Posted Jun 12th 2012 11:57AM
Mini drivers are a unique bunch. Typically they are style conscious, funky, prefer the finer things in life and enjoy driving their cars with great gusto. At least that's how I see it. Every time I notice someone driving a Mini, they look thoroughly pleased with themselves and life in general.
Now, Mini offers the chance to experience this feeling of being one with your vehicle in all types of road and weather conditions. And in a four-door SUV-like vehicle to boot. With the Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4, it appears you can have your cake and eat it to. In fact, why not have a full outdoor picnic in a remote desert location where lesser cars would never dare to tread. Look who's smiling all over again!
Related Gallery2012 Mini Countryman S
The 2012 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 is equipped with a turbocharged 1.6-litre DOHC 4-cylinder engine. Matched to a 6-speed manual transmission, it produces 181 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 177 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600-5,000 rpm. Zero to 100 km/h takes 7.5 seconds, plus an additional .3 seconds when equipped with the automatic transmission. Top speed in Canada is limited to 215 km/h.
Fuel consumption estimates indicate 7.7/6.1 L/100 km city/highway for the manual equipped Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4. Equipped with an automatic transmission, economy ratings suffer a little in the city at 8.1 L/100 km, but offers identical figures for the highway at 6.1 L/100 km.
Handling is superb in the Countryman; more so when equipped with what Mini terms ALL4 permanent all-wheel drive technology. Stability control splits the torque front to back based on several factors including speed, steering angle and rate of acceleration. Changes happen in milliseconds and you are left with a feeling of security generally reserved for much larger SUV's and Crossovers.
Steering is tight and controlled, exactly what we have come to expect from every BMW-inspired Mini vehicle on the road. Suspension ride is stiff and there are times when potholes feel as though they are coming through the floor to swallow you whole, but overall the trade-off is something I could live with.
Stopping power is improved with standard ABS, Brake Assist and Cornering Brake Control (keeping the car stable under braking while turning). Also helping maintain the stability of this 1,455 kg "Mini" 4-door are the additions of Dynamic Stability Control and Dynamic Traction Control.
I had a chance to test the all-wheel drive capabilities in Kuhtai, Austria this past March and was suitably impressed with how easily it handles the road and all types of weather. We blasted our way up tight mountain roads, over snow-covered terrain worthy of an outdoor adventure TV show and down sun drenched two-lanes one minute, icy slick death-defying curves the next. Amusement parks should be this much fun.
Exterior design is Mini with maxi attitude. This is a big, small car that confidently resembles the nameplate but sacrifices some of its character for function. If you want a true Mini, get the Cooper as you will be happier in the long run. But if you want what the brand stands for and have the need to carry up to four people and their stuff, this can be an excellent compromise.
Large round headlights, doors that open wide, a tall roofline for the size and a stance that seems removed enough from the road to tackle that dirt road you take to the cottage every summer. The raised rear quarter features an upward lifting tailgate and twin exhaust pipes.
Inside, four seats are separated by a center rail that holds coffee, sunglasses, cellphones and much more. Simply click in and slide away. Personally, I found this feature to be smart in design but less so in comfort. Something about have a small train track run through the middle of the seating compartment seems a little too out there for my liking. Seats, on the other hand, are absolutely perfect, even in the back for those of taller stature.
Creature comforts abound in the Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4. Climate control air conditioning, a superb console layout with power functions for all major items and there's that massive speedometer mounted in the center of the dash. It's not for everyone, but I like it and the funky manner in which Mini manages to deliver all the information necessary and keep their identity firmly intact.
All things considered, asking $34,400 Canadian for a well-equipped all-purpose Mini with room for four adults isn't too much of a stretch. Exclusivity is still a big part of the brand and Mini is making a calculated decision to choose their family wisely. Given there is much more coming down the road, the opportunity to keep you in the fold will be significant. Though not a new concept in the world of automotive sales, it does offer the potential for a very enjoyable long term relationship.
Image Credit: Copyright 2012 Mark Pereira / AOL