The next big thing on BMW's agenda is a completely new front-wheel drive/four-wheel drive architecture known as UKL1. It is the platform that sits under the Mk3 Mini, and will find its way into an expanding range of Minis, and entry-level BMWs, including a replacement for the just-launched F20 1-series.
The Mk2 Mini's final variations
The current Mk2 Mini platform still has a couple of years and a brace of models to come. This autumn will see the launch of the Mini Coupe, followed by the Mini Roadster in 2012. The last hurrah for the Mk2 platform will be the three-door Countryman Coupe in 2013. Previewed as the Mini Paceman concept, the three-door crossover has the dual challenges of taking on the Range Rover Evoque, and providing a stronger basis for Mini's WRC car versus the current five-door Countryman.
2013: enter the Mk3 Mini hatchback and family
The first of the UKL1-based Minis arrives in 2013, when the Mk3 Mini hatchback is launched. Our spy shots show a heavily-disguised engineering prototype of the three-door hatch undergoing initial testing.
After the three-door hatch debuts, the UKL1 model avalanche commences with a five-door hatchback proposed for 2014, adding rear doors to the standard Mini hatchback silhouette for the first time.
2015 sees the arrival of the Mini cabriolet. 2015 would also see a new Clubman 410 estate (the '410' indicated the vehicle's length in centimetres - about 140mm longer than the current Clubman). At this early stage of development BMW is still unsure if it will retain the twin back doors or the assymetric side doors of the existing car. A proposal for an all-wheel-drive Clubman is also being considered, in addition to the standard car.
2016 sees the arrival of the 'mini-Mini'. Similar in concept to the 2011 Mini Rocketman concept car, the Mini 310 will be a front-drive city car, 3.1m long (623mm shorter than the current Mini hatchback, and 100mm longer than the Toyota iQ/Aston Martin Cygnet).
Joining the Mini 310 will be the Mini MAT, a provisional codename for a five-door'Multi Activity Tourer', also known informally as the MiniVan, and possibly to wear the Mini Traveller nameplate when launched. This car would share optional four-wheel-drive and larger dimensions with the Clubman and 2017 Countryman,along with greater accessibility thanks to sliding side doors.
Mini Mk3: cleaner, smaller engines planned
It is worth noting that none of the UKL1 Mini derivatives are an emphatically green automobile. While Project i acts as BMW's testbed for battery EVs and plug-in hybrid technology, ULK1 is at least in the first wave restricted to petrol and diesel applications.“BEV and PHEV don´t make a lot of sense in the UKL1 segment,”explains our friendly BMW board member. “After all, the further development of internal combustion engines will soon yield consumer consumption figures of 70 to 100mpg".
That doesn't mean that the new Minis won't have cleaner, more efficient powerplants. BMW's new range of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, seen first in the upcoming 2011 1-series, will also find a home at Mini. Good for up to 215bhp (diesel) and 275bhp (petrol), the new fours continue as mainstay offerings for the Mini Cooper S/Cooper SD and John Cooper Works.
The Mk3 Mini goes three-cylinder in 2013
Even more significant are the advanced three-cylinder engines the Bavarians plan on launching next year. The new-generation three-cylinders feature a heavily standardized and closely related line-up of diesel (N37) and petrol (N38) units with a common single displacement of 1.5litres. Highlights of the so-called TVDI technology include variable-rate turbocharging, multiphase direct-injection, Valvetronic (dynamic valvetrain) and double-VANOS (adjustable intake and exhaust camshafts). The diesel will be avialable in three stages of tune from 100-130bhp, while the petrol triple can be tuned to run between 75bhp and 155bhp.
Although a 185bhp edition of the TVDI triple for the Mini Cooper S and an even brawnier 230bhp unit earmarked for the next JCW are already part of the three-cylinder portfolio, management will probably wait until 2015 before phasing out the four-cylinder Mini engines, which are still considered a major image-building factor in Germany and North-America. As BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer put it, 'Although the three is definitely an up and coming thing, some markets like North-America may be sceptical in how far down you can go [in engine size and displacement]'
All other Minis will switch to the state-of-the-art three-cylinders as soon as the Mk3 architecture goes into production in 2013.
More upgraded technology for the Mk3 Mini
Also in the works for Mini Mk3 is a blend of electro-hydraulic steering (EHS) and electro-mechanical brakes (EMB) which together help to save energy and complexity. The AWD technology for the UKL1-based Minis and BMWs is being developed from scratch together with Getrag, who is also in charge of the new dual-clutch transmission. According to those in the know, BMW/Mini will nonetheless continue to offer the classic torque converter automatic in certain models for certain markets like the US.
BMW has big ambitions for its UKL1 small-car platform, expecting to be building a million UKL1-based Minis and small BMWs by 2020.
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