2017 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4
This Mini isn’t so mini
Words by: Adam Allen
This is one big Mini.
Affirmative. This is the biggest Mini currently for sale, even larger than the Clubman we drove earlier this summer. Mini engineers decided to raid BMW’s parts bin for the Countryman’s underpinnings, and now the UKL2 bones it rides on are shared with the BMW X1. Cribbing the platform from the guys down the hall imbues the Countryman with a pleasing sense of solidity and refinement, much more than you’d expect from the class in which it competes. It’s also the most commodious Mini, offering up a good amount of room for passengers and gear alike. The dimensions firmly nudge the Countryman into crossover territory, as does the availability of all-wheel drive, which our tester had.
So it’s bigger…looks more grown up, too.
Take a look at the Countryman- despite the large proportions, you’re never going to mistake it for anything else other than a Mini. Yet as we walked towards our tester when we picked it up from BMW HQ, we were struck by how mature it looks; classy, even. We never tire of British Racing Green livery on any Mini, and the optional 19” wheels on our tester filled out the fenders nicely and added an appreciable dosage of curb appeal.
It’s the same story inside, too.
The Countryman’s airy cabin is as smartly dressed as the exterior. You slide behind the wheel and are supported by seats that are as comfortable as they are attractive- the brown quilted leather thrones contrast nicely with thoughtful touches of faux metal trim and discreet bits of chrome sprinkled throughout. The dashboard is dominated by the now familiar circular display that houses a high-resolution display of Mini’s excellent Connected Infotainment system. It works beautifully and intuitively, even if the reach for the control knob is a bit awkward. Some complain that the dash-mounted toggle switches are a pain to use, but we find them refreshing. Same goes for the honest-to-goodness knobs for the temperature and fan speed, which move with oiled precision. The rear seat passengers are treated to a good amount of room, but taller folks will find it can get a bit cramped. While we’re on the subject of tighter confines, we wish the rear cargo area had a bit more space but at least the seats will fold down to accommodate larger stuff.
It feels more grown up.
The X1’s bones have given the Countryman some positive attributes it didn’t enjoy in the previous generation. Now that it doesn’t use frameless glass in the doors like you find in other Minis, closing the doors in the Countryman sees them shut with a satisfying thud, very close to what you find in big brother BMWs. We were pleasantly surprised at its high-speed stability all the way up to extralegal speeds on the highway, too. Usually, crossovers of this ilk are a little too busy wandering between the lanes and generally lacking the feeling of button-down security. The Countryman has that composed behavior in spades. The solid underpinnings translate into a crossover that handles way better than it ought to, and certainly better than competitors. Even the ride, which used to be a Mini weak point because of its brittle feel and propensity to shake fillings loose is nice and composed despite the performance run-flat tires on 19-inch rubber. The contact patches are manipulated by a steering rack which has been criticized of being too quick and nervous and therefore not in line with the mission of a crossover. We disagree- the engineers have given the Countryman a rack that is still nicely responsive but not too edgy.
Is it still fun?
The Countryman may have traded some of its exuberance for sensible maturity, but it’s still quite enjoyable to drive. The suspension is tuned to boogie and the optional rubber sharpens up braking and handling. The ALL4 all-wheel drive is front biased, so those intent on power sliding their Countryman will be disappointed. But throw it some curves and you can feel the power going to the rear axle, helping it carve a tidy line. Selecting Sport mode on the console mounted switch further livens things up, and the accelerator becomes much more alert, as does the suspension. Curiously, and we have no empirical means to back this up, but the Countryman seemed to have the loudest turbo whistle we’ve heard coming from under the hood than any Mini we’ve driven in recent memory, including the hottest JCW models.
What might go wrong?
The Countryman may have grown up slightly, although it seems unusual that paddle shifters wouldn’t be part of the deal to control the excellent 8-speed automatic, especially at this price threshold. Actually, pricing in general will keep this Mini from appealing to a broader audience- ours stickered for $47,630- quite a bit more than its competitors, although the Countryman has polish and competence that elude the others.
Should I buy a Mini Countryman?
Are you in the market for a crossover and are willing to spoil yourself a bit? If that sounds like you, then you need to give the Countryman serious consideration. Only those who seek maximum cargo volume will be slightly let down. Sure, its costly, but does offer a driving experience and build quality that is head and shoulders above what you find typical of the class.
2017 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 – Specifications
- Price as tested: $47,630
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger CUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 189 @ 5,000 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 207 @ 1,350 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,665 kg (3,671 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 10.4L/100km (23 mpg)