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Big Country

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Sep 6, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2011 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 (photos by Harvey Schwartz

If sports car company Porsche can sell an SUV, who’s to stop MINI from doing the same? Porsche’s SUV, the Cayenne, has been a phenomenal success for the German mark. Who could blame MINI for wanting some of the action? In the case of the English car company, it meant going up in size as well. And so the MINI version is BIG in comparison to the original, but it’s still a MINI. LA Car Feature Editor Harvey Schwartz tests the top-of-the-line version of MINI’s mini-SUV—the Cooper S Countryman ALL4. By Harvey Schwartz The new MINI Cooper has been a phenomenon here ever since it first débuted a couple of years ago. MINI owner car clubs have popped up all over the country as this fabled, small, ubiquitous two-door was taken over, redesigned to modern day standards, and marketed around the world by BMW. To expand its sales to families and active singles and couples, MINI introduces the four-door Countryman in 2011. Two more seats for adults or children are in order, or you can fold the two seats down to increase cargo space. More front and rear overhang is necessary on the new MINI since it has been transformed into a crossover/station wagon. The wheelbase has been lengthened to 102.2 inches, almost two inches longer than the Clubman and a solid five inches over the standard MINI Cooper coupe.


These new extra inches are going to good use as the 2011 MINI Cooper Countryman’s standard rear bucket seats have a 5.1 inch fore/aft range adjustment. You can also order their three-place bench seat at no extra cost if you want your MINI Countryman to seat five. The bench seat will also adjust fore/aft, similar to a 60/40 split bench, and like the bucket seats, it seatback cushions recline. With all of the seats reclined you get 12.2 cubic feet of cargo space. If you drop the rear seats into the floor you can get up to 41 cubic feet of cargo space. You can also use the roof rack to store cargo to your needs. The MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 we tested comes with the 1.6 liter inline four-cylinder engine that adds BMW’s Valvetronic variable valve lift to the twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection systems. This combination adds up to 181 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque (192 pound-feet with the overboost) and more efficient fuel economy. The base MINI Countryman features the normally aspirated 1.6 liter engine with no Valvetronic or direct injection systems and makes just 121 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 118 pound-feet or torque. In our opinion, you are better off with the optional engine that came with our test Countryman. The new MINI Cooper S comes equipped with MINI’s familiar Getrag six-speed manual transmission allowing you to change gears as you like. MINI’s six-speed automatic transmission is optional and includes paddle shifters for even more fun-to-drive action.


Front-wheel-drive is standard but the fun and extra traction needed in the snow, wet, or slick road surfaces is made easier and safer with the optional ALL4 all-wheel-drive system that is available only on the MINI Cooper S Countryman. Even though it is touted as all-wheel-drive, it only indicates a clutch-pack coupling built into the final-drive unit. An electrically driven hydraulic pump governs the pressure that reaches the coupling. In dry conditions, you can expect most of the torque to go to the Countryman’s front wheels. Up to 50% can be redirected rearward to promote proper cornering character, and in really extreme cases, up to 100% of engine torque can go to the rear wheels. Also, an electronic limited-slip differential allows for side-to-side torque swaps between the car’s front wheels. The suspension is fully independent with a MacPherson strut setup up front and a multi-link setup in the rear with front/rear sway bars. It gets a slightly softer tune since the car is bigger and heavier, even with the sport suspension. Turn-in is excellent but it tends to get a little loose at speed in S-curves as the sway bars try keeping the rear from hanging out as the new Countryman has a higher ride height. I’d advise taking it easy when driving on continuous curving roads. The electric power rack & pinion steering is nicely weighted with a great feel for the road and quick, precise response to your inputs.


The brakes are slightly larger to more effectively and safely slow this larger and heavier MINI Cooper S Countryman down from speed. Up front are 12.1-inch vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers and 12-inch solid discs in the rear clamped with single-piston calipers. Keeping you in control are standard ABS, EBD, Corner Brake Control, Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control with EDLC. The new MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 rides on big, 18X8 inch alloy wheels wrapped with 245/45R18 inch all-season run-flat tires for a smooth and quiet ride. Inside the new, larger, roomier cabin is basically the same dashboard setup but for the addition of two more toggle switches for the rear door windows, larger air-vents at the ends of each side of the dashboard, new surfaces that are now textured grain and newly designed door panels that underline the specific shape of the body. In addition to being the biggest and most rugged member of the MINI family, the Countryman promises to be the most tech-laden. Adaptive HID headlights are optional, and MINI is promising full integration for iPhones and other smartphones that find their way into your Countryman.


While the all-new 2011 MINI Cooper Countryman is more useful and practical than any other MINI to date, be prepared to spend more money as prices start at $26,950.00, and my fully loaded S ALL4 model was stickered at $34,650.00 including destination. Standard features in the 2011 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 not mentioned above that we tested include Tire Monitor, automatic climate control with micro filter and air-recirculation, manual six-way adjustable front bucket seats, adjustable tilt/telescopic sport leather-wrapped steering wheel, sport button for quick throttle and steering response, Boost CD,AM-FM audio system with HD radio technology, six speakers and auxiliary input jack, power windows all express up/down, center rail with eyeglass case and two cupholders, center console with two cupholders, low-profile aluminum roof rails, seven-airbags, side-curtain airbags, thick floor mats front/rear, cold weather package of power folding/heated sideview mirrors, leather seats (heated front), dual pane panoramic sunroof, Harman-Kardon sound system, black stripes, Xenon headlamps, 18X8 inch alloy wheels, comfort access keyless entry, cargo net, center armrest, park distance control in the rear, and fog lamps.


© Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz SUMMARY JUDGMENT Notwithstanding the four doors and all-wheel drive, the biggest MINI of them all is still a MINI. For more information on MINI products, go to SPECIFICATIONS Name: 2011 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 Price: $26,950.00 (base) $34,650.00 (as tested, plus destination) EPA fuel economy rating: 25mpg/city, 31mpg/highway


Engine: Turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6 liter, all-aluminum, 16-valve, 4-cylinder with Valvetronic Horsepower: 181 at 5,500 rpm Torque: 177 pound-feet at 1,600 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/all-wheel drive Transmission: Getrag six-speed manual Front suspension: Independent, MacPherson with stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent, multi-link with stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 18X8 inch alloy wheels/245/45R18in. all-season radials Brakes: Front: 12.1 inch vented with dual piston calipers Rear: 12 inch solid discs with single-piston calipers ABS, EBD, Dynamic Stability Control Dimensions Total length: 161.3 inches Total width: 70.4 inches Total height: 61.5 inches Curb weight: 3,042 pounds


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