New Engines for 2011 Mini, Are Dual-Clutch Gearboxes Next?

Mini may already offer small, efficient vehicles, but there’s always room for improvement. Although it is already planning on rolling out a new engine — which boosts power and cuts fuel consumption — the mill may simply be the tip of the iceberg.

“We are continuing to add technology as quickly as it comes,” Jim McDowell, vice president of Mini USA, told AutoGuide, “while working to promote the Mini driving experience and be environmentally responsible.”

Certainly, the new range of gasoline four-cylinder engines helps do just that. Although displacement (1.6-liters) doesn’t change, it is blessed with both direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. As a result, the new Cooper engine gains 3 and 4 lb-ft of torque, bringing totals to 121 hp and 118 lb-ft of torque, respectively. The turbocharged variant found in the Cooper S receives the same modifications, which instills an 8-hp gain, bringing its peak output to 184 lb-ft of torque.

Reportedly also under consideration is a dual-clutch transmission. Although Minis are currently available with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox, we’re not too surprised to learn such a transmission is being investigated for future models. Not only are dual-clutch units found in the new Audi A1 and Volkswagen Polo GTI (two European Mini competitors), but parent firm BMW is also rolling the technology into its entry-level 1-series. The automaker has already spoken of possibly sharing components between the next 1-series and the next-gen Mini, which should launch in 2013.

Enthusiasts should take heart: McDowell indicated there would be more than a “lack of a hatch” to separate the Mini Roadster and Coupe models from their conventional siblings. Could a new, high-horsepower engine be in the works as well?

“You don’t know what else is coming,” he said. “We have a few pleasant surprises.”