When single-track automakers like Porsche and Mini roll out new models that don't fit the old mold, it tends to rile the purists. The Mini Countryman crossover is no exception, but the brand of all things small is pressing ahead anyway and unveiled the "sport activity vehicle" today in Geneva.
Sure, it looks like a Mini, but this is an all-new car. It's the biggest Mini ever, the first with four doors and the first to offer all wheel-drive on a production model. The Countryman will come as a base model, a sporty S model and later, a John Cooper Works high-performance model. Standard arrangement features four bucket seats, but a folding rear bench with an extra seat is also available. Seats down, the Countryman swallows an impressive 41 cubic-feet of cargo.
Powering the Countryman in Europe will be four engines, two diesel and two gasoline, with power ranging from 90 horsepower to over 180 horsepower. In the U.S., only the gasoline engines are likely to carry over, both expected to be variants of the company's 1.6-liter four-cylinder. In base trim, it should put out around 122 horsepower while S models offer up to 184 horsepower. A JCW model will likely offer over 200 horsepower, but it hasn't been confirmed yet.
The Countryman will also mark the debut of Mini's new All4 AWD system that typically splits the power evenly front and rear, but can send up to 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels if needed. It's mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capability.
Inside, the Countryman's interior will be familiar to Mini fans, but with some new touches. The new Center Rail system reaches from the dash to the rear seat backs in four-seat models and to the back of the front seats in five-seat models and offers clip-on storage modules for glasses, MP3 players, cell phones, arm rests, cup holders and more. What's more, it's also wired with power and USB connections for convenient phone or MP3 player integration. Also available on the Countryman is Mini's new Mini Connected infotainment system with navigation, audio and video entertainment and even a Web Radio function that allows you to listen to streaming audio from any streaming radio station around the globe via the internet.
The Mini Countryman will go on-sale in Europe in mid-September and U.S. deliveries are expected to begin by the end of the year. No pricing has been announced yet, but it's expected to cost more than either the Cooper or Clubman owing to its larger size and additional content.
For more on all things Geneva, make sure to check out our 2010 Geneva auto show page for all the latest from the Geneva show floor.