After spending too much time hanging around Ann Arbor, our Four Seasons Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 finally busted out of town in April, heading for New York with editor Jean Jennings and her husband, Tim.
Jennings reports: "Tim did the straight shot out from Michigan, down US 23 to the Ohio turnpike, across Pennsylvania on I-80, stopping in Clarion overnight to visit friends, and then continuing on to Manhattan. I joined him for the ride home, leaving New York City on Thursday afternoon of Easter week. It took us about two hours to creep through the meatpacking district, into the Lincoln Tunnel, and out to New Jersey. We made it to our favorite stop off I-80, The Inn at Turkey Hill (exit 236). Exceptional rooms for just over $100, gourmet dining room, brew pub on the premises, fabulous breakfast buffet included, super nice staff. A definite oasis in a sea of Super 8s.
"Surprisingly, the Mini proved to be a pretty comfortable long-distance cruiser. The hobby-horse ride it delivers on rough pavement -- and most awfully, on New York City streets! -- goes away out on the highway. Helping that long-drive comfort is a cruise control that performs flawlessly, whether driving across the flat wasteland of Ohio or through the hills of Pennsylvania.
"The Countryman's back seat knee room was partly achieved by cheating space from the front passenger, but the addition of that back seat space is worth it. The extra passenger and cargo space are not just a marketing ploy, but are extremely useful if this is your only car. The MASSIVE amount of crap we took with us astonished our bellman.
Back in Michigan, the Jennings put the Countryman's luggage area to work carrying a very different cargo. "The weekend we got home, Bob [the Chesapeake Bay retriever] was in a dog show and we were able to put his cage neatly in the back along with his gear and our two duffle bags for the weekend. We had to shim the floor a little underneath his cage so it would ride flat. But there was plenty of room, and opening the hatch and window gave him lots of air and a good view of the dog world around him at the show."
Although the Jennings were pleased overall with the Countryman as road-trip machine, they did have their criticisms, chiefly with the interior design details.
"I'm not a fan of the giant central gauge. It forces all of the other controls to be jammed together in miniature underneath it, where they become partly obscured by the shifter.
"I know I would eventually get used to the seat heater buttons, and they aren't really important in the greater scheme of things (as critical as they are to snowbound Michiganders), but very hard to get used to their in-out actuation. Very clunky. Clunkier still are the vertical rotary dials controlling fan and temperature -- they're too low and stiff for comfortable use and extremely annoying."
As spring heats up, we'll see if the Countryman can get out and about even more.