The Countryman is a big deal for Mini. It's likely to be the biggest selling of all the body styles added since the original hatchback. It's also the variant that most stretches the definition of what a Mini is. For these two reasons, we wanted to take an in-depth look at the Countryman, so we ordered one up for a Four Seasons test.
We went to the Mini configurator to spec it up, which was a lot of fun. All-wheel drive, a first for Mini, seemed important, and that necessitated stepping up to the Cooper S, with its 181-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. So that started us off at $27,650, which is $4300 more than the base, front-wheel drive, 121-hp Cooper Countryman.
To that we added the Cold Weather Package (heated seats, power folding mirrors, heated mirrors and washer jets, $750), because there's plenty of cold weather where we live. We went for Gravity Leather ($1500), rather than the even swankier Lounge Leather ($2000). We did, however, add chrome interior trim ($250) to replace some of the gray plastic, and a center armrest, which seems like it should be standard but also costs $250.
To report on Mini's latest in-car electronics, we ordered Mini Connected with Navigation, for $1750. Automatic, adaptive, and Xenon headlamps were actually three separate upgrades that in total swelled the bottom line by $850.
Finally, as is so tempting with a Mini, we inflated the sticker still further with visuals. The contrasting roof and mirror caps are no-charge items, but not the 18-inch anthracite 5-star double-spoke wheels, which were $1250. We also couldn't resist twin hood stripes, at $100.
All that brought the total for our Countryman to $34,350, which sounds like a lot, but it could have been more, much more. To give just a few examples: We skipped the automatic transmission ($1250) and rear park aid ($500), both of which seemed anathema to a Mini. We avoided the sport suspension ($500) because of the wretched condition of our roads. And we bypassed the dual-pane sunroof ($1000) and the automatic climate control ($500), in an uncharacteristic bit of self-denial.
The Countryman's popularity meant we had to wait several months for our car to arrive, and when it finally did we were so anxious to get it that we went to BMW/Mini headquarters in New Jersey to pick it up. Mini product planner Johnly Velazquez took some time to show us how the Mini Connected systems works (a lot like iDrive, as it turns out), and to show us features like the two-position rear cargo floor panel that also can snap into place behind the rear seatback, and the center rail that serves as an attachment point for cupholders, a cell-phone bracket, and a sunglass case.
Thus enlightened, we set off up the Garden State Parkway to begin our yearlong adventure with the biggest-ever Mini. Watch this space for monthly updates.