED screen is 9.5” (240 mm) wide however because of the bottom cutout measures about 9” in height. While it may seem like unusual design given the rectangles we’re all used to, it feels very natural in person thanks to the way MINI has organized the information. The “Charismatic Simplicity” design language (as MINI calls it) is focused on both minimalism and a bit of MINI character. The circular OLED display seamlessly accommodates both static and dynamic elements, with a clear and intuitive hierarchy (despite the shape).
The top portion is dedicated to critical driving information which is close to your direct line of sight when looking through the windshield. While we didn’t drive the car we did sit in it for quite awhile and it felt like something we’d get use to within a drive or two. For those opting for the optional Head-up display, vital driving details are projected directly into the driver’s field of view.
One cool trick – a single tap on the digital speed display transforms the entire circular display into the MINI speedometer.
At the center of the screen lies the start menu, providing a hub for personalized content accessible through easy side-swipes. Just below, a fixed status bar houses essential menu items like “Navigation,” “Media,” “Telephony,” “All Apps,” and contextually, “Home,” all within direct reach. The tool belt can also be activated with a press of the star button on the multifunction steering wheel.
The middle houses three live widgets that allows apps to run and display information. For instance you could have your paired phone to the left and your music playing to the right and the navigation app running in the center. All positions have the ability to show live updates and allow for a quick top to maximize.
At the bottom are three zones. The left and right house the dual climate zones which felt very different than other similar experiences due to micro-animations. The center is what Mac users will likely refer to as the dock. Like a smartphone to allows you to place shortcuts for commonly used apps as well as open the full app view much like the home screen on an iPhone.
The pixel density is so high we couldn’t even see any. But perhaps more important was the responsiveness. While this was a pre-production J01 MINI, the experience was fluid and full of micro-animations that felt immediately more modern than even the latest iDrive system in new BMWs. The experience felt almost at iOS levels of intuitive and the interactions and animations felt natural.
MINI’s Secret Weapon – An All-New Technology Stack
This is all made possible by not just talented strategists and designers but a very thoughtful technical approach. With this new digital experience MINI is also taking the wraps off of a completely new set of technologies that are aimed at future-proofing MINI experiences for some time to come.
We are presenting our all-new MINI family with a unique technology package. It is based on the latest tech stack from BMW and brings a very specific MINI flavor to signature brand-defining functions such as the Experience Modes and the voice assistant. The result is a display of cutting- edge digital fireworks with a sharp eye for detail.Frank Weber, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development
That future-proofing starts with Android Open Source Project (AOSP) software stack which does several things for MINI. For one it allows MINI to leverage the massive scale of the Android App store which MINI will create their own subset of. But more importantly it allows MINI to leverage the army of Android engineers worldwide meaning that the platform MINI will rely on for future innovation is open and has a bright future. But don’t mistake the software stack as influencing the user experience. That’s 100% MINI’s own thinking and execution built on top of what is invisible but powerful technology.
It’s also important to remember we’re not talking about Android Auto here. That is what is known as projection software. AOSP is the the open source layer MINI’s system is built on. Android Auto and CarPlay will continue to run on top of it as projection layers should owners prefer that experience.
MINI is keenly aware that most consumers have never heard of AOSP. They want an infotainment system that is intuitive, has the services they need and allows them to use CarPlay (and to a lesser extant Android Auto). This new MINI OS 9 not only allow that but does so with experience design that is uniquely MINI’s.
Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be standard on the new MINI OS9. Both will work inside of the circular screen as a 4×3 rectangle allowing for the critical drive and climate functionally to be present and functional. That means we’ll see a slightly different layout from CarPlay putting the “dock” at the bottom. However it’s MINI’s hope that it’s new navigation and other apps lessen the appear of these projection offerings.
All New Navigation Takes on Google Maps
The new, cloud-based MINI Navigation system provides fast and precise route calculation that MINI says is on par with Google and Apple Maps. Drawing on real-time traffic data transmitted at 5G speeds, in conjunction with sophisticated forecasting models, the system’s route calculation feels lightning-fast and highly dynamic. As users open the navigation app, the circular display is filled entirely by an immersive map, its color scheme adapting to the chosen MINI Experience Mode.
One area MINI has an advantage on other mapping apps is the tight integration with the car itself. Once the destination is entered, an optimized charging route is calculated if the vehicle’s current range falls short. Constantly evolving, both the algorithm and speed of charging-optimized route calculation undergo continuous refinement. Crucial charging information, such as the estimated state of charge upon arrival, recommended charging time, and target state of charge, is laid out in the route overview. Live data updates during the drive and will alert you if originally planned charging stations are suddenly unavailable.
Worth noting, the system ensures a minimum 10 percent charge level at the final destination and charging stops, but adaptable drivers can tweak this setting to their preference. Charging becomes even more convenient with the integration of authorization and start/stop functions into the MINI App.
All well and good but MINI needs to do something truly different to win against Google and Apple Maps. Enter Augmented View which gives drivers a live stream in the circular display with overlayed information added for navigation. In complex intersections, for instance, an animated directional arrow seamlessly integrates into the video stream, guiding the driver toward the optimal turn-off for their intended route. Adding to the magic, augmented reality overlays in the live video stream also furnish information on local parking regulations. While we haven’t experience this yet in the new MINI, we have driven similar systems in BMWs and it’s genuinely helpful.
The optional MINI Connected Package includes a host of innovative navigation functions, including precision lane guidance visualizations.
MINI Experience Modes – A New World of Personalization
The latest MINI models introduce “MINI Experience Modes,” which are designed to amplify the connection between drivers and their cars. Standard specification includes the Core, Green and Go-Kart Modes, each of which has its own specific user interface design. However there are a handful to optional and model dependent modes. With Experience Modes MINI aims to immerse drivers in a personalized driving experience. By combining light and sound, they aim to elevate the overall driving experience.
At the center of this experience lies the circular OLED screen, the MINI Interaction Unit, which adapts its design and content based on the selected mode.
The circular OLED screen (aka the MINI Interaction Unit) adapts its designs and content according to the chosen mode. An optional projector situated behind the OLED display casts color and patterns onto the dashboard, resulting in a unique, immersive experience that extends even to the door trim.
While there’s a few really compelling Modes, Personal Mode was really intriguing. Owners can integrate their own pictures from their smartphone gallery as the backdrop for the display, using the MINI App. The ambient lighting automatically adopts a color that complements the selected image.
Interestingly the optional Head-up display adapts to the chosen MINI Experience Mode as well. But we’ll have to take MINI’s word for it as this point we didn’t get to see it in action.
Core is the standard mode and the one you’ll in most photos when the J01 MINI Cooper Electric launches. In other words its the standard mode that most people will probably use.
When Core Mode is selected is the main menu with the MINI widgets remains in the foreground. The interface on the circular display switches to Laguna – an almost teal blue. Additionally both the optional projection and ambient lighting adjust automatically to match this color.
The “Core” driving sound is introduced as the new electric MINI brand sound, which can be heard both inside the car and from outside (functioning as acoustic pedestrian protection). MINI describes the sound as inviting, energizing, and stimulating. Since we haven’t driven the car yet, will withhold judgement.
Our favorite both thematically and visually has to be Gp-Kart mode. Inspired by MINI’s motorsport DNA, Go-Kart Mode changes the display interface and the interior to a darker look using anthracite and red. The circular display adopts a classic speedometer that can transform from digital to analogue across the full surface of the screen. The projection and ambient lighting are adjusted automatically to the Go-Kart colors.
Crucially for most of us, Go-Kart also remaps throttle response allowing for the feeling of more immediate torque. The Go-Kart driving sound is marked out by strongly pronounced pitch and fall which should go along with the remapped throttle well. We’ve also heard rumors of things like drift mode and remapped steering but we’ll have to wait for the official debut for more information.
Not surprisingly MINI has a Green most and it’s focused on efficiency. As you guessed the screen and ambient lighting is green. But more interestingly MINI has gamified the experience using an animal (to us it looks like a stylized cheetah) to indicate through both their coloring and their character which efficiency level (high, medium, low) the driver is currently achieving. As you’d expect the throttle response of the accelerator pedal is optimized for efficient driving. There’s likely other energy saving measures at play but MINI isn’t going into details yet.
Balance mode exudes tranquility and unpretentiousness. The driving sound of Balance draws inspiration from the serene symphony of a forest, from the gentle babbling of streams and the melodious chirping of crickets to the rustling whispers of the wind through the tree. On paper it sounds like an artfully crafted auditory landscape and all very relaxing.
The one many of you will love, Timeless brings the classic Mini aesthetic back with a refined serif typeface and a prominent speedometer, elegantly juxtaposed against a cream backdrop. Timeless Mode is particularly beautiful at night when the display and projections shift darker.
In the MINI “Timeless” driving sound, MINI merged the past and present. The Sound Design team worked to capture the sound from an original 1959 Mini as well as the original 2006 JCW GP. The result is a seamless blend with a futuristic interpretation of the MINI “Core” driving sound.
This mode revolves around the presentation of media content. The user interface design has a vivid spectrum of colors, while the projections and ambient lighting inside the car are derived from the cover artwork of the currently playing music, leveraging automatic color selection technology.
With Personal Picture Upload, the realm of possibilities is endless. This mode allows customers to select and showcase their own pictures as the backdrop for the MINI circular display via the MINI App. Personal Mode also extends to match the interior lighting and dashboard projection with a seamlessly chosen hue, complementing the relevant image, much like the Vivid Mode.
While most if not all of these modes will carry over to the entire MINI family, Trail will be unique to the MINI Countryman.m Thematically Trail is designed feel rugged and fit the profile of the MINI Countryman. A virtual compass, accompanied by real-time vehicle inclination data, symbolizes venturing into off the conventional path. Or down the street. Either way it looks cool.
Sound Design That is Distinctly MINI
With MINI going electric, sound design will become an integral part of the driving experience. While we had plenty of hands-on time with the interior and even elements of the digital experience, we didn’t get a chance to hear the new sound design in context. But we did hear them isolated and here’s what we know.
The MINI is making bold claims about their brand-centered soundscapes being an integral part of the digital user experience. From all-new driving sounds in the interior to an unmistakable MINI brand sound that supposedly confirms the car’s identity from the outside, jingles for the new MINI Experience Modes, and a whole collection of 30 new sound signals with information and warning functions – it seems like they’re leaving no stone unturned in making sound key to the overall driving experience.
MINI’s aim is to add an extra dose of emotional appeal to the interior of the MINI, shaping its acoustic statement and providing a distinctive MINI-typical feature on an acoustic level. Is sound really fundamental to the experience? In our time driving EVs (and the current F56 MINI Cooper Electric) there’s little question that they do add to the experience. But MINI is taking things further than we’ve seen before.
For instance the new MINI Experience Modes have their own all-new soundscapes that connect to each theme. You can hear more in our first look video.
MINI Intelligent Personal Assistant – Alexa in MINI Form
Like the new Sound Design we didn’t get a chance to use the new personal assistant but we have used similar tech in new BMWs. Like the BMW Perusal Assistant, the MINI Intelligent Personal Assistant can be activated using the prompt (In this case “Hey MINI”) or by pressing the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel, initiating a voice-controlled interaction showcased on a circular OLED display with dynamic graphical elements, typography, and an avatar. Users will have the option to select between two visual representations – a stylized “MINI” or the familiar figure “Spike,” catering to the preferences of MINI enthusiasts.
The capabilities of this intelligent assistant extend to controlling essential functions such as navigation, telephony, radio, and temperature via voice command. Moreover, drivers can make travel-related requests, such as inquiring about weather conditions at their destination or locating nearby charging stations. The system incorporates two front-headliner microphones to automatically discern between the driver and front passenger’s speech, ensuring seamless interactions.
Additionally, MINI promises a unique and engaging experience with the assistant’s chit-chat functionality, which will provide MINI-specific answers, jokes, and stories to users. This feature aims to add a touch of personality and brand-typical character to the driving experience.
In the United Kingdom, the MINI Intelligent Personal Assistant will be powered by Alexa Custom Assistant’s AI technology stack at the time of market launch. This integration is expected to deliver natural dialogue capabilities, complementing the brand-defining voice. However, in other markets, these advanced voice features, along with other capabilities enabled by the Alexa Custom Assistant, will be introduced later through over-the-air updates.
The All New MINI App Store Based on the Google Play Store
MINI’s previous foray into in-car apps has been less than successful. Yes MINI was a first mover in the space debuting apps well over a decade ago. But time has quickly moved on and the current experience is clearly dated. That is ending with the new generation of MINI models with an all new MINI Connected App Store.
In conjunction with the optional MINI Connected package, the MINI App Store offers users access to a diverse array of practical and entertaining apps that continue to evolve over time. This selection includes gaming, music, and video streaming apps, among others, tailored to cater to the preferences of customers in different regions.
Building upon its introduction in current BMW models, the new MINI family introduces a distinctive in-car gaming experience to its customers. When the vehicle is stationary and awaiting high-voltage battery recharge, drivers and passengers can engage in casual gaming through the AirConsole App. Setting up the gaming experience is a straightforward process, with players using their smartphones as controllers and connecting to the MINI Interaction Unit via a QR code on the OLED display.
The AirConsole technology allows games to be readily accessible and controlled through smartphones, accommodating multiple players, including those in the rear, who can participate in the in-car gaming fun during breaks in the journey. Whether playing solo, as a team, or in competition mode, the experience is designed to be inclusive and engaging.
The game selection primarily consists of casual games, known for their ease of play and intuitive controls. Players can enjoy a diverse range of gaming genres, including racing, sports, general knowledge quizzes, music quizzes, simulation, strategy, jump-and-run, and puzzle games. Notable titles such as Go-Kart Go, Golazo, Music Guess, and Overcooked contribute to the ever-evolving portfolio of available games.
In addition to gaming, music enthusiasts can seamlessly integrate their Spotify accounts with MINI Operating System 9, enhancing the music streaming experience. By scanning a QR code, MINI customers can enjoy an intuitive and visually appealing music streaming service integrated into the circular MINI Interaction Unit.
The MINI Connected services, with their refreshed offerings, are set to be rolled out in over 40 countries upon the launch of the new MINI family.
2024 MINI Cooper Electric & 2024 Countryman Debut and Release Timing
The new J01 MINI Cooper electric and U25 MINI Countryman (electric & ICE) will debut at the Munich Motor Show this September. While MINI hasn’t confirmed production timing, our sources have confirmed that the J01 will go into production this fall in China and will be sold in Europe, Asia and South America initially. Plans for North America are still being finalized.
|J01 MINI Cooper (BEV) / China||Start of Production|
|J01 MINI Cooper E||11/2023|
|J01 MINI Cooper SE||11/2023|
|J01 MINI Cooper JCW||11/2024*|
Similarly our sources have confirmed that we will see the all new U25 MINI Countryman begin production in Leipzig Germany in November with global exports happening in the months following.
|U25 / Leipzig, Germany||Start of Production|
|U25 ICE Countryman||11/2023|
|U25 ICE Countryman S||11/2023*|
|U25 ICE Countryman JCW||11/2023*|
|U25 BEV Countryman E||03/2024|
|U25 BEV Countryman SE||03/2024*|
|U25 BEV Countryman JCW||TBD*|
The Rest of the New MINI Family
There are two other key additions to the MINI range we’ll see in the next 18 months. The forthcoming ICE powered F66 MINI Cooper will be a massive seller in the US and the electric J05 MINI Aceman (effectively a Clubman replacement) will follow in the footsteps of the J01 about a year later.
And remember, all of these models will see the same digital experience you see above. If you want the details you’ll not find anywhere else on any of the new MINI’s head to our 4th Generation MINI Section.