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 |  Jun 29 2010, 9:23 AM

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MINI has just officially taken the wraps off its refreshed 2011 lineup of models and while we’re sure the MINI-faithful will debate the changes for months and years to come, were not sure most folks will notice the difference. It’s a good think the original design of the car is timeless.

Notable updates include the new ducts on the front of the Cooper S and John Cooper Works models, as well as LED tail lights on all MINIs. A new option for 2011 are the black reflector headlamps from the 50th anniversary Camden model. Slight changes to the bumpers on all models help the cars meet new pedestrian protection requirements. New wheel designs and paint finishes will also be offered. In particular, we love some of the options shown for the JCW models.

More notable updates can be found in the cabin, with an optional LCD screen located inside the ridiculously huge speedometer. This screen scan show video from an iPod or other device.

As for what’s under the hood, MINI announced several months ago a new 122-hp base engine for Cooper models, while the Cooper S gets just over 180-hp. Two new 1.6-liter diesel engines are also offered in Europe, making 90-hp and 159 ft-lbs of torque in MINI One D form, or 112-hp and 199 ft-lbs of torque in Cooper D form. Both are touted to get almost 62 mpg on the European test cycle. In addition, MINI has added one new model to the range, a MINI Cooper D Convertible.

MINI is expected to announce its 2011 lineup changes in the U.S. shortly, with, as we’ve reported, the more powerful engines set to join the lineup this year.

GALLERY: 2011 MINI Lineup

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Official release after the jump:

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MINI’s Future ‘Greener and More Efficient’ With Engine Updates in 2011, Dual-Clutch Transmissions Likely

MINI expects Countryman to be most fuel-efficient crossover; new Roadster model to win over Miata buyers

 |  Mar 09 2010, 11:49 AM

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With the launch of the all-new MINI Countryman at the Geneva Auto Show last week we had an opportunity to sit down with the VP of MINI USA, Jim McDowell and find out more about the brand’s first crossover and what the future holds for the rest of the product range.

Starting with the Countryman, McDowell believes this is a vehicle that will help bring back brand rejecters – those who simply couldn’t justify owning a MINI for reasons ranging from size, to functionality. He even commented that in the past a father of two who bought a MINI would be seen as selfish, putting his wants ahead of his family’s needs. The Countryman lets those needs and wants come together while avoiding any social stigma.

Added usability will come in the form of fuel efficiency. While no official numbers are yet available (or any unofficial ones for that matter), McDowell says he wouldn’t be surprised if the Countryman became the most fuel efficient crossover offered in the U.S.

MINI also hopes to attract driving enthusiasts to the Countryman by offering it with a manual transmission here. In fact, when it goes on sale, it will be the only all-wheel drive crossover offered with a manual transmission. When asked if MINI’s All4 AWD setup is being planned for any other future MINI models, McDowell commented that while it was most likely possible, it’s not something they are looking at, favoring the two-wheel approach for the ideal sporty driving experience.

As for the future of the rest of the range, McDowell confirmed that the recent engine updates made on European models will arrive for the 2011 model year cars in North America. In Europe, the Cooper and Cooper S models get a slight boost in power and improved fuel economy thanks to direct-injection technology and variable valve control. The Cooper gets a 3-hp jump to 122-hp, while torque is rated at 118 ft-lbs, allowing a 0-62 mph sprint of 9.1 seconds. As for the Cooper S, it gets a new twin-scroll turbocharger that helps bring the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder to 184-hp (up 9-hp), while torque of 177 ft-lbs comes on from 1600 to 5000 rpm. The overboost function delivers 192 ft-lbs (260Nm). The Cooper S is rated at 7 seconds to 62 mph. (These numbers should change slightly for the North American market and we’ll have to wait for official EPA rated fuel economy numbers).

But beyond those updates, McDowell had more to say, specifically in regards to our questions about smaller engines and the use of dual-clutch transmissions – something particularly relevant with Volkswagen and Audi now delivering cars like the A1 and Polo GTI with 1.4-liter Twinchargers and dual-clutch transmissions. “We are continuing to add technology as quickly as it comes, while working to promote the MINI driving experience and be environmentally responsible,” he commented, following up by stating that MINI will “move forwards in minimalism,” with a future that is, “greener and more efficient.” From this it’s safe to surmise that future MINI engines will get smaller while new technology like dual-clutch transmissions (which improve both the driving experience and fuel economy) are pretty much a given.

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As for the upcoming Coupe and Roadster models, we pressed McDowell on what exactly makes these cars so different. He spoke at first about the obvious lack of a hatch, more futuristic design and improved cargo room – all of which is rather obvious. When we expressed our feelings that these attributes (including the JCW engine) really didn’t set the two models apart, he admitted as much, commenting: “but you don’t know what else is coming. We have a few pleasant surprises.”

After our conversation took a bit of a detour about MINI buyers and the other sorts of vehicles they consider, McDowell brought it back on point stating that he wouldn’t be surprised if the MINI Roadster came to own the entry-level roadster segment that Mazda currently has locked-down with the Miata.

As a brand, MINI is expanding significantly with new dealerships poping up all over the U.S. Over the next two years the Countrman (and soon the Coupe and Roadster) will double MINI’s lineup of products aimed at delivering performance and fuel economy in packages with the sort of universal appeal that has always made MINI models “global cars,” long before such a concet became popular.