We drove the MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4: plug-in hybrid power in a heart winning package…

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Don’t we all just love the iconic Mini. It comes to us now in many versions, all breathing this unique Mini style and personality. The BMW group has indeed developed a talent in declining the classic and iconic Mini character in many totally modern and up to date cars. This Countryman version amply proves the point: state of the art plug in hybrid technology has been put into this Mini, which makes it the car to have and cherish for the coming decades…

Just read further!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Indeed, this Countryman is the brand’s first ever plug-in hybrid model, and its bears the Cooper badge with zest. For good reason, as 3-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor combine to produce a total system output of 224 hp. One can easily understand that its performance is quite exhilarating: what to think of an acceleration from 0 to 100 in merely 6,8 seconds?

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But the joy of being behind the wheel of this Mini is not only about sheer performance: it is the whole driving experience of a refined, “Zen” power flow which accompanies you every meter you drive it. High-quality BMW Group eDrive components developed specifically for MINI Countryman are found here. The front wheels are powered by the combustion engine, the rear wheels by the electric motor. This petrol engine is a well proven unit, 3-cylinder petrol engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo Technology from the latest generation of the BMW Group engines. From a capacity of 1.5 liters, 1499 cc to be exact, this provides a peak output of 136 hp.

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The maximum torque of the engine is 220 Newton meters, which goes on stream at 1,250 rpm. In the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, the combustion engine is combined with a modified 6-speed Steptronic transmission which transfers its power to the front wheels. Both engine and transmission harmonize very well, and the smoothness of the transmission is exemplary to say the least. But of course, that is not all.

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The second power unit of the MINI S E Countryman ALL4 is an electric motor living beneath the luggage compartment floor. Designed according to the principle of a hybrid synchronous motor, the electric drive offers a high output of 88 hp -considering the size and weight of the car – and generates a maximum torque of 165 Nm, which is – typical for electric engines – , available from standstill. This means that a combined torque of 385 Nm is available. In addition, it provides constant pulling power even in the high engine speed ranges and maintains as well a very high level of efficiency.

The electric motor directs its power to the rear axle via a two-stage single-speed transmission. The presence of all this smooth power at the slightest blip of the throttle makes driving this Mini in demanding urban traffic so utterly enjoyable, refined and downright relaxing.

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Pure e-power is of course also to be enjoyed in quite a few driving conditions, and it is always a delight to move out of your parking space under velvet smooth and silent e-power.

Two power units and four wheels driven…

Only one of the two power units is used when the car is moving, while the other one can be additionally enabled at any time to optimise traction, ride stability and agility. The signal required for this purpose comes from the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) unit, which continuously analyses both the situation on the road and the commands of the driver. Actually, all this intelligent power management driving power to either the front or rear wheels is virtually imperceptible to the occupants, which says a lot about the mechanical perfection of this hybrid power system.

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Pure e-power at the press of a button…

Of course you can opt for “pure” e-power by just flicking the eDrive toggle switch. He can actually choose between three operating modes: Auto eDrive, which means purely electric driving up to 50 mph or 80 kmh. The combustion engine is automatically enabled when necessary, for example when accelerating quickly or when the battery charge falls below seven per cent. Then there is Max eDrive, which entails purely electric driving up to 78 mph or 125 kmh, the combustion engine is only used at higher speeds or on kickdown. Finally one can opt for the “save battery” mode, where the car is powered only by the petrol engine. This lets you save battery power for urban zones for example,  where only e-power is allowed, and in this mode you can also charge the battery up to 90 pct.

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Auto eDrive is the standard setting, and even more clever things happen when the route guidance navigation is activated. The anticipatory energy management system then ensures that appropriate sections of the route are run on electric power alone. Using the data from the navigation system, the operating strategy of the hybrid system is set on drawing power from the high voltage battery to a maximum extent.

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Excellent economy is of course also delivered by this hybrid Mini. The manufacturer quotes an official ECE combined consumption of merely 2,1 l/100 km, with CO2 emissions being as low as 49 g/km. Consumption varies of course in practice depending on your driving style and the chosen driving mode.

A compact, powerful Lithium-ion battery, produced in the BMW group Dingolfing plant…

E-power technology is kept close to their chest by the BMW group, only naturally so as the e-drive models and hybrid versions of the BMW cars are developed in Germany, and therefore battery production is also centered there. Like the electric motor, it is produced at the Dingolfing plant, the BMW Group’s competence centre for eDrive technology.

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The lithium-ion battery is positioned directly in front of the electric motor, underneath the rear seat. It is made up of five modules, each comprising 16 battery cells. The high-voltage battery has a capacity of 7.6 kWh. At a wallbox with a charging capacity of 3.6 kW it can be fully charged in 2:15 hours. Charging at a regular household socket takes 3:15 hours, which is also relatively short.

Interior space remains virtually unchanged…

Thanks to the compact structure and arrangement of the eDrive components, the plug-in hybrid model variant of the new MINI Countryman has a versatile interior.

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The high-voltage battery is housed underneath the slightly raised rear seat, as is the 35-litre fuel tank. When all seats are in use, the luggage compartment volume in the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 is only slightly less than in the conventionally powered model variants. The rear backrests offer the possibility of a 40: 20:40 split; they can also be folded down and varied in their tilt angle.

Hybrid technology shows both inside and out…

Unmistakable telltales of the hybrid drive form are provided by the model-specific design features on the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 exterior. The connection for the charging cable is under a flap in the area of the left-hand side scuttle. Other features are the model-specific “e” badge on the side scuttles and also a yellow “S” in the model inscription on the rear as well as on the radiator grille and door sill finishers. Inside, the cockpit includes a yellow start/stop unit at the centre of the toggle switch panel and a performance display in the instrument cluster on the steering column.

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The MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 comes as standard with the MINI Visual boost Radio featuring a 6.5-inch colour screen in the central instrument. This displays information such as the charge state of the high-voltage battery and operating mode of the hybrid drive selected by eDrive toggle switch. In conjunction with the optional Media package including MINI navigation system XL, as installed in our test car, operation is via an 8.8-inch screen with a new graphic design and touchscreen function as well as via the Touch Controller in the centre console.

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The unique panache of the Mini interior, reminiscent of the original Mini with its large central round speedometer instrument cluster, still remains, and the iconic visual “feel” and atmosphere of the Mini cabin is beautifully maintained.

Superb handling

Last but not least there is the excellent agility and precise handling of the Mini. Add to this the 4WD capability in slippery, wet and snowy conditions, and you will agree with us that this Mini scores also very high indeed in this respect.

Conclusion

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This Mini is a car full of timeless iconic character, and embodies the very latest state of the art hybrid technology, all this with even plug-in possibilities. It’s fantastic handling, surefootedness and steering precision enhance the smooth and “zen” driving experience provided by the well honed drivetrain. A unique car, and a joy to own and drive for years into the future…

Hans Knol ten Bensel