It looks like MINI is serious. They are actually making an SUV version (okay, crossover, technically) of their little, yet way too much fun, hatchback. It’s called the MINI Countryman, and it looks like a blast to drive. Although it has more room inside and better ground clearance, it’s not a serious off-roader, but it should be able to handle a few dusty trials with its optional all-wheel drive system.
MINI Countryman Debut
MINI had an eventful time in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show just after the first of the year, but here they are again, ready to drop the new Countryman during the upcoming 2010 Geneva Motor Show.
It’s worth pointing out how the Countryman is the first MINI model with four doors (and how about that wide-opening rear hatch!). MINI is promising more usability, practicality, and easier entry and exit. Speaking of getting in and out, there are only four seats. Gone is the middle seat in the back, but better to have four people ride in comfort than cram five in there like sardines.
Beyond that, MINI was a bit slim on the details, but say the new Countryman will have exclusive exterior colors and a zesty interior. According to MINI, this includes a wide range of upholstery and decorative trim, a high-end audio system, and navigation.
Engine & Powertrain
Now we get to the good stuff! The Countryman comes in two flavors: MINI Cooper Countryman and MINI Cooper S Countryman. The ALL4 permanent all-wheel-drive system is optional for both, but the engines are different.
The MINI Cooper Countryman has a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated four-banger that puts out 120 horsepower (6,000 rpm) and 118 lb-ft. of torque (4,250 rpm). The zero to 60 time is about 10.5 seconds, while the top speed is about 120 mph.
On the other hand, the MINI Cooper S Countryman has the same basic engine, but with a twin-scroll turbocharger. The bottom line here is that the turbo plant will deliver about 180 horsepower (5,500 rpm) and 177 lb-ft. of torque (and up to 192 lb-ft. at certain intervals, according to MINI). The zero to 60 time is a little snappier at 7.6 seconds with a top speed of 128 mph.
Now, about that permanent all-wheel-drive system. It utilizes an electro-hydraulic differential to vary the power distribution from front to rear. Under normal driving conditions, up to 50 percent of the engine’s power goes to the rear wheels. Under “extreme” conditions (no, they didn’t say what counts as extreme), up to 100 percent heads to the back wheels. It sounds like fun either way!
More to Come
The Countryman is MINI’s fourth model, which fits with the whole theme of four doors, four seats, and ALL4 all-wheel drive. As of this writing, MINI has not said precisely when the new Countryman will be available or what it will cost. The Countryman will have competition, however, in Geneva. The Audi A1 and Nissan Juke are both set to appear at the show in March.
Tony Borroz is a contributing writer for Automoblog who has worked in Motorsport and the aerospace and video game industries.