First Look: MINI Cooper S Countryman Makes UK Debut

First Look: MINI Cooper S Countryman Makes UK Debut

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
04 Sep 2010

Countryman will be the fourth member of the MINI family following Hatch, Convertible and Clubman but the first to have four doors, seating for five adults and the first to offer four wheel drive. The MINI Countryman will be available in seven models, two of which will offer ALL4, MINI’s new four wheel drive option. Countryman offers more space, more practicality and more versatility than any MINI before and it will also spearhead MINI’s return to the World Rally Championship in 2011.

“Countryman takes the MINI story to a new level in the brand’s 51 year heritage” said Jochen Goller, Director of MINI UK. “With extra space, ALL4 and four doors we believe the MINI Countryman will appeal to a completely new audience and with prices starting at £16,000 with a very high standard specification, I think we are on to a winner” he said. “The fact that Countryman is already sold out for this year indicates that MINI showrooms are going to be popular this autumn” Goller observed.

The demand for crossover vehicles has grown substantially in recent years: drivers want the best of both worlds with normal saloon-like driving responses as well as the added versatility of soft off-road ability and the interior flexibility to cope with all the hobbies, shopping trips and activities that are such a huge part of busy modern family life.

As a result, MINI Countryman arrives in a growing segment that presents an opportunity to attract buyers from a wide range of competitive cars. Not only will they find the flexibility their lifestyle demands but they will also discover the world of MINI, a world where practicality and versatility does not bring limitations on the fun that can be derived from driving.

“The Countryman models still pack in the driving thrills that put a grin on your face the way all MINIs do” said Lee Connolly, Product and Planning Manager at MINI UK. “But the Countryman also brings new levels of space and versatility to the range that will attract not only existing MINI owners but also new customers. We expect that the extra space will mean that around 80 per cent of Countryman sales will come from customers completely new to the MINI brand. Already we see the MINI Countryman being the benchmark in terms of residual values and lease company whole life costs. ”

One could not mistake the new Countryman for anything other than a MINI yet it is distinctly different to any that has gone before. It is 374mm longer than a MINI Hatch (at 4097mm), 106 mm wider (at 1,789 mm) and 154mm taller (at 1561mm). Countryman offers 190 litres more luggage capacity than a MINI Hatch with the seats up (a total of 350 litres) and 1,170 litres with the rear seats folded flat. For the first time ever a MINI has four wide-opening doors, passenger capacity for five adults and a flexible, activity-orientated interior packed with innovations. All UK models will be built as five seat cars, although customers can specify the four seat option at no extra cost.

Featuring that typical ‘wheel at each corner’ stance with short overhangs, the Countryman not only has larger dimensions than its cousins but also a higher ride height. This provides the commanding driving position preferred by many drivers with a 10mm higher ground clearance for soft off-road driving.

Many design characteristics are familiar such as the high window line surrounding the glasshouse while others are new interpretations of iconic features. For example, the roofline with roof rails, the reinterpretation of the hexagonal radiator grille on the Cooper S models, and the prominent headlight units integrated into the bonnet.

The front of the Countryman is more upright projecting a confident ‘face’ which also offers improved pedestrian safety. The wheel arches are more flared highlighting the robust nature of the Countryman as a true crossover and its soft off-road ability while the design of the wide-opening tailgate offers easy access to the large boot space.

At launch the Countryman range will include three petrol – MINI One, Cooper and Cooper S - and two diesel models – MINI One D and Cooper D - as well as two ALL4 all wheel drive models, the Cooper D ALL4 and Cooper S ALL4. Each model is equipped with an entirely new generation of power units. The petrol engines are the new 1.6 litre four cylinder power plants already announced for the Hatch, Convertible and Clubman models in spring 2010 and feature the BMW Group’s considerable expertise in marrying free-revving, refined and efficient driving characteristics.

The petrol engines all feature Variable Valve Timing (VVT), similar to the BMW Valvetronic system, and produces more torque low down and aids response and efficiency. The Cooper S model also benefits from a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection that gives blistering performance with modest fuel economy and low CO² emissions.

The diesel models are powered by an all-new BMW 1.6 litre four cylinder, the N47 turbocharged unit that employs all the BMW Group’s proven prowess with compression ignition engines. The lightweight aluminium engines use common-rail direct injection and a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry. Both are fitted with a diesel particulate filter and an oxidation catalytic converter. These state of the art diesel power units set the highest standards, not only for performance and response but also for fuel economy and low emissions. The Cooper D Countryman will be available with an automatic transmission in March 2011.

All MINI Countryman models drive through a six speed manual gearbox. A six speed automatic transmission is available as an option for the petrol-engined cars.

For the very first time in MINI’s 51 year history two models in the new Countryman range will offer four-wheel drive. The MINI Cooper D and Cooper S ALL4 models will be available from day one while a MINI Cooper ALL4 version will follow in 2012. Employing the BMW Group’s expertise and considerable success with Sports Activity Vehicles and xDrive, MINI will now enter a new chapter with Countryman.

No one needs four-wheel drive to be active all the time so MINI has a typically smart and fuel efficient answer for this conundrum. The Countryman ALL4 is a front wheel drive car in most normal circumstances, but when any slip is detected on the front wheels, or if the car is being driven enthusiastically, an electro-magnetic clutch, located on the rear axle, engages drive to the rear wheels to improve traction. To enable this imperceptible change of the driven wheels a propeller shaft from the front axle is driven constantly and is ready to direct drive forces from the front axle to the rear immediately. The amount of power fed to the rear wheels is infinitely variable between one and 100 per cent, depending upon the driving conditions.

Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) allows controlled slip through the driven wheels to aid moving off on loose sand or deep snow. DTC is standard feature on the two ALL4 models and the front-wheel drive MINI Cooper S Countryman, and is also available as an option for the other models. When the stability system is deactivated (in DSC Off mode) an electronic locking function for the front axle differential comes into play. In tight corners it brakes a spinning wheel as required to reduce slip and enhance handling. Known as Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC), this system enhances the car’s traction without adversely affecting its steering properties.

“Countryman ALL4 is a soft off-roader for use in everyday situations like driving in snowy conditions, parking in a field for a sporting event or driving on the beach” explained Lee Connolly, MINI UK Product Manager. “It works like a dream and brings new found flexibility to the MINI driving experience” he claimed.

Credits: wilswong

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