Tuesday, February 23, 2010
MINI Announces Countryman Crossover Utility Vehicle
While seemingly every other auto company's vehicles shrink and get more fuel efficient, MINI prepares to grow as they continue their counter-programming and release their largest vehicle yet at next month's Geneva Auto Show in March. Slated to arrive on U.S. shores in early 2011, the Countryman is the company's fourth model offering.
Designated a "CUV" or Crossover Utility Vehicle, the Countryman is a small SUV - just the sort of sport 'ute that Mini would create. Built on the same platform as BMW's new X1, the Countryman is both a small SUV and at the same time a large MINI Cooper hardtop... depending on your perspective. While it retains the characteristic look of familiar MINI's, it sits higher, seats more and is available with all wheel drive.
The MINI Countryman measures 161.3 inches in length, with a wheelbase of 102.2 inches (up from 145.6 and 97.1 inches, respectively, for the MINI Hardtop). As a result, you can now fit up to five people in the new ride, which features another first for MINI - four doors. Combined with the AWD and higher ground clearance, this is a MINI you can actually drive somewhere other than an urban environment. But, with its small displacement engine offerings, you won't be getting there at any earth-shattering speeds.
Inside, the Countryman features a unique "center rail system" for its center console, which lets you configure interior storage the way you want for gadgets, water bottles or other toys. Combined with full iPhone integration (a must on any car in this writer's opinion), navigation and custom lighting schemes, the interior should provide enough customization to keep MINI customers happy.
Under the hood, the new Countryman will offer two 1.6 liter engines in either a standard configuration (netting 210 horsepower) or a turbocharged Valvetronic version for the S model (delivering 180hp). All wheel drive is available on the S model only and can put up to 100 percent of power to the rear wheels if necessary.
Other options are typical of this BMW-owned company and include Xenon HID headlights, dual pane sunroof and sport wheels. And, typical of BMW, these options will quickly raise the price of your new Countryman to near-BMW levels. Pricing has not been announced, but expect to pay a minimum of $30,000 for your new Countryman.