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MINI Countryman First Drive Preview

It’s the dawn of a perfect day in Vienna. I’m just hours away from driving the most talked about MINiI since the introduction of the R56. The Countryman is the first four door vehicle to have the MINI badge and the biggest MINI of all time. And with that comes an enormous debate; is this truly a MINI? In four hours I’ll find out.

Stay tuned to MF for our initial impressions followed by our full review and over 80 photos of the test. Until then, here’s MINI’s full official release (with tons of great technical information) that coincides with the preview drive.

One final note: the Countryman (not men btw) I’ll be testing will be inexplicably camouflaged. Is it because they had a ton of that swirly yellow tape lying around? We have no idea.

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Official Release: With the addition of the MINI Countryman as the fourth variant in its model family, MINI is taking the inimitable MINI feeling into a new dimension. The MINI Countryman crossover bridges the gap between the classic MINI concept and a contemporary Sports Activity Vehicle. Its broader range of abilities in both urban use and beyond paves the way for larger and evolving target groups with a greater need for space and flexibility to experience the driving fun that comes with a MINI. The brand’s first model to feature four doors and a wide-opening tailgate, the Countryman offers more space – which can be used in a wide variety of ways – to go with its raised seating position and optimised ride comfort. Plus, the “go-kart” feeling for which MINI is a byword has been preserved and takes on a new dimension with the optional MINI ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. The MINI Countryman expresses the defining virtues of the brand in terms of design, premium quality, handling, efficiency and the scope for customisation – and does so in an absorbingly individual way.

The MINI Countryman manifests an effective and assured development of the brand’s design language. The new model combines larger body dimensions, increased ground clearance and four side doors with the hallmark features of MINI design. Short overhangs, a high window line, a commanding over-the-wheel stance and the wrap-around look of the windows – extending all the way around the vehicle – create typical MINI proportions. The Countryman provides a fresh interpretation of classic MINI features, such as the roof line, hexagonal radiator grille, large headlights set into the bonnet, side indicator surrounds, capacious wheel arches and vertical rear light clusters.

Using the MINI design language as a starting point, the stand-out features of the MINI Countryman are showcased in fitting style. The upright front end exudes presence and helps to optimise pedestrian protection. The increase in interior space is emphasised by large glass surfaces, the four-door layout by the distinctive contours of the roof. The extra-wide border around the lower part of the body and powerfully bolstered wheel arches are a nod to the robustness of the vehicle and its all-wheel drive. The precise transposition of the MINI style into a new vehicle segment ensures that the MINI Countryman comes across as a totally new type of vehicle and yet is instantly recognisable as a MINI.

The interior of the MINI Countryman is very much in keeping with the brand’s familiar style but boasts a selection of new design and functional elements. The slightly raised seating position allows easy entry, optimises the driver’s view over the road and reinforces the powerful character of the new model. The Centre Speedo and air vents are bordered by coloured rings. The unique MINI Centre Rail, meanwhile, runs lengthwise through the middle of the interior in place of a conventional centre console and opens up new ways of integrating storage boxes, cup holders, external audio devices, mobile phones and other comfort-enhancing elements just as you want them. Clip-in fixtures have a flexible range of positioning that allows the storage area to be divided up as desired and items to be kept close at hand at all times. Added to which, the Centre Rail creates an unconventional visual and functional connection between the front and rear compartments.

The MINI Countryman comes as standard with four seats, while a three-seat bench is available as a no-cost option. Its interior enhances comfort over long journeys with generous legroom, headroom and shoulder room. The rear seats can be moved forwards and backwards individually or in a 60 : 40 split (three-seat bench), the angle of the backrests can be adjusted and the backrests can be folded down either individually or in a 40 : 20 : 40 split (three-seat bench), all of which allows luggage capacity to be increased from 350 litres to a maximum 1,170 litres (12.4 to 41.3 cu ft).

The MINI Countryman will be available with three petrol and two diesel engines at launch. All the drive units are sourced from a new generation of engines optimised using the BMW Group’s development expertise. And they all meet the EU5 and ULEV II exhaust emission standards. Output ranges from 66 kW/90 hp in the MINI One D Countryman to 135 kW/184 hp in the MINI Cooper S Countryman. With its twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection now complemented by fully variable valve management, the 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in the range-topping model offers by far the best balance between output and fuel consumption in its displacement class. Furthermore, the MINIMALISM concept sees wide-ranging technology designed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions – such as Brake Energy Regeneration, the Auto Start/Stop function, Shift Point Display and the need-based operation of ancillary components – fitted as standard and in model-specific combinations. For the petrol engine variants a six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic is available as an alternative to the standard six-speed manual.

The MINI Cooper S Countryman and MINI Cooper D Countryman can be ordered as an option with MINI ALL4 permanent all-wheel drive. Here, an electromagnetic centre differential positioned directly on the final drive varies the distribution of power seamlessly between the front and rear axles. In normal driving conditions up to 50 per cent of the drive is sent to the rear wheels, in extreme situations as much as 100 per cent. The result is a new, traction-led expression of the agile handling for which MINI is famed. This ability is underpinned by sophisticated new suspension technology, which includes a front axle with MacPherson spring struts and forged track control arms, multi-link rear suspension and the electromechanical power steering system EPS. The MINI Countryman comes as standard with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system. Available as an option are Dynamic Traction Control (DTC, standard on the MINI Cooper S Countryman – both with front-wheel drive and ALL4 all-wheel drive – and MINI Cooper D Countryman with ALL4) and an electronic locking function for the front axle differential.

A crash-optimised body structure with precisely defined load paths and deformation zones ensures exceptional passive safety. Standard safety features include front and side airbags, plus side curtain airbags for the front and rear seats, three-point inertia-reel seat belts on all seats, belt tensioners and belt force limiters at the front and ISOFIX child seat attachments in the rear. A Tyre Defect Indicator also comes as standard, while runflat tyres (standard on the MINI Cooper S Countryman with ALL4) are available as an option.

New model-specific equipment features have been added to the usual extensive selection of exterior and interior customisation options available for the MINI. A newly configured range of interior colours, trim elements and upholstery materials allows for particularly harmonious combinations. Air conditioning, the MINI Centre Rail and an audio system with CD player are all fitted as standard, while the model-specific array of optional equipment items and accessories available for the MINI Countryman includes high-quality audio and navigation systems as well as mobile phone interfaces with full integration capability for the Apple iPhone or other smartphones. MINI Connected, meanwhile, delivers a unique form of in-car entertainment with the addition of web radio and Mission Control functions, among others. Customers can also specify a large panoramic sunroof, Adaptive Headlights with xenon light, a heated windscreen, a trailer coupling, 16- to 19-inch light-alloy wheels, sports suspension (with the vehicle height lowered by 10 mm / almost 0.4″) and John Cooper Works performance components.

Engine variants

MINI Cooper S Countryman: Four-cylinder petrol engine with twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection and fully variable valve management based on the BMW Group’s VALVETRONIC technology.

  • Displacement: 1,598 cc,
  • output: 135 kW/184 hp at 5,500 rpm,
  • max. torque: 240 Nm/177 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm (260 Nm/192 lb-ft with Overboost).
  • Acceleration 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 7.6 seconds,
  • top speed: 215 km/h (133 mph).

Average fuel consumption according to EU standard: – 6.1 litres/100 km (46.3 mpg imp), – CO2 emissions: 143 g/km.

MINI Cooper Countryman: Four-cylinder petrol engine with fully variable valve management based on the BMW Group’s VALVETRONIC technology.

  • Displacement: 1,598 cc,
  • output: 90 kW/122 hp at 6,000 rpm,
  • max. torque: 160 Nm/118 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm.
  • Acceleration 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 10.5 seconds,
  • top speed: 190 km/h (118 mph).

Average fuel consumption according to EU standard: – 6.1 litres/100 km (46.3 mpg imp), – CO2 emissions: 142 g/km.

MINI One Countryman: Four-cylinder petrol engine with fully variable valve management based on the BMW Group’s VALVETRONIC technology.

  • Displacement: 1,598 cc,
  • output: 72 kW/98 hp at 6,000 rpm,
  • max. torque: 153 Nm/133 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm.
  • Acceleration 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 11.9 seconds,
  • top speed: 173 km/h (107 mph).

Average fuel consumption according to EU standard: – 5.9 litres/100 km (47.9 mpg imp), – CO2 emissions: 137 g/km.

MINI Cooper D Countryman: Four-cylinder turbodiesel with aluminium crankcase, common-rail injection and variable turbine geometry.

  • Displacement: 1,598 cc,
  • output: 82 kW/112 hp at 4,000 rpm,
  • max. torque: 270 Nm/199 lb-ft at 1,750 – 2,250 rpm.
  • Acceleration 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 10.9 seconds,
  • top speed: 185 km/h (115 mph).

Average fuel consumption according to EU standard: – 4.4 litres/100 km (64.2 mpg imp), – CO2 emissions: 116 g/km.

MINI One D Countryman: Four-cylinder turbodiesel with aluminium crankcase, common-rail injection and variable turbine geometry.

  • Displacement: 1,598 cc,
  • output: 66 kW/90 hp at 4,000 rpm,
  • max. torque: 215 Nm/158 lb-ft at 1,750 – 2,500 rpm.
  • Acceleration 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 12.9 seconds,
  • top speed: 170 km/h (105 mph).

Average fuel consumption according to EU standard: – 4.3 litres/100 km (65.7 mpg imp), – CO2 emissions: 113 g/km.

Exterior dimensions

  • Length: 4,097 millimetres (161.3″) (MINI Cooper S Countryman: 4,110 millimetres/161.8″)
  • Width: 1,789 millimetres (70.4″)
  • Height: 1,561 millimetres (61.5″)
  • Wheelbase: 2,595 millimetres (102.2″)
Written By: Gabe

  • cze33r

    I’m really looking forward to your review.

  • http://freezerpants.com hanzo

    I’m really looking forward to buying one :D

  • James Irmiger

    Lucky bastard! I’m curious if you can get the rear to rotate when you lift off the throttle, not drifting per se, but that typical MINI wiggle that’s so addictive :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1207868968 Steve Rosenblum

    Time to get cranking on the swirly yellow tape motoring badges before it becomes a new factory option..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=814825706 Sideways Eh!

    ^^^I like that idea Steve

    Come on Motoringbadges…swirly yellow coverup tape for everyone :D

    Oh and Gabe…INVU

  • alpinamike

    I see my center rail lighting idea, from the Center rail “win a Book” contest was one of the options, but what they did not include was the red light contrast for rally time like the Iphone MINI Link app.

    Did someone win that book BTW?

  • that.guy

    Gabe, ask them if you can lower it 3″ and still have functional suspension geometry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/VioletDC Audrey Abernathy

    I can’t w8 2 see one close up & in person! Still have mixed feelings about it, tho; will have 2 w8 on the driving report …

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000375640584 Melis Heerens

    I like the swirly tape and grey color combo. We need a Swirly Tape Motoring Badge! It could use 3 or 4 inch exhaust pipes though, those look to small.

  • Alexandre

    @alpinamike I don’t think the results of the contest are out yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1320962183 Matt McDougall

    I look forward to your impressions of the R60.

    I do not look forward to the inevitable “OMG MINI has lost its way screw this brand!” comments.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    @alpinamike I don’t think the results of the contest are out yet.

    Results are in and will be posted on MF next week.

  • hardingsan
    I look forward to your impressions of the R60. I do not look forward to the inevitable “OMG MINI has lost its way screw this brand!” comments.

    x infinity, on both points.

  • mellowmcs

    Is it just me or does the tail pipe diameter look too small to anyone else? Maybe I’m used to the JCW engine kit tip but I don’t know… the tip on the countryman looks wayyy too small.

  • that.guy

    Golf R arrives stateside Q2 2011. I think I’ll wait.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1255180342 Joe Covington

    thank you mellowmcs cans of the heineken variety would look more proportionate. these appear undersized though it may just be the photos.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1320962183 Matt McDougall

    Inside Line has their impressions up.

    http://www.insideline.com/mini/countryman/2011/2011-mini-cooper-s-countryman-all4-first-drive.html

    Not sure what they mean regarding “typically light steering”. I mean, that’s one of the things I loved about my R53 and love about my R55. The steering has some heft to it. It’s not the Pole Position, zero-effort zero-feedback steering you’d find on, well, any Toyota I’ve ever driven.

  • alpinamike

    Gabe , thanks for the update on the Book contest. I see many of my idea were used.

    Will be up in chicago this weekend on, I might have time to say hi gabe. I know your busy so let me know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1207868968 Steve Rosenblum
    Will be up in chicago this weekend on, I might have time to say hi gabe. I know your busy so let me know.

    If you are around this Friday, stop by the Chicago MINI Motoring Club event at Superdawg!!

  • alpinamike

    Looks like fun, I wanted to go to superdawg, I will not be there till saturday.

    Thanks for the invite. Anything Sat or Sun?

  • that.guy
    Inside Line: “Either way, we might lower the suspension a bit.”

    word.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1207868968 Steve Rosenblum
    I will not be there till saturday. Thanks for the invite. Anything Sat or Sun?

    Bill Jacobs BMW has some sort of party Saturday night for their now showroom, but it may be invite only. Don’t have much info, but feel free to e-mail me at steve@chicagominiclub.com if you like, so we can take this offline ;-)

  • Aussom

    Great to see the new MINI finally with four passenger doors – has only taken, what, 8 – 9 years? Looking forward to the local dealer’s official launch in due course.

    I wonder whether MINI plans to sweeten the deal for existing MINI owners by offering special trade-in prices for pre-loved MINIs to increase the uptake? Looking forward to your review.

  • http://shoecubby.net Shoe Cubbies

    One from the most creative shoe storage ideas I have seen is the use of an entertainment unit placed at the end of the king size bed. It truly is frequently tough to discover a bench which will span the whole width of a king size bed but this unit fit perfectly and also the owners used the “cubbies” for shoe storage.


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MINI Model Cheat Sheet

1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
R56: Hatch
R57: Convertible
R58: Coupe
R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

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