With all of the hints and rumors surrounding the Countryman over the past couple of years, it was almost a relief to finally see the production version of the crossover. Mini's press conferences are fun and energetic, and the New York press conference served as a great pick-me-up on the second day. There was great music (says this biased early U2 fan), and entertaining shots on the video screen, including people stacking pineapples in the cargo area of a Countryman, an older couple dancing, and a closeup on a cow's mouth as it was chewing. It all made sense at the time, as all of the shots were chosen to convey a sense of excitement, fun, humor, and adventure, and interspersed with these images were slow-motion action shots of the Countryman in the dirt.
The Countryman is going on sale in the USA in February 2011, and provides seating for four or five. One of the really cool features in the cabin is the center rail, which has mood lighting, plus provides places to charge an iPod or other mobile devices, and uses the new Mini Connected system to integrate smartphone functions into the vehicle.
Countryman buyers can choose from the standard 1.6-liter, 120-horsepower four or can opt for the Countryman S, with a twin-scroll turbocharger that brings power up to 180. Either way, this is Mini's interpretation of the crossover, so it should be a lot of fun to drive. As a crossover, it is probably the most functional Mini in the lineup. It offers cargo volume - 41 cubic feet with the rear seats down - and all-wheel drive. Mini ALL4 uses an electrohydraulic differential to distribute power front to rear, with up to 50 percent of power going to the rear wheels. Mini also says that 100 percent of the power can be shifted to any wheel under severe conditions. No EPA numbers were available today, but Mini anticipates that when they're complete, the Countryman will be the most fuel-efficient crossover in the U.S. Even if you have never seen a photo of the Countryman, if you imagine what a Mini crossover would be, you'd be pretty close. This model seems to stay true to the Mini brand.
By Allyson Harwood