By next March, a six-speed auto gearbox will be offered as an alternative to the standard six-speed manual on all but the base diesel. All-wheel drive will be offered on the Cooper D and Cooper S from launch, and on the Cooper in 2012, for an extra 1065-1220.
This 4WD transmission, called ALL4, is based on the xDrive system of BMWs X1. The system lets the car operate as front-wheel drive most of the time, so its impact on fuel consumption and CO2 is likely to be only 2-3%. An electro-magnetic rear clutch diverts up to 100% of the engine torque rearwards when extra traction is needed, and because the propshaft running from front to rear is spinning constantly, the transformation is said to happen instantaneously.
Mini Countryman: interior photos
Mini Countryman 1: click to enlarge
Mini Countryman 2: click to enlarge
Mini Countryman 3: click to enlarge
Mini Countryman 4: click to enlarge
Mini Countryman 5: click to enlarge
With all four wheels pushed as far to the corners as possible, the Countryman is a true Mini that feels like a go-kart to drive, despite the greater emphasis on practicality, according to Mini. Roof rails are standard, as is preparation for a bike rack and youll still be able to open the tailgate even when one is in use.
Inside, theres a two-tier boot floor with a hidden compartment, the rear backrests split 40:20:40 (in three-seat form) to allow maximum versatility, and an illuminated central rail sits in place of a more familiar console. The length of this rail depends on if you go for the four- or five-seat option. It can house clip-in storage boxes and cupholders, and charge mobile phones or iPods.
Mini Countryman: exterior photos
Minis trademark central speedo and switchgear are carried over from the rest of the range, but theres a new dashboard and the door trims are oval-shaped and run from the front of the car to the back. The door pockets have ambient lighting to match that on the central rail system.
Standard equipment will include air-conditioning, a digital radio, Bluetooth preparation, a USB connector, rear parking sensors and heated door mirrors and screen-washer jets. The usual Mini customisation options will be available, plus some that are unique to the Countryman.