Last summer we had a chance to drive a European spec MINI Cooper D (that's D as in diesel) and loved its combination of fantastic handling, torque and 47 real world mpg. Shortly after that we had the chance to speak with MINI USA VP Jim McDowell and asked about the possibility of the diesel MINI coming to America. At the time McDowell told us that there were two roadblocks to that happening. They needed a 50 state legal version of the diesel engine and more production capacity. This week in Los Angeles we had the chance to talk with McDowell again and the subject of the MINI D arose once more.
Basically, things have changed. In July, the MINI factory in Oxford England was running full tilt to keep up with demand. Since then, the collapse of the financial markets has meant a drop in sales, including MINI sales, across the board and around the world. That means more supply is now available than demand and we could get more MINIs in America if needed. The other issue is the technical one about US certification. That, too, is being addressed. According to McDowell, BMW is working on a Tier 2 Bin 5 compliant version of the MINI D engine. Instead of urea injection for NOx reduction, this would use a lean NOx trap like the Jetta TDI. While McDowell wouldn't commit to a time-frame, it looks like we may get the MINI D sooner rather than later.