Mini unveils next-generation hardtopMon, 18 Nov 2013 00:00:00 -0800
The wraps are off the all-new, third-generation Mini hardtop. Updates include renewed exterior styling, lots of gee-whiz electronics inside, and a new fuel-efficient, three-cylinder turbo engine under the hood as the base engine.
“On the inside is where you see the revolutionary aspect,” said Jim McDowell, vice president, Mini of the Americas.
“You could say the exterior is evolutionary,” he said at a press preview at U.S. headquarters for BMW and Mini in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. earlier this fall. “But it is more contemporary, more modern.”
The all-new Mini hardtop makes its worldwide debut in Oxford, England today. U.S. sales are expected to start around March 2014.
The new exterior look is familiar, but slicker and more aerodynamic than existing models. Like all previous Mini updates, the new Mini hardtop is slightly bigger in every dimension than the model it replaces: 4.5 inches longer, 1.7 inches wider, and 0.3 inches higher. The wheelbase is 1.1 inches longer, reflected in greater rear legroom.
Dazzling, optional LED headlights with integrated turn signals on the new model will probably be an option all buyers order, or maybe dealers will simply order cars that way. With the new headlights lit, there's no mistaking the new car for an older model.
There are also changes on the inside. Mini fans will notice right away that the speedometer is relocated in front of the driver. Before now, having the tachometer in front of the driver and a giant speedometer on the centerline was supposed to be one of those endearing Mini quirks.
The new Mini also has window buttons and door locks on the doors like other cars, rather than in the center console, where they baffled newcomers.
The center console still has a big, round spot where the speedo was, only now a multifunction display occupies it. The lighted ring around the circumference changes colors and functions in too many ways to describe here. But as an example, when optional Park Distance Control is activated, it changes color from green to yellow to red, to signal how far the bumper is from the nearest object.
The new Mini hardtop also gets driving “modes” for the first time for the Mini brand. The modes change the automatic shift points and the adjustable dampers (also new to the brand, also optional). “Sport” mode turns the lighted ring red. The “Green” gas-saving mode, you guessed it, turns it green.
According to the company, the three-cylinder Mini engine will generate 134 hp. The 162 lb-ft peak torque is reached at only 1,250 rpm. The Cooper S' engine is a new, 2.0-liter four-cylinder generating 189 hp. Peak torque is 207 lb-ft. Both new turbo engines have direct injection.
The performance-orientated S' engine is known internally as B47. It has been significantly altered to provide greater commonality across BMW's various engine lineups. The increase in output sees the 0-62mph time improve from 7.0 seconds to 6.8 seconds and the top speed extended from 142 to 146 mph in six-speed manual guise, while economy goes from a previous 40.6 mpg to 41.3 mpg.
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Germany's BMW revived the British Mini brand in the United States back in 2002, but the new Mini hardtop is the first Mini to share a platform with the BMW brand.
The move saves money several ways. Like other global automakers, BMW saves development time and effort designing multiple models off the same architecture. BMW also gains bigger quantity discounts on shared parts.
The new Mini hardtop shares BMW's new UKL small-car platform. It was unveiled last year with the BMW Concept Active Tourer, a plug-in hybrid getting its gasoline power from the same, 1.5-liter three-cylinder.
Sharing engines with other brands is nothing new for Mini -- it previously shared engines with Chrysler and Peugeot without dinging Mini's unique image -- but platform sharing is new. Mini owners really do love the classic styling, but emphasizing the new model's Mini DNA is another good reason to stick with the familiar.
McDowell said, “So many people said we would be crazy to move too much.”
The new Mini hardtop will make its North American debut at the LA Auto Show on Nov. 20. Pricing is yet to be announced, though Mini officials suggest there will not be much change to the outgoing Cooper's $19,700 and Cooper S' $23,300 stickers.
By By Jim Henry and Greg Kable