October 18, 2016 @ 06:52 PM

​MINI charges into the future with their first plug-in hybrid!

A hybrid MINI with rocket-like acceleration and a higher level of agility? Yes, please!

The hybrid movement is definitely gaining steam nowadays and next to join in the club is MINI as they preview their first plug-in hybrid model. Although MINI has yet to specify the exact model which will get the hybrid treatment but judging from the pictures released, it looks like the new hybrid model will be based on the Countryman crossover.

MINI is close to completing the development process for this car and it will be featuring a combustion engine and an electric motor running alongside it, enabling purely electric propulsion for the first time in a MINI.

“With this model we want to convince MINI customers the benefits of hybrid drive and impress everyone who already has hybrid driving experience with MINI’s unique go-kart feel,” said the Head of MINI brand management Sebastian Mackensen during a test drive of this model.

In retaining the go-kart feel, MINI utilises intelligent engine management that controls how the combustion engine and electric motor operate together. This focus enables the plug-in hybrid model to not only focus on efficiency, but in delivering uncompromising driving experience as well. The hybrid components which are positioned very low down at the rear also helps lower the center of gravity and balance the weight distribution between the front and rear axle to achieve a higher level of agility.

Since the combustion engine is already powering the front wheels, the electric motor transmits its power to the rear. The intelligent engine management is also linked to the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) so “as soon as there is any risk of drive slip, the second drive unit is activated to provide additional traction when starting off or ensuring a high level of steering precision when cornering,” said Head of MINI series management Peter Wolf.

Putting aside the heavy camouflage this test unit is donning, distinguishing the test car as a hybrid model is not really that easy as MINI has discreetly integrated the charging socket in the left side scuttle.  The same goes in the cockpit as well as everything looks fairly familiar like a usual MINI. 

However, the start/stop button in the center of the dashboard glows yellow instead of red. The rpm counter had also been replaced with a power display that keeps the driver informed on the electric motor’s power reserve. One unique feature on this hybrid MINI is that it will always start in electric mode and the combustion engine will only kick in after a couple of kilometers, depending on the speed and how heavy the driver’s right foot is.

Now with an electric motor, MINI is able to exploit the immense torque coming from it to get a catapult-like acceleration from a standstill. Performance is not the only area the electric motor will come in handy as the high-voltage battery under the rear seats could also provide power for long-lasting electric driving. 

In AUTO eDRIVE mode it is able to cruise to speeds up to 80kph while the MAX eDRIVE mode brings the speed up to 125kph. The SAVE BATTERY mode however brings the combustion engine into life to power the car whilst the battery can retain its charge at a constant level or increase it using a generator.

“In a hybrid MINI model, driving electrically must also be an exhilarating experience. This means that entirely electric driving is not limited to speeds of 30 or 40kph, but to speeds well beyond city pace,” said Mackensen.

Hussein Zain

Connect to Car Magazine : Malaysian Edition! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram.