Long Term Update 1: 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4
Another Curious Crossover
So far I'm finding the long-term MINI Cooper Countryman to which I've been assigned and the BMW 5 Series GT I just got out of are relatively similar beasts when you examine them closely.
Both the Countryman and the 5 GT are loosely defined as crossovers, although any Regular Joe who really looks at them -- especially the Mini -- would hardly classify them as such. The car wash guy I talked with the other day summed up the Countryman up simply: "this isn't a crossover."
When put into context in the Mini lineup, you can make more of a case for the Countryman than the 5 GT as a crossover, but both offer more cargo capacity and overall room than the base Mini or the 5 Series, key crossover traits. Both also feature a higher H-Point, come with available AWD, hatchback versatility, and uprated engine options.
Exterior style for both cars would be best characterized as awkward, as each is pulled, engorged, and otherwise enlarged in the sheetmetal department over the cars closest to them in their respective lineups. You'd be hard-pressed to find diehard Mini and BMW fans who actually love how they look, but we wouldn't call them excessively ugly, either.
As both vehicles were developed under the BMW AG umbrella, they also loosely share some features such as the infotainment system, with the Countryman's Mini Connected setup a slightly stripped down version of BMW's well-worn iDrive. I've been finding it really easy to spin the Countryman's stalk to get to the various features, and the menus are well-organized with a design flair in line with Mini's hip, outlier image. The Mini and the 5 GT also share some ergonomic challenges on the inside, most notably in the area around the cupholders. Place a taller beverage in one and you will be hard-pressed to use the functions located behind them.
Yet another area where the ALL4 Countryman we're testing and 5 GT share a striking similarity is in the mileage department. The rear-drive 535i GT with its 300 horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo averaged in the 22-24 mpg range combined, right in the same wheelhouse as the Countryman with its 1.6-liter 181-horsepower turbocharged I-4. At the test track, the differences become more distinct, with the BMW pulling to 60 mph more than a second quicker than the Countryman's 7.3-second jaunt.
So yes, the Countryman and the 5 GT share quite a few characteristics, but as you can imagine, they are worlds different in how they actually behave behind the wheel. The Countryman retains many of the characteristics that endeared the new generation Mini to drivers delighted by its quick, decisive handling prowess. There's much less go-kart going on, but it can still get busy on the back roads. The 5 GT is best characterized as a big, honking grand tourer focused on coddling and cruising.
The torch has been passed from one crossover to another, and it's all in the BMW family. Stay tuned over the next several months as I get up-close and personal with little big Mini.
|Months/Miles in service||3/7243|
|Avg econ/CO2||23.5 mpg/0.83 lb/mi|
|Energy cons||143 kW-hr/100 mi|