MINI Takes The States Tour, Day 4: Pittsburgh To Columbus In The MINI Countryman

MINI Takes The States Tour, Day 4: Pittsburgh To Columbus In The MINI Countryman

Day 4 Of the MINI Takes The States Tour was an exciting one for me, as I was able to sample the all-new MINI Countryman before nearly anyone else.  Saturday’s epic blast through two states left me exhausted, and I was expecting the Countryman to be a little more laid back than the Clubman S I drove yesterday. I was wrong. Don’t think of the Countryman as a MINI SUV, but as a MINI Cooper S for people with obligations.

Hit the jump to read more about the MINI Countryman

The Countryman, MINI’s 4-door crossover might be longer, wider and taller than you’d expect a MINI to be, but a blindfolded drive in the Countryman (if such a thing were possible) would fool anyone into thinking they were driving a Cooper S or Clubman S.

While the Countryman is 5.5-inches longer than a Clubman, and nearly 16 inches longer than a Hardtop, it still comes in smaller than a Golf. And yes, the Countryman drove very similarly to the rest of the MINI lineup, so much so that the higher driving position and ride height became a non-issue in the enjoyment of this vehicle. In fact, the higher vantage point in the Countryman feels more like a “normal” car than anything – it’s just not as low as other MINIs.

The Countryman S I drove uses the familiar turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 181 horsepower and 177 ft-lbs of torque. The power delivery is a bit slower than its two door stablemates, due to the weight and the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system, but the same taut steering, slick-shifting 6-speed gearbox (try getting that in a Jeep Compass) and powerful brakes are still present. Despite the slightly sluggish acceleration, the car is still capable of effortlessly passing traffic on the highway, while pulling strong throughout the rev range. Expect 0-60 times in the mid 7 second range. One positive trade-off of the All4 system is that it eliminates the sophomoric torque steer present in the front-drive models.

While the car doesn’t feel as nimble as the Hardtop or Clubman, it does feel very planted and stable, thanks in part to the long wheelbase and all-wheel-drive. There weren’t too many opportunities to test out the handling of the car on the kind of roads I saw with the Clubman, but on-ramps could easily be taken at high speed, and with the sport button engaged, the car mimics the characteristics of the other S models, namely the heavier steering and sharper throttle response. The ride is still fairly firm, not as much as the Clubman S, but enough that traditional crossover shoppers will be in for a fight. I could see this turning off some prospective customers, but the flip-side is that it drives like a MINI rather than the body-roll-infused competition. MINI CEO Jim McDowell let it slip to me that the ALL4 system will cost an extra $1700 on top of the base price (which he didn’t divulge) and that he expects 30% of buyers to opt in.

The Countryman’s rear seat layout apes the minivans of the 1990s, in that it offers two rear seat buckets that can slide back and forth. Some buyers might be turned off by the lack of a middle seat, but the truth is, in most small crossovers, the middle seat is not a place you’d like to spend time. The sliding seats offer a unique way to maximize passenger space as well as cargo room, but we’ll have to see whether customers take to it as well. According to McDowell, the 5-seat layout also didn’t mean federal regulations, necessitating the 2+2 configuration. As I mentioned during my Day 1 coverage, the rear seats are quite spacious in all dimensions, and the adjustable rear seats add a considerable degree of flexibility, as space can be optimized for carrying either passengers or cargo.

MINI will host a formal driving event in October, but from the couple hours I had behind the wheel, I was fairly impressed. That’s not to say the vehicle is flawless; the four-seat configuration may turn off some buyers, the relatively high price and harsh ride won’t be for everyone, and some purists may scoff at the notion of a “big MINI”.  I’d personally take a Clubman S, but my shopping list consists of a few boxes of Mac N’ Cheese and a case or two of beer, while my back seat is used for carrying a socket set and my helmet bag during track days. For car shoppers with two strollers, a diaper bag, car seats and the desire for an alternative to a crossover SUV, the Countryman is worth a look.

GALLERY: MINI Countryman

Day2 001.jpgDay2 002.jpgDay2 003.jpgDay2 004.jpgDay2 005.jpgDay2 006.jpgDay2 007.jpgDay2 008.jpgDay2 009.jpgDay2 011.jpgDay2 012.jpg

A Chat With Jim McDowell:

Along the way to Columbus, I rode with Jim McDowell, the head of MINI USA. McDowell and I chatted about the car industry, future product plans and his journey through the car world. At one point, we missed an exit for a scheduled stop on the route while chatting in the Countryman.

Having worked with Porsche and BMW both in America and Germany (where McDowell and his family lived for a number of years), McDowell returned when BMW began constructing their assembly plant in South Carolina. McDowell joined MINI five years ago, and has overseen growth of the brand since.

For MINI, cars like the Fiat 500 and the Scion iQ don’t represent much of a threat, according to McDowell.  He feels that the driving experience in the 500 won’t compare to MINI, and that while the 500 is a small car, MINI is first and foremost a premium, sporty car that happens to be small.

McDowell also said that the Countryman is the biggest MINI we’re going to see, but hinted at other variations – namely a Beachcomber concept – as candidates for MINI’s future. McDowell also hinted at the prospect of smaller displacement four-cylinder engines or even a three-cylinder engine as being able to provide the necessary efficiency without losing any performance. Interestingly, McDowell also said that while the MINI E will never be a production vehicle, technology from the E, as well as information gleaned from its development program will filter down to BMW’s upcoming Megacity electric city car, and play a major role in helping bring down the R&D costs of the vehicle.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Indianapolis, to check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and do a lap of the track. This will be my final leg, but the rally will continue on. Stay tuned to our news blog and Twitter feed for coverage of tomorrow’s leg.

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. * is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of, 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked