2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

A. J. Mueller

I found the idea of a small crossover SUV Mini Cooper to be dubious at best, until I actually drove the Countryman. I was utterly charmed. This baby drives really, really well, and it’s absolutely oozing character and coolness. It proves once again that BMW has done an absolutely masterful job of nurturing the Mini brand. There is nothing about the vehicle that makes me think that it isn’t a “real” Mini -- or that it doesn’t deserve to have the Mini badge. Quite the opposite: it seems like a natural progression of the brand.

In particular, I am charmed by the funky yet functional interior and also by the fact that we’re talking about a tiny 1.6-liter engine here, yet there’s plenty of power on tap. I had the good fortune of driving the Mini in the teeth of our biggest snowstorm so far this winter, and the very capable all-wheel-drive system, coupled with the Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires, made this thing unstoppable. I was blazing up snow-covered hills. I was seeking out unplowed side streets. The streets of Ann Arbor were largely empty, it was so nasty out; businesses and schools were closed. In this Mini, I was like, “what’s the problem?”

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

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