MF Garage: Drifting the Countryman All4

It requires one part rain (or snow I would expect) and one part Scandinavian flick. The result is amazing on a track and in the right hands. However on an emtpy road without copious amounts of the wet stuff, it’s less than impressive. Truth be told with All4 and DSC off the Countryman maintains control impeccably well and is (seriously) the most neutral factory MINI ever. The photo above (taken at our test drive of the Countryman prototype in Austria last year) proves it can be done with impressive results but only under the right circumstances. So why is it so hard?

GKN's R60 All4 System

The reason for the R60’s control lies in it’s intelligent All4 system. First off the control unit is fully integrated into the DSC unit and thus transfers data much faster than a typical system (thus reacting to conditions faster). This is what gives it the seamless feel that ends up with a driver not even realizes it’s working. It engages a small clutch in the front detecting wheel slip when engaging the rear driveshaft. Unlike BMW’s xDrive, it’s a simple (but very effective) system that doesn’t use complex electronics. It all adds up to seamless power delivery and the driver typically not knowing when the system is in operation.

  • Could you explain why this clever system did not detect front wheels slipping while trying to get out of a mud pothole? No power was sent to the back wheels that were on firm groud, even after I switched the DSC off.

    • ctmctm

      I’m curious tooo, btw is there anything that tells u that the powers are being sent to the rear wheels? Other than your feeling, because i don’t think i feel anything if the power is sent to the rear, or it has never been sent yet… you?

      • Funny thing is that immediately after that I found a sandy road and asked a friend to look if the rear wheels are spinning and they were spinning… but not when I really needed them to spin…

    • Biznatch_X

      When trying the All4 at the “offroad” drive event, we were told you have to be gentle on the throttle to avoid the Traction control kicking in first. It is kind of annoying as it wouldn’t transfer power to the rear wheels until the system stopped trying to use the traction control on the front wheels.

    • that.guy

      I would not trust one of these electrically-actuated “AWD” systems off road.  When you are out of mobile reception and miles from help, you want a Subaru.

      • Anonymous

        I’d rather have a helicopter.

      • KPH

        Subaru for sure. But in defense of electric-actuated awd,  mine is an auto and electrically controlled, not viscous connected, and it’s always me that fails to drive for conditions not the system (it is very forgiving, always got me home). Which just means that Subaru got it right a long time ago.

  • that.guy

    Wait, I thought you said the Coupe(ster) was the most neutral factor MINI ever.  Please clarify.   

    • I said the opposite (as in opposite lock).

      • that.guy

        Hmm.  “Opposite” of neutral does not compute…  Two options:  Understeer/Oversteer.  I’d say those are the opposite of one another, with Neutral the balance in between.  So I think what I’m hearing you say is:

        Countryman = Neutral Coupe(ster) = Oversteer bias All others = Understeer bias

        No doubt (and sadly) any oversteer bias on the Coupe(ster) you experienced will be dialed out before it is sold in the US…

        • That was a pun. Anyway the Coupe has oversteer on lift-off – similar to any R56 with the Sport suspension. This won’t change for the US market just as the standard R56 set-up as not been changed. However with the front weight bias it’s more pronounced (as I mentioned in the review.

        • Anonymous

          I’m just curious.  What about the sport suspension gives it oversteer on lift off?  Simply because it’s stiffer?

        • Dr Obnxs

          All cars will increase front wheel traction when you lift in a turn. The weight moves to the front wheels, and if there is any more grip to be had, it increases the forces that turn the car. The stiffer the suspension, the more pronounced an effect it has.

          Understeer vs oversteer is normally a description used in a steady state (or nearly so) turn. Technically, it has to do with the angle of the front wheels relative to the turning circle that they track. If the front wheels are turned in more than the circle that the car drives, that’s understeer (the car turns less than the angle of the front wheels would indicate).

          Anyway, this article and the comments are confusing some of the handling terminology and the like. What it comes down to is that the programming in the All4 system isn’t sporting, it’s meant for improved traction and directional stability in fairly normal driving situations, as well as improved directional stability, kind of like DSC on steroids.