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2011 Mini Countryman Preview

2011 Mini Countryman Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2010
2011 Mini CountrymanCritical Knowledge:
  • All-new compact sport utility vehicle (SUV)
  • Larger in stature than any other Mini model
  • New design with unique front fascia
  • The first 4-door offering from Mini
  • The first all-wheel-drive system from Mini
  • Shares engines with the Mini Cooper and Cooper S
  • Will offer John Cooper Works upgrades
  • Standard 4-passenger cabin
  • Debuts in March 2010 at the Geneva Motor Show
Introduction
The world was introduced to the Morris Mini-Minor, affectionately called the "Mini," in 1959. It was undersized and rather slow, but a featherweight chassis with tiny 10-inch wheels pushed to the furthest corners of the vehicle did offer one benefit-the Mini was very fun to drive.

Today, BMW is the new owner of the "MINI" brand (the automaker uses all capital letters in its marketing efforts to differentiate the new Mini from the old). Mixing updated chassis technology, modern safety advances and the original marque's small-car formula, the automaker has successfully launched 3-door hatchback, convertible and wagon (called the Clubman) variants since 2002.

Mini is adding a fourth model to the family for 2011. Unlike the other three models-all variants of the front-wheel-drive Mini Cooper-the all-new Mini Countryman is a compact SUV with a traditional 4-door body style, tall ride height, and available 4-wheel drive. The strong family resemblance is still there, but the Countryman is unlike anything Mini has offered in the recent past.

The all-new Mini Countryman is scheduled to debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2010.

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2011 Mini CountrymanDesign
The Mini Countryman "bridges the gap between the classic concept of the Mini and a modern Sports Activity Vehicle," says parent automaker BMW. In contrast to any other model in Mini's lineup, the Mini SUV offers larger body dimensions, greater ground clearance and a wide-opening rear hatch.

Like other Mini models, the Countryman features short overhangs front and rear with a tall beltline. Advancing the styling, the Countryman re-interprets the classic Mini roof and headlights with its own unique proportions and design. It puts on a fresh face with a hexagon-shaped radiator grille, headlights integrated into the front edge of the hood, and much larger wheel arches. The rear has redesigned light clusters that are both taller and narrower, a larger tailgate, more prominent Mini badge, and a new rear valance that incorporates the license plate, which has been moved off the tailgate.

The interior is all Mini-from the large centrally-located speedometer in the middle console, to the round air vents. Unique to the Countryman is a center rail that extends from the front of the cabin to the rear. While it eliminates the rear center seating position-the standard Countryman is a 4-passenger vehicle-it offers new options for integrating all kinds of storage boxes, cup holders, audio devices, mobile telephones or other comfort features, the automaker points out (a 3-seat rear bench is a no-cost option). Like the Clubman wagon, the Countryman offers generous rear seat room. In addition, the seats slide fore and aft, and may be folded for even greater utility.

2011 Mini CountrymanHardware
At press time, Mini had only released information on European-spec models. However, the Countryman models destined for the United States are expected to receive the full suite of 4-cylinder engines currently fitted to the rest of the Mini lineup-including those offered with the John Cooper Works packages. These include a standard 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine developing 120 horsepower and 118 lb.-ft. of torque, and a more powerful 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger; output of the turbo engine is 175 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. Mini has been developing variable valve timing for the 1.6-liter engine, but we don't know if it is coming to the States. If it does, horsepower bumps up to 184 on the turbocharged variant. The standard engines will likely be mated to a CVT automatic with 6-speed Steptronic mode, while the sportier "S" models will be fitted with a 6-speed Aisin automatic with paddle shifters.

Like other Mini models, the standard drivetrain will send power to the front wheels. However, an all-wheel-drive system, called Mini ALL4, will be offered as an option. The standard suspension system includes front MacPherson struts and a rear multi-link design. A sport suspension, lowering the Countryman by nearly half an inch for a reduced center of gravity (to improve handling), is optional. Steering is through an electric power steering (EPS) system with standard Servotronic speed-sensitive steering for better feedback. Wheels range from 16 to 19 inches in diameter, and are cast in light aluminum alloy.

2011 Mini CountrymanTechnology
The Countryman is the first Mini model to offer all-wheel drive. The system is called Mini ALL4, and it will be optional on the automaker's first SUV. Unlike most part-time all-wheel-drive systems that send nearly all of the engine's power to the front wheel under normal driving conditions, ALL4 will send up to 50 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels on dry pavement-thereby improving dry handling. If the system detects slippage, an electro-hydraulic differential positioned directly on the final drive is able to vary the distribution from front to rear in an infinite process. Under extreme conditions, the system is able to send up to 100 percent of the torque to the rear wheels.

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