No matter how many snarky Internet comments and social media posts are made, Mini’s model lineup will continue to grow in length, width, and height. Like the majority of small car manufacturers, Mini capitalized on the burgeoning SUV and crossover market with the release of the Countryman in 2010. The BMW-owned automaker intends to continue the trend by rolling out the all-new 2017 Mini Countryman, which will make its public debut next month at the 2016 Los Angeles auto show.
Unlike the minor refresh the Countryman received in 2014, this is a comprehensive redesign. Visually, the new SUV sheds the first generation’s “lifted hatchback” appearance and moves closer to a coherent crossover design. It’s 7.8 inches longer than the outgoing model, including a wheelbase stretch of 2.9 inches. To scale the appearance with the growth spurt, the Countryman wears bulging fender flares and sizeable wheels, moving well away from the first generation model’s tall and ungainly appearance.
Predictably, the available engine and transmissions are sampled from the rest of the Mini model lineup. Settle for the base drivetrain and you’ll receive a Countryman with the 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder we’ve come to know and tolerate; output remains at 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque, with power routed to the front two or all four wheels. Front-wheel drive models arrive with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, whereas the All4 all-wheel drive variants come with a choice of the manual or the slick eight-speed auto.
Springing for the Countryman Cooper S gets you a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 offering up 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. The Cooper S is only available with all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed automatic.
Thanks to a curb weight hovering between 3,300 and 3,600 pounds, performance isn’t spectacular. The best 60 mph sprint the existing three-cylinder Mini Countryman can muster is 9.3 seconds in front-wheel-drive configuration and 9.5 seconds for the all-wheel-drive model. Climb up to the hotter Cooper S drivetrain, and 0-60 mph times drop to 7.0 seconds.
Despite the growth in external proportions, rear legroom shrinks by 0.7 in. The trade-off is that cargo capacity grows by 5.4 cubic feet, now swallowing 17.6 cubic feet; volume grows to 47.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are stowed. To maintain Mini’s trademark quirkiness, each Countryman arrives with a cushioned, foldable “picnic bench” stored in the rear storage area.
Mini purports the 2017 Countryman as a nicer place to be than the previous gen, with leatherette upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and a back-up camera coming as standard features. If you spend a little more coin for some technology packages, Mini installs an 8.8-inch touch-screen display that makes its debut on the crossover.
In addition to the regular powertrains, Mini pulled the covers off a production plug-in hybrid variant of the 2017 Countryman, which becomes Mini’s first hybrid and its first electrified vehicle to enter series production (only several hundred units of 2009’s Mini E were made). Bearing the easy-to-digest moniker of Countryman Cooper S E All4, it uses the base model’s 1.5-liter I-3 to power to the front wheels and an electric motor fed by a 7.6 kWh battery to power the rear. Combined power is an impressive 221 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque.
Mini says that the PHEV Countryman will cover 24 miles on the battery alone with a maximum speed of 77 mph. Thanks to the ample torque, 0-60 mph arrives in a quick 6.8 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 137 mph.
Mini has not released pricing information on the new Countryman, but confirms the regular SUV will arrive on dealer lots in March of 2017, with the plug-in made available from June 2017. Check back for more information on Mini’s newest SUV at the official debut next month at the LA auto show.
2017 Mini Cooper Countryman
ON SALE: Spring 2017
PRICE: $26,000 (base) (est)
ENGINE: 1.5L turbo DOHC 12-valve I-3/134 hp @ 4,400 rpm, 162 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm; 2.0L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/189 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 207 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm; and 1.5L turbo DOHC 12-valve I-3/134 hp @ 4,400 rpm, 162 lb-ft @ 1,250 rpm plus electric DC motor/87 hp, 122 lb-ft; combined 221 hp
TRANSMISSION: 6-, 8-speed automatic, 6-speed manual
LAYOUT: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD/AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE: N/A
L x W x H: 169.8 x 71.7 x 61.3 in
WHEELBASE: 105.1 in
WEIGHT: 3,300-3,671 lb
0-60 MPH: 6.8-9.5 sec
TOP SPEED: 122-137 mph