‘MINI MANIA GROWS TWO MORE DOORS’
The new Mini Cooper has been a phenomenon here ever since it first débuted a couple of years ago. Mini owner car clubs have popped up all over the country as this fabled, small, ubiquitous two door was taken over, redesigned to modern day standards, and marketed around the world by BMW.
To expand its sales to families and active singles and couples, Mini introduces the four-door Countryman in 2011. Two more seats for adults or children are in order, or you can fold the two seats down to increase cargo space.
More front and rear overhang is necessary on the new Mini since it has been transformed into a crossover/stationwagon. The wheelbase has been lengthened to 102.2 inches, almost 2 inches longer than the Clubman’s and a solid five inches over the standard Mini Cooper hatch.
These new extra inches are going to good use as the 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman’s standard rear bucket seats have a 5.1 inch fore/aft range adjustment. You can also order their three-place bench seat at no extra cost if you want your Mini Countryman to seat five. The bench seat will also adjust fore/aft, similar to a 60/40 split bench, and like the bucket seats, it seatback cushions recline.
With all of the seats reclined you get 12.2 cu.ft. of cargo space. If you drop the rear seats into the floor you can get up to 41 cu.ft. of cargo space. You can also use the roof rack to store cargo to your needs.
The Mini Cooper S ALL4 Countryman that I tested only comes with the 1.6 liter inline four-cylinder engine that adds BMW’s Valvetronic variable valve lift to the twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection systems. This combination adds up to 181hp at 5,500rpm and 177lb.ft. of torque (192lb.ft. with the overboost) and more efficient fuel economy. The base Mini Countryman features the normally aspirated 1.6 liter engine with no Valvetronic or direct injection systems and makes just 121hp at 6,000rpm and 118lb.ft. or torque. You are better off with the optional engine that came with my test Countryman.
The new Mini Cooper S comes equipped with Mini’s familiar Getrag six-speed manual transmission allowing you to change gears as you like. Mini’s six-speed automatic transmission is optional and includes paddle shifters for even more fun-to-drive action.
Front-wheel-drive is standard but the fun and extra traction needed in the snow, wet, or slick road surfaces is made easier and safer with the optional ‘ALL4’ all-wheel-drive system that is available only on the Mini Cooper S Countryman.
Even though it is touted as all-wheel-drive, it only indicates a clutch-pack coupling built into the final-drive unit. An electrically driven hydraulic pump governs the pressure that reaches the coupling. In dry conditions, you can expect most of the torque to go to the Countryman’s front wheels.
Up to 50% can be redirected rearward to promote proper cornering character, and in really extreme cases, up to 100% of engine torque can go to the rear wheels. Also, an electronic limited-slip differential allows for side-to-side torque swaps between the car’s front wheels.
The suspension is fully independent with a MacPherson strut setup up front and a multi-link setup in the rear with front/rear sway bars. It gets a slightly softer tune since the car is bigger and heavier, even with the sport suspension. Turn-in is excellent but it tends to get a little loose at speed in S-curves as the sway bars try keeping the rear from hanging out as the new Countryman has a higher ride height. I’d advise taking it easy when driving on continuous curving roads. The electric power rack & pinion steering is nicely weighted with a great feel for the road and quick, precise response to your inputs.
The brakes are slightly larger to more effectively and safely slow this larger and heavier Mini Cooper S Countryman down from speed. Up front are 12.1 inch vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers and 12 inch solid discs in the rear clamped with single-piston calipers. Keeping you in control are standard ABS, EBD, Corner Brake Control, Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control with EDLC.
The new Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 rides on big, 18X8 inch alloy wheels wrapped with 245/45R18 inch all-season run-flat tires for a smooth and quiet ride.
Inside the new, larger, roomier cabin is basically the same dashboard setup but for the addition of two more toggle switches for the rear door windows, larger air-vents at the ends of each side of the dashboard, new surfaces that are now textured grain and newly designed door panels that underline the specific shape of the body.
In addition to being the biggest and most rugged member of the Mini family, the Countryman promises to be the most tech-laden. Adaptive HID headlights are optional, and Mini is promising full integration for iPhones and other smartphones that find their way into your Countryman.
While the all-new 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman is more useful and practical than any other Mini to date, be prepared to spend more money as prices start at $26,950.00, and my fully loaded S ALL4 model was stickered at $34,650.00 including destination.
Standard features in the 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 not mentioned above that I tested includes Tire Monitor, A/C with micro filter and air-recirculation, manual 6-way adjustable front bucket seats, adjustable tilt/telescopic sport leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise-control buttons, sport button for quick throttle and steering response, Boost CD,AM-FM audio system wit HD radio technology, six speakers and auxiliary input jack, power windows all express up/down, power remote sideview mirrors, variable intermittent wipers/washers, rear wiper/washer, power door locks, remote keyless entry, center rail with eyeglass case and two cupholders, center console with two cupholders, low-profile aluminum roof rails, seven-airbags, 3-point safety belts for all four seating positions, side-curtain airbags, thick cut-pile carpeting with thick floor mats front/rear, cold weather package of power folding/heated sideview mirrors, heated front seats, leather seats, dual pane panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, Harman-Kardon sound system, black stripes, Xeon headlamps, 18X8 inch alloy wheels, comfort access keyless entry, cargo net, center armrest, park distance control in the rear, and foglamps.