The automobile has been a kind of expression since its beginning, but there have been few brands to breathe and live that philosophy as holistically as has Mini. Both in its original incarnation and because its rebirth over 15 years back under BMW stewardship, the British marque has established its reputation on creating quirky cars with distinctive styling and lively handling.
Ironically, Mini’s best-selling model is its largest: the Countryman. Freshly redesigned and bigger than ever, Mini’s crossover SUV currently shares a platform with the BMW X1. The sportier Countryman S version reviewed here is well suited for enhanced functionality and imbued with a more lively personality.
The new, larger Countryman feels more refined and written than its predecessor. Its handling is not as athletic than that of those pint-size Mini Cooper Hardtop, but our Cooper S Countryman test car exhibited impressive agility for its class, zipping readily through traffic. Its standard 18-inch brakes wore Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Run Flat tires, yet the ride wasn’t penalizing on rough pavement; the automobile also clung to our skidpad with 0.86 g of lateral traction. That skidpad number was virtually equal to this one turned in by a non-S stick-shift Countryman we tested, but the S stopped 13 feet shorter from 70 miles (176 feet) compared with its lower-spec sibling.
The BMW-sourced mechanicals also include the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, which makes 189 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque at the Countryman S. Our 2017-model test car paired Mini’s $2000 All4 all-wheel-drive system using the standard six-speed manual gearbox instead of the optional $2000 paddle-shifted eight-speed automatic. (The front-wheel-drive Countryman S is not available with a manual transmission.) And although the shifter has long throws, it glides through the gates effortlessly and precision.
Thus equipped, this Mini went from zero to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds apartment. That is not blistering, but it’s 2.1 seconds faster than the non-S version. However, we want the turbocharged engine needed a little more flexibility; the fostered four-cylinder feels pokey under 2500 rpm and runs out of breath before reaching redline. When the motor is kept within its abbreviated powerband, however, there is lively response accompanied by a sporty exhaust burble.
Mini’s styling is not for everybody. The Countryman is unmistakably part of this clan, but its bigger proportions can seem muscular … or even like an adult dressed as a toddler. The redesigned lineup looks much like the last generation, with a square-jawed front finish, bug-eyed headlights, and a “floating” roof. But it’s 8.5 inches longer overall and 1.3 inches wider than before. The Cooper S we tested wore Thunder Grey metallic paint which cost $500 (Moonwalk Grey is the only no-cost hue), and the S version includes 18-inch brakes and LED front lighting as standard. Every Countryman has a dual-pane sunroof, rear parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and closeness entrance with push-button start.
Inside, the Countryman can get as amazing or as subdued as you like. Our instance was wrought with an attractive, $750 combination of black leatherette complemented with fabric that looked just like something you’d find on a midcentury sofa. The material quality is quite great for this class, even though there’s nothing you can spec to alter the toggle-switch-heavy array of controllers as well as the vertical driving position, each of which can take some getting used to. At least the Cooper S’s normal front sport seats are comfortable and relatively inviting. Its back seat is grownup friendly, also, thanks to a wheelbase stretched by 2.9 inches which helps enable an increase of approximately four inches of rear legroom versus the previous model.
As in any modern Mini, the distinctive dashboard is dominated by a centrally located circle, in this case housing an screen and surrounded with an illuminated ring which changes its colours depending on which controls and functions you’re adjusting. The ambient lighting is also used on the lower door panels and in the footwells, creating a cool aura. Our test car had the optional Technology package ($2250), which deals the standard 6.5-inch infotainment screen for an 8.8-inch touchscreen with navigation along with an assortment of apps. The bundle also has automatic parking aid, a head-up screen, and wireless phone charging; Apple CarPlay will be added as standard to 2018 models.
The base model starts at $31,950, but stacking on the options can quickly place this unique crossover beyond $40,000. That is a huge price to pay for any Mini, especially considering that the exact same money buys the quicker and more 10Best Trucks and SUVs–winning BMW X1. However, the Bimmer appears to be rather staid compared with all the fun and amazing Countryman S.