mini autox

Over the past year we ‘ve been reporting on BMW and MINI ‘s upcoming three cylinder engine family and what it will bring to both brands. We ‘ve learned about different outputs (ranging from 122 hp to 180 hp) and about its ultra efficient characteristics. In fact sources are telling us that the 122 hp version of the 3 cylinder should achieve somewhere in the high 40 mpg range on the highway in a car as light as the current MINI.

Based on what we know so far the star of the show will undoubtedly be the 1.5L powerplant that will power the 2013 Cooper S and BMW ‘s as yet unnamed front wheel drive city car. And we not only have the skinny on the specs but a first-hand account of the way it drives (and sounds).

First off lets talk specs. We expect power to generally remain the same around 180 bhp. Torque could be down slightly but in general performance should be identical to the R56 Cooper S. However that ‘s where similarities end. Like the 1.5L 122 hp engine(destined for both the MINI Cooper and BMW ‘s front wheel drive city car) the higher output engine will be a three cylinder and will leverage a twin scroll turbo and direct injection to produce the same horsepower as the current four cylinder equipped MINI Cooper S. The benefit of this downsizing is efficiency and weight. While we don ‘t have figures on either, we can generally expect the engine ‘s weight to be down and efficiency to be considerably up.

But how does it drive? Thanks to some well placed sources we have a first hand account of how a current generation R56 MINI platform drives with the new engine. Now it ‘s worth pointing out that the R56 MINI will not actually get the new engine (it ‘s only destined for the next generation MINI) and that this drive was part of a testing session held in conjunction with driving the current 2010 Cooper S. In fact the testers were not told which car had which engine.

The testers pushed the cars on a slalom course and generally put them through their paces. According to our source the three cylinder was noticeably louder with a very pleasing rumble on acceleration. Compared to the sound of the current 4 cylinder it almost seemed as if MINI has tuned the exhaust note to make you feel the car is going faster at low speeds than it really was. Our guess is that BMW would gear their version more towards refinement than MINI ‘s approach.

After several runs back to back it became obvious to our source that the three cylinder MCS didn ‘t quite have the initial launch of the four in the current MCS. Specifically it lagged in the middle of first gear just a bit. However 2nd gear reportedly was “great ” and the run up to redline was really satisfying (especially considering the sound).

In fact another source (who was at the same test) actually thought the 3 cylinder felt more powerful. Final numbers are still a couple of years away and we can expect the gearing to be completely sorted for production. We would also expect the sound to further refined but full of character that some find lacking in the current “Prince ” family of four cylinders.

Look for the front wheel drive BMW city car to debut along side the next generation MINI (in hatch form) in late 2013 as a 2014 model. Ultimately this this engine range will be spread throughout the MINI product range. More importantly for BMW fans we expect this engine family to for the basis of BMW ‘s new front wheel drive models.