Exclusive Report: 2017 MINI Countryman

The 2017 Countryman is scheduled to go on-sale later this year, finally replacing the last older generation MINI in the line-up. What should we expect? When should we expect it? We’ll tell you what we know.

When Can I Buy One?

The F60 Countryman will debut online later this summer with a public debut at the Frankfurt Motorshow. If MINI follows its typical pattern of on-sale dates that would mean Europe and the UK should see the first Countryman hit showrooms in November and December. The US market will likely have an on-sale date just after January 1st 2017.

What Models Will MINI Launch With?

MINI will launch the Countryman in Cooper and Cooper S models day one with a diesel for European markets following months later. All variants will be available with all wheel drive.

In the US the launch will consist of the 131 hp Cooper and 189 hp Cooper S. Unlike the previous Countryman both will be available with All4 all wheel drive.

What’s New?

Everything. Like the Clubman the new Countryman (code-named F60) rides on BMW’s new UKL2 platform. It’s a longer and wider version of the same platform that underpins the F56 and all smaller MINIs. The platform is both lighter and stronger than the previous chassis.

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What’s New With All4?

All wheel drive is all about priorities. If traction and safety is a priority over outright performance and efficiency, ALL4 should be paramount. But as we’ll find out, MINI has further reduced those traditional downsides that all wheel drive brings. In fact, performance has a good chance of being on par with the two wheel drive model and the MPG figure will likely only be marginally worse.

This is partially due to the fact that the traditional ALL4 weight penalty has gone down to only 134 lbs with this new revised version. Furthermore, measures for reducing system-related losses and an energy-efficient operating strategy have made MPG loss much less of an issue. But enough of the high level. Let’s talk details.

The system is a major revision to the one that debuted on the R60 Countryman. Power from the front drive to the rear axle is transferred by means of an angular gear (Power Take-Off) on the front differential and a two-part cardan shaft. The central component of the four-wheel drive system is an electro-hydraulically controlled multiple-disk clutch (Hang-On) inside the rear axle drive, which facilitates infinitely variable distribution of torque to the front and rear wheels. The idea is completely invisible engagement resulting in constant traction in any condition.

The angular gear is mounted behind the engine on the automatic transmission and crankcase. The input shaft is a hollow shaft construction and directly connected to the front axle differential. In this way, part of the drive force is transferred from the differential basket to the cardan shaft via the hollow shaft, the crown wheel and the pinion shaft. The angular gear operates at a fixed gear ratio (1:1.74) and is permanently engaged, meaning that the cardan shaft always rotates when the vehicle is driven. Reversal of transmission takes place in the rear axle drive so that the front and rear axle drive shafts both rotate at exactly the same speed.

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The multiple-disk clutch located in the rear axle drive (Hang-On) directs a proportion of torque to the rear wheels according to each driving situation, ensuring optimal power distribution between the front and rear. In extreme cases (e.g. the front wheels are standing on ice), the ratio can be 0:100. In order to ensure maximum positioning accuracy, run-in behaviour and temperature influences are independently compensated, the system constantly adapting to ever changing operating conditions. We told you this is an improvement.

As before, when extra traction isn’t required the ALL4 system reverts to front wheel drive improving efficiency. In order to make use of additional saving potentials, the system has a multiple-disk clutch with a spring-loaded Efficient valve, which lowers the oil level in the clutch and significantly reduces friction losses (oil splash losses). When required, the system takes only a fraction of a second to build up maximum operating pressure in the Efficient mode and thus deliver maximum torque to the rear wheels. As you’d expect this all happens without loss in traction or any discernible change in the drivetrain.

Due to the DSC controlling everything, wheel slip can be detected at an early stage. In an example where a Countryman threatens to drift outwards over the front wheels (understeer), increased tractive force is supplied to the rear axle, allowing the vehicle to turn in more accurately. On the other hand, ALL4 directs excess force to the front wheels, should the rear of the vehicle threaten to swerve outwards. As a result, maximum four-wheel performance is available even before slippage occurs. Put simply, the updated system not only ensures best possible traction and safety in wet or snowy road conditions, but also enhances vehicle stability, cornering dynamics and ride comfort. Further, in driving situations where the interconnection of all four wheels is disadvantageous – i.e. in an emergency stop – the system opens the multiple-disk clutch completely within milliseconds.

MINI Diesel

The Countryman Diesel (US Spec)

A Diesel in the US. We know. You’re wondering how we can be so confident about the US finally getting a diesel MINI when MINI USA has either shown ambivalence or pulled plug on the program in the past. Six years ago the US was on the verge of getting an R56 diesel. However due to the global economy meltdown the business case just didn’t make sense. However this time things are different. The UKL platform from the beginning has been designed to accommodate the urea tank required for US diesels making modifications less expensive. Then there’s the increased interest in higher MPG and diesel in the US that are both consumer cost (never mind the currently low fuel prices) and legislation driven.

So what diesel MINI will the US get? We believe MINI is planning to bring the Countryman SD for 2017 or 2018 model year. What’s the SD? Simply put it’s a diesel Cooper S drivetrain that produces 168bhp at 4000rpm and 266lb ft lbs at 1500rpm. MPG? That’s where things get really interesting.

The Cooper SD is rated at 70 mpg combined in the UK. In US MPG figures that’s 59 mpg. While the UK testing procedures are a little less stringent, that’s still an incredible number that would do more than just raise eyebrows for the US buying public concerned with efficiency.

2017 MINI Clubman hybrid

2017 MINI Countryman hybrid – Courtesy of William Harper

The Countryman Plugin Hybrid All4

We initially had been led to believe the hybrid would be available on both the Clubman and Countryman. However if MINI is forced to choose one vehicle (due to costs) there’s a very good chance that choice will be the Countryman. Traditionally MINI’s volume seller within the larger offerings, the Countryman seems like a safer bet than the wagon-esque Clubman.

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in hybrid fuses BMW eDrive with a model-specific form of power transmission – based on the front-drive of the standard BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. The 1.5-litre BMW TwinPower Turbo engine generates an output of 100 kW/136 hp together with a peak torque of 220 Nm (162 lb-ft), with power relayed to the front wheels via a six-speed Steptronic transmission. The additional high- voltage generator on the front axle fulfils three different tasks: it boosts the combustion engine for brief periods with extra output of up to 15 kW and some 150 Nm (111 lb-ft) from rest, generates electric power while on the move (which is fed directly to the high-voltage battery), and enables the engine to be started and turned off very smoothly thanks to its higher output compared to conventional starters. The electric motor is located above the rear axle, together with its two-speed transmission and the power electronics. It sends output of up to 65 kW/88 hp and maximum torque of 165 Nm (122 lb-ft) through the rear wheels.

2017 MINI Clubman hybrid system.

2017 MINI Clubman hybrid system.

If that equation sounds familiar that’s because it’s basically a less potent version of the same drivetrain found in the BMW i8 hybrid Supercar.

As with the BMW i8, the intelligent drivetrain management and networking with the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system ensure safe and supremely assured handling characteristics at all times, together with optimised traction, highly dynamic acceleration and cornering, and maximum efficiency.

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in hybrid prototype accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in around 6.5 seconds. Its average fuel consumption in the EU test cycle for plug-in hybrid vehicles will be approximately two litres per 100 kilometres, which equates to CO2 emissions of under 50 grams per kilometre. The range on electric power alone as measured in the EU test cycle will be 38 kilometers.

2017 MINI Clubman hybrid

2017 MINI Clubman hybrid

When Sport mode is selected with the Driving Experience Control switch, on the other hand, the combustion engine and electric motor operate in unison and are geared toward a sporty driving style. The high-voltage generator provides a boost effect at low engine revs and generates electricity that is stored directly in the high-voltage battery up to a charge level of around 50 percent.

Unlike the other BMW Plugin Hybrids, the capacity of the main load compartment in the Countryman plug-in hybrid prototype is identical to that of its conventional siblings. And there is still a storage compartment underneath the load compartment floor, as well.

When will we see a hybrid? Based on sources we expect to see it sometime in 2017 or 2018.