The newest not-so-mini MINI to debut is the brand-new 2017 MINI Countryman, which, now in its second-generation, is bigger, more capable and more impressive than its predecessor. But it isn’t just the size of the MINI Countryman that’s increased, but its capabilities as well. Whereas the previous car was just a bloated MINI for people who wanted more space, this new Countryman is actually for people who have an active lifestyle and who will use its newfound capabilities.
Based on BMW’s UKL architecture, the new MINI Countryman measures 7.8 inches longer than the outgoing model, a full inch wider and its wheelbase has grown 2.9 inches. This increase in size has dramatically increased interior passenger and cargo space as well as now offering five fully-fledged seats. The seating position is also higher, now, offering a more SUV-like seating height to aid in outward visibility. In the rear, the seats can slide longitudinally, fore and aft, by up to five inches. The rear seatbacks can recline and also fold flat, with a 40:20:40 split. To aid in its outdoors image, a new Picnic Bench option is available, which provides a padded cushion for the rear tailgate so passengers can sit and rest while the car is parked and maybe enjoy some lunch outdoors.
On the outside, the new Countryman is an improvement over the outgoing model. Where the previous model looked a bit frumpy and ungainly, this new model is a far more handsome car. While it still isn’t what you might call pretty, especially with that sad face, it’s much better looking than before. It’s more muscular and more chiseled, certainly the more rugged looking car. I think MINI’s gotten the proportions right on this car and the new squarish headlights look great, but the sad-sack mouth for a grille is still a turn off. Otherwise, it’s very typical MINI and all the modern MINI design cues are present.
Inside, it’s also very modern MINI, with little to distinguish it from the Clubman. More ambient lighting, a better-sorted center console, a new armrest and wider dash trim make the cabin feel more upscale and premium, but otherwise this is a typical MINI cabin. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, though, as you’d be hard pressed to find an interior that can match any MINI’s at the price-point.
Two engine options will be available for the Countryman at launch. Under the hood of the standard MINI Cooper Countryman will lie a 1.5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine making 134 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. In the higher-spec MINI Cooper S Countryman will be the B48 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, making 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Both engine options will come with front-wheel drive as standard with MINI’s optional ALL4 all-wheel drive system.
The standard transmission for both models will, thankfully, be a six-speed manual. However, optional automatic transmissions are available. For the MINI Cooper Countryman ALL4, Cooper S Countryman and Cooper S Countryman ALL4, the automatic option will be the Aisin eight-speed unit, which is a peach of a gearbox. For the front-wheel drive MINI Cooper Countryman, a six-speed auto will be available. The fastest model available is the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 with the eight-speed auto, doing 0-60 mph in 7 seconds flat. That makes the other models quite slow, but MINIs have never been about pure speed, anyway.
Following the launch of the Countryman will come a plug-in hybrid variant, called the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. That will use the same 1.5 liter turbo three-pot, mated to an electric motor and the six-speed auto. Total system output will be 221 hp, making it the most powerful and efficient but also the heaviest.
MINI has also revised the new ALL4 all-wheel drive system. It now consists of a power take-off unit integrated in the front axle differential, a prop shaft leading to the rear axle and a hang-on clutch that ensures precisely measured transmission of the drive torque to the rear wheels. The system’s electronic control is connected to the Dynamic Stability Control system (DSC), so it detects any need to adapt power early on.
Now, if you think that the MINI Countryman has lost some of its MINI-ness now that’s it’s gone big and mature, you’d be wrong. In terms of suspension, the Countryman is still all-MINI. With the traditional single-joint strut axle at the front and multi-link rear setup, the Countryman should still handle exactly like a MINI should. Except, it’s, ya know, bigger.
The typical MINI Dynamic Damper Control will be available and will adjustable via MINI’s rotary switch around the gear lever. This will control the three usual flavors of MID, SPORT and GREEN. MID is the normal mode, or “Comfort” in BMW speak, while SPORT is obviously sportier and GREEN is the eco-friendly mode.
New to the Countryman is the new MINI Connected system, which goes beyond the typical infotainment systems. It will actually act as a personal mobility assistant and will provide support for the driver’s planning, even outside the vehicle. It can help driver’s more easily reach appointments or meetings, inform the driver of departure times, calendar events and traffic data.
Another new feature is the MINI Find Mate, which can help keep track of anything the driver wants it to. The MINI Find Mate comes with two bluetooth tags that can be applied to luggage, backpacks or even keys, so that the Countryman can keep track of if these items are in the car or not, so the driver doesn’t forget them. Could be handy during frantic trips to the airport or on a roadtrip. The car will send an audible signal if the item isn’t inside the car and send the bluetooth location to the driver’s smartphone. If the item is outside of bluetooth range, the car will navigate the driver back to its last known location. Cool stuff.
Overall, the new MINI Countryman seems to be a massive step up from its slightly wayward predecessor. While the first-gen Countryman wasn’t a bad car, it was one that just didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be. Was it an SUV, was it a small MINI? It just didn’t have a clear objective and the quality of the vehicle suffered because of it. This new second-gen Countryman seems to have a much better understanding of what it wants to be. It’s a MINI for people with an active lifestyle. A car that offers a ton of usability, versatility and capability, while still offering a fun-to-drive MINI experience. Will it be as fun to drive as a standard MINI Cooper S or even a Cooper Clubman S? No, but this is a car for MINI fans who have a growing family and/or an active lifestyle. If that sounds like you, that the MINI Countryman could be calling your name.
2017 MINI Countryman Island Blue
2017 MINI Countryman Chestnut
2017 MINI Countryman Plug-in Hybrid
2017 MINI Countryman Interior Design