In the brave new world of the second decade of the 21st century, SUVs are still out of fashion. That being said, they’re still popular. These days, people just want an SUV that’s not stinky with the stigma of a Hummer. Now here comes MINI with an SUV that they hope will carry the brand’s subcompact cachet to this embarrassing-but-still-profitable segment of the automotive market.
MINI is adding their own Crossover Utility Vehicle, the MINI Countryman, to their lineup. MINI thinks the Countryman will reach “new target groups requiring extra space and flexibility.” Well, out in the Driving Sports barn, we’ve got two MINI hardtops already, and we’ve always been pretty impressed with the space inside them.
The Countryman will be the first model in the MINI family with four doors. The Countryman will also feature a “slightly elevated” seating position, and optimized driving comfort. In other words, mommies (AKA CUV buyers) are going to love it because it’s car-seat friendly and gives them the “up-high” perspective they loved about their GMC Yukon, but with better gas mileage.
The more interesting features include the optional MINI ALL4 all wheel drive and 184 horsepower in the Cooper S Countryman. The latest 1.6-litre four-cylinder S engine comes with a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection, and also fully variable valve management. The Countryman also includes optional Brake Energy Regeneration, Auto Start Stop, a gearshift point indicator, and on-demand management of the engine’s ancillary units. The standard Getrag six-speed manual gearbox is featured as standard, but you can also get your Countryman with a six-speed automatic, complete with Steptronic paddle shifting.
The new ALL4 all-wheel drive system is an electronically controlled hydraulic center differential positioned directly on the final drive, capable of varying the distribution from front to rear in an infinite process. Under normal driving conditions up to 50 per cent of the engine’s power goes to the rear wheels, under extreme conditions the split can go up to 100 per cent. The Countryman also has an electronic limited-slip function for the front axle differential.
Perhaps the best news is that you can outfit a Countryman with a whole line of John Cooper Works performance parts.
We’re still the tiniest bit skeptical, but we also hold out hope that this means there may be an AWD version of the successful MINI hardtop in our future.