I recently attended the Mini Getaway Tour, which featured the new Countryman. There were 15 of us car weenies booked in for 2 hours. Well, 14 and one hopelessly bored wife. It began with a half-hour PowerPoint presentation and culminated in a faux off-road experience that was good fun and educational.
The presentation featured the Countryman’s innovations. For Mini, the big news is that it’s the first all-wheel drive Mini offers. They know you love them in the city. Now they’re coming after your weekends up north.
For me, the big news was just that: it’s big. At first I thought they ought to call it the Maximini or maybe the Middy.
The engineers must have known they were pushing it, so they were careful to include signature designs like the wheels at the four corners of the car and the sheer bosomy roundness of everything. These mitigate its bigness.
Inside it’s blingy. All four seats are adjustable – very comfy. And there’s a railing riding up the middle. Imagine a track-lighting track facing up between you and your passenger. There are all sorts of accessories you can clip into this. What clever design because it’s an ongoing sales opportunity, like apps for your phone!
So how does it drive? If there were one word most people would use to describe driving a Mini it would be “fun.” Actually, if it were just ONE word, that probably be “small.” So let’s say two words. The drive was fun and, yes, small.
We took turns driving different coloured Countrymans (Countrymen?) around an obstacle course they’d created to mimic off-road challenges. It looked like a set-up for Superdogs made of metal.
There was steep hillock to experience hill-assist. (An inveterate shifter, I’ve never been able to trust this BMW innovation.) The demonstration of the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and all-wheel drive was a series of three-foot mounds, staggered left and right to tilt you menacingly to the side. As two wheels are floating, power is automatically transferred to the wheels on the ground.
After we all rounded the course a few times, we moved over to a little speed track. We ripped through in several models including a Countryman, a turbocharged Countryman, a Clubman and a regular Mini. The sport Countryman delivered the goods. It still felt like driving a Mini despite its size. Mind, it was a mini experience. We’ll request a thorough review this winter.
Image courtesy of NRMAdriversseat.