Mini gives us our first look at the design and technology in its next generation of cars and EVs this week, showcasing a dashboard that blends familiar themes with a new 9.4-inch round OLED infotainment screen — the first of its kind in the automotive industry. The eye-catching display will be powered by the also new Mini Operating System 9 software with its colorful, customizable themes and a cute cartoon dog.
The classic Austin Mini’s dashboard is known for its iconic central speedometer, and homage was paid to this when reviving the Mini brand within the BMW Group in the early 2000s with the new Cooper’s massive analog speedo. As Mini transitioned to more screen-centric infotainment, the round central dashboard pod has remained, but looks a little weird and busy with its inset rectangular display.
The next generation of Mini cars and SUVs will fix that. The new cars debut the industry’s first ever large circular OLED display. This isn’t just a rectangular screen with the edges masked off, but a truly round and almost bezel-free display that seems to float over the dashboard surface. I was able to get hands-on with the display at a preview event in Munich earlier this year and was impressed by how thin and vibrant the 9.4-inch screen is.
Below the screen is a pod of physical controls and toggles — also inspired by the OG Mini and echoed through subsequent generations — and behind it are optional light projectors that cast ambient color and patterns onto the Mini’s fabric dashboard. Also optional is a transparent head-up display visor that rises into the driver’s field of view from the base of the dashboard.
The dinner dish display is powered by the next-generation Mini Operating System 9 software, which is more customizable than ever before. The screen can be filled with a variety of Mini Experience Modes. These themes, such as the sporty Go-Kart mode or the efficiency focused Green mode feature vibrant color schemes that extend to the ambient cabin lighting, unique gauge displays and even audio motifs to match the driver’s mood and needs.
There’s also a sepia-toned Timeless theme with a font reminiscent of the original Mini’s speedometer, a Personal theme that can be customized with your own photos and, for Countryman models, a Trail theme with a rugged design, compass and off-road focused gauges.
Mini OS 9 also introduces the automaker’s Mini Intelligent Personal Assistant. Like Siri or Google Assistant, this natural language digital assistant responds to the “Hey Mini” hotword. It performs cloud-connected tasks such as searching for destinations and controling vehicle systems, such as the climate controls and driver assistive features. In keeping with Mini’s cutesy theme, drivers can also choose from two virtual avatars — an animated Mini or cartoon dog named Spike — to appear on screen when talking to the virtual assistant.
The new Mini vehicles will also roll out with next-generation cloud-based navigation with the ability to plan routes that take into account stops for charging in their long-distance route planning. When you’re parked or charging, you’ll also be able to access AirConsole in-dash gaming as well as various video and audio streaming services. They’ll find these apps and services in the Mini Connected Store via the EV’s optional 5G connectivity, which will also power over-the-air software updates.
And like the rest of the BMW Group, Mini’s keys are also going digital. Mini OS 9’s Digital Key Plus feature will allow drivers to use the Android or Apple phone in their pocket or purse to unlock and start their car on approach via ultra-wideband connectivity. Owners can also share access to their Mini with a friend or family member remotely via Apple or Google Wallet and revoke that access instantly at any time.
The next-gen Mini family of vehicles is expected to debut later this year.