Mini is embarking on a proliferation binge, with its lineup doubling from the three models offered today—three-door hatch, convertible, and extended Clubman—to six within the next couple years. With a roadster and coupe just around the corner, a crossover, previewed by the Crossover and Beachcomber concepts, is also on the way. After many confusing reports of possible names here and there and everywhere, we now know it will be called the Countryman, at least in some places, the U.S. included.
Our first official look at photos of the Countryman has us breathing a collective sigh of relief. Although the beefed-up visual elements of the front end carry over from the two concepts, the detailing surrounding them has been toned down. Mini’s signature styling elements—a softly rounded body tub; an upright, blacked-out greenhouse; the angle-cut hood opening—translate very nicely to a crossover, and we are pleased to see that the Clubman’s contrasting rear trim remains exclusive to that model. The stance and taller hood add just enough toughness to set the crossover apart from Mini’s other offerings without looking contrived.
Inside will be more of the same, which is fine with us. The more toggle switches automakers use instead of black plastic buttons, the merrier. Four individual seats will be standard, with a three-across rear bench a no-cost option. Rear seats will slide fore and aft —the bench in a 60/40 split —and fold individually (or in 40/20/40 increments with the bench). Between both the front and rear seats runs the center-rail system seen on the Crossover and Beachcomber concepts, to which Mini affixes cup holders, armrests, and other "travel utensils." The interior otherwise appears to be standard Mini fare, and there is no artificial-horizon gauge, as there was on the Beachcomber concept.
Mechanical specifications will be identical to the rest of the Mini range, with other parts of the world seeing a choice of five engines split between diesel and gasoline power. We'll see our usual naturally aspirated or turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-fours, although both engines will be updated with more power: 121 hp for the naturally aspirated motor and 181 for the turbo. Those engines will replace the current mills in all 2011 Minis. Additionally, front-wheel drive will be standard, but Mini’s new all-wheel-drive system, known as ALL4, will debut as an option on the Countryman. Other optional equipment will include a panoramic sunroof, adaptive xenon headlights, wheels ranging from 16 to 19 inches, a sport suspension that lowers the car about 0.4 inch, and the full range of John Cooper Works performance upgrades. We imagine that a factory JCW performance edition will also appear.