The plug-in model combines a turbo inline-three cylinder engine with a 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The gas engine motivates the front wheels while two electric motors power the rear. Three drive modes — Max eDrive, Auto eDrive and Save — adjust the amount of battery pack usage, with Max using all battery and Save mode using the starter generator to keep the battery charge above 90 percent.
The biggest Mini (for what that’s worth) is still far smaller than nearly every other crossover in its class. It’s three inches shorter than a Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and four inches shy of an Audi Q3. As compact as it is, there’s still a good bit of usable cargo space thanks to the wide hatch and flat-folding seats. Our tester rang up for exactly $40,000 and includes features like 18-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, Cooper S heated sport seats, a heads-up display and LED lighting.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: The only thing I don’t like about this electrified Mini is its name: Mini Cooper S E Countryman ALL 4. That’s a mouthful. You’d probably just say you bought a plug-in electric Mini Countryman and roll from there. And why would you spend time overthinking the name? The driving dynamics are razor sharp. Launches from stoplights with the electric fortification are brisk. Not in a clichéd “this V6 Camry feels brisk” sort of way, but in a 29-degree February morning where the dog is walking too slow kind of way. I give Mini and its parent, BMW Group, a lot of credit for having the foresight to invest in electrification, adding performance and efficiency in a manner that’s true to the character of Mini.
— Greg Migliore (@GregMigliore) February 16, 2018
Then there’s the traditional Mini goodness that shines through in the cornering and handling. I’m late for work. The light turns yellow. Am I stopping? Oh hell no. I’m not even slowing down. In this and all Minis, taking corners at full steam is expected. I flick my wrists, dial in a moderate amount of input and hang a left. We’ll say the light was ‘orange’ at that point.
Speaking of colors, this Countryman looks smart in grey paint with lots of brightwork (I’ll use the British versions for color and chrome, since this is a Mini). The inside is respectable, with better color, trim and materials than Minis had even five years ago. Still, for $40 grand, the interior should have more leather or something to make this go-kart crossover feel premium.
OK I lied, the price is the only other thing I don’t like about the plug-in Countryman. It’s a mental exercise to rationalize the cost for something this diminutive. Mini loyalists have already cleared that hurdle, though for an enthusiast with no loyalties to Mini, that lofty sticker — even with the electrification — would make me consider other options. Putting aside those rational thoughts, it was all smiles for me behind the wheel of the plug-in Countryman.
Associate Editor Reese Counts: I’ve always enjoyed Minis, even the not-so-mini ones. I like the charming styling and the general jazz every model seems to have. I’m a little disappointed by the size creep with each successive generation, but that’s true of nearly every car on the market. The Countryman still feels compact and nimble, and that’s what I really want from a Mini. The biggest difference between old and new is the refinement, probably owing a lot to the BMW X1 underpinnings.
It’s quick, too. The battery pack might add some weight, but it’s offset by copious amounts of low-end torque. Even in the wet, the Countryman moved pretty well. The combined 221 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque provide plenty of oomph. The gas three-pot comes on smooth, though there’s occasional shudder after backing off the throttle as the engine tries to balance itself. The brakes feel fine, but Mini still needs to work on the low-speed refinement from the regen system.
The interior is far better than the last Countryman. I’m glad that the speedometer has finally moved behind the steering wheel rather than the center, though the heads-up display meant I never really looked at it. Like any Mini, there’s plenty of interior and cargo space given the car’s footprint.
— Reese Counts (@rmcounts) February 15, 2018