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LA show: Mini fields new Countryman

Mini misnomer: The second-generation Mini Countryman is bigger, more luxurious and more technology packed than the first.

Second-gen Mini Countryman confirmed for 2017 Aussie launch, plug-in not ruled out

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Mini logo26 Oct 2016

THE bigger, more luxurious second-generation Mini Countryman crossover has been revealed ahead of its world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month and Australian launch in the first half of 2017.

Redeveloped from the ground up, the new Countryman will be the first production Mini to offer a plug-in hybrid drivetrain option, although Australian availability is still to be confirmed.

BMW Group Australia general manager of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher told GoAuto today that the plug-in Countryman “is of interest to us” given the local BMW range already includes a number of electrified vehicles including the i3 hatchback, i8 sportscar, 330e sedan and X5 xDrive40e SUV.

Mini Australia general manager Tony Sesto also told GoAuto last month that if Mini did follow BMW in producing electrified vehicles “it’s not something that we would pass on”.

The redesigned Countryman is the iconic British brand’s largest vehicle ever, measuring 200mm longer than its predecessor, 30mm wider and riding on a wheelbase extended by 75mm.

Bigger is better in terms of interior space, which Mini says has increased “significantly” and includes a 40:20:40 split-folding bench that can recline and slide by up to 130mm to provide a balance of comfort and luggage capacity, which ranges from 450 litres to 1309L, up 100L and 139L respectively.

Majoring on versatility, an optional hands-free powered tailgate will be offered, along with a storage package comprising variable-height boot floor, lashing eyes, tension straps and a stainless-steel scuff plate on the bootlip.

Another offering will be a fold-out ‘picnic bench’ option, providing seating for two people.

Larger rear door openings ease access, while all four door bins can now accommodate large drink bottles. Other cabin storage options, as well as the level of on-board technology and quality of interior finishes, have also been improved.

Mini Countryman project manager Julius Schluppkotten described the new Countryman as suitable for families and as a “primary vehicle”.

The styling update has been evolutionary and most design hallmarks have been retained, with the most noticeable difference being the longer rear side windows.

In addition, the rear numberplate has moved from the bumper to the bootlid, which gains a thick chrome trim strip.

Five powertrains will be available from launch, comprising a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol producing 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol developing 141kW/280Nm, two 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesels providing 110kW/330Nm or 140kW/400Nm and the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid.

The Mini Cooper S E Countryman All4 combines the three-cylinder petrol engine with a 65kW electric motor for a total system output of 165kW and 385Nm. The petrol engine powers the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission and the electric motor drives the rear axle.

It can run on its 7.6kWh battery pack alone for up to 40km at speeds of up to 125km/h and returns European combined-cycle fuel consumption of just 2.1 litres per 100km, with CO2 emissions of 49 grams per kilometre.

BMW says the battery can be fully charged using a 3.6kW wallbox 2h15min, while a regular household power outlet will take an extra hour.

Regular combustion-powered versions of the Countryman have a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with the three-cylinder petrol and entry-level diesel available with a six-speed automatic and an eight-speed auto optional on the four-cylinder petrol and higher-output diesel.

All but the plug-in hybrid power the front wheels as standard, with the optional All4 all-wheel-drive system having been redeveloped to improve the speed and precision with which it sends power to the rear wheels when additional traction and stability is required.

Hotted-up JCW variants are all but inevitable further down the track.

BMW Group technologies continue to filter down to Mini, with the Countryman to be available with full-LED headlights including illuminated outer rings that act as daytime running lights.

A central touchscreen multimedia system will be standard-fit, with the basic 6.5-inch screen upgradable to a premium 8.8-inch unit along with various enhancements along the way including enhanced satellite navigation functionality, Harman-Kardon hi-fi and an iDrive-like touch-sensitive rotary controller.

The higher-end infotainment systems feature apps including a ‘Country Timer’ off-road driving analysis tool and Bluetooth-based ‘Find Mate’ possession-tracking system.

Adaptive dampers will also be available as an option, interacting with the three selectable driving modes (also optional).

More than 540,000 examples of the first-generation Countryman have been sold worldwide since its 2010 launch.

In Australia, the Countryman was level-pegging with the newer Clubman wagon to the end of September this year on 396 sales, registering a small 2.2 per cent drop compared with the same period last year.

The three- and five-door Mini hatch account for the majority of local sales, with 1879 units sold this year (down 6.3 per cent).

Overall Australian Mini sales are down 13.8 per cent to the end of September.

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