DETROIT – It's the widest, tallest and longest model yet. And it's also the heaviest, but my Mini was still one of the smallest, snazziest cars on the road.
To be specific, I'm talking about the Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 that I test drove for a very enjoyable week. Let me be candid. In my dream garage there are five parking spaces and one of them is reserved for a Mini.
I really do like the Mini and the Countryman expands the model lineup. First, this model had four doors and four seats in which four adults could actually sit. The back seats were surprisingly comfortable with ample head and legroom. What's more, the rear seat backs were adjustable.
There was an interesting contradiction at work with the Mini Cooper S Countryman. Even though it is an enlarged model, from the outside the car looks really small. But from the inside my test vehicle was very spacious.
The interior of my test car was dominated by the Mini's huge circular analog speedometer that topped the center stack and started a downward tier of instruments. In the bottom half of the speedometer was the audio controls.
Beneath was the slot for the CD player, beneath that was the climate controls and the beneath that were the Mini's really neat switches for the power windows. The odometer was in front of the driver and it had readouts for the speed of the car as well as the overall mileage and the trip mileage.
I thought the quickness of my Mini Cooper S Countryman was outstanding. It was powered by a 1.6 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that made 181 horsepower and it was mated to an optional six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability and paddle shifters. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard.
Although 181 horsepower may not sound like much but when it propelled a car that weighed just 3208 lbs it made for an awfully potent mix. My test vehicle was quick off the mark; it could not be bullied on the expressways. And its 177 pound-feet of torque which kicked in full brunt at 1,600 rpm meant that acceleration was authoritative from just about any speed.
In fact, Mini says its subcompact S Cooper Countryman can get to 60 mph from a standing start in seven seconds. That's pretty quick for a car that has less than 200 horsepower. Remember, speed is about the horsepower to weight ratio. On the Mini Cooper S Countryman, if my calculator is right, its more than 17 horsepower per pound. That's better than a lot of high priced sports cars.
I was surprised that my test car also had an all-wheel-drive system that split the torque evenly between the front and rear wheels all the time. All-wheel-drive also lends itself to rifle shot handling. Much like a regular Mini, my S Cooper Countryman handled like a Go-Kart. It could really turn on a dime.
The ride was firm and its stiff suspension could be made stiffer through the sport setting. The car was quiet, there was a wee bit of wind and rode nose but nothing I'd get me nose out of joint about. Most surprising was all of the big car stuff that was packed into my small Mini S Cooper Countryman.
My test vehicle had heated front seats and heated side view mirrors, and push button entry, exit, start and stop. There was Bluetooth, satellite radio and auxiliary and USB jacks with a universal plug to let an iPod play off the internal audio controls.
There were black bonnet stripes, 18-inch anthracite wheels, a panoramic sun roof and Xenon headlights. Rear parking assist and a tire pressure monitor were also amongst the creature comforts.
The base price of my Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 was $26,950. But options and freight costs pushed the sticker to $35,150. However, my test vehicle had four option packages and some stand alone goodies. My point is that the sticker of a Mini Countryman ALL4 can be massaged to fit most pocketbooks.