• 2018 MINI Cooper S E Countryman All4: A Not-So-Mini Hybrid [Review]

    The MINI Cooper Countryman plug-in hybrid is worlds away from the quirky and quaint classic Mini Cooper that was originally drawn on a paper napkin by designer Alex Issigonis.

    The first Mini Cooper produced in 1959 and was inexpensive, fuel efficient, and practical in its own special way. While the 2018 Mini Cooper S E Countryman hybrid does not qualify as being inexpensive with an MSRP of $36,800, it does aspire to be fuel efficient and practical among today’s era of modern cars and crossovers.

    Truthfully, the Mini Cooper S E Countryman PHEV is not the perfect solution to all of your motoring needs, but it gets high marks as a usable everyday hybrid. Plug-in hybrids with electric city range and out-of-town engine performance are the ideal marriage of sensible urban motoring and freedom to roam when the mood falls upon us.

    Performance

    With a combined output of 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque, the Mini Cooper S E Countryman also happens to be the fastest and most powerful variant. The dash from zero to 60 mph flies by in a quick 6.8 seconds. A 134 hp 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic drive the forward wheels and an 87 horsepower (65 kW) electric motor propels the rear wheels. The 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery underneath the rear seats has a range of approximately 12 miles, a top speed of 77 MPH, and needs three and a quarter hours to recharge from a 240V source.

    Three power modes are available. There is Auto eDrive, which allows the electric motor to carry the car up to speeds of 55 MPH, taps the combustion engine for help at higher speeds, and will fire up that engine when the battery drops below 7 percent. The second mode is Max eDrive, which allows the electric motor to power the car up to aforementioned 77 MPH, and gets an assist from the combustion engine under hard acceleration. Finally, there is a Save mode that helps hold the battery level above 90 percent.

    2018 MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 PHEV max edrive
    MAX eDrive allows the electric motor to power the car up to 77 MPH, and gets an assist from the combustion engine under hard acceleration. [Photo: MINI]

    Hybrid drawbacks

    Like all hybrids, there is a limited amount of play value in the Countryman PHEV battery pack. If you choose the Save mode and charge the batteries at speed, then the juice you store is perfect for plodding on city streets or crawling traffic situations emission free. It’s an intelligent way of driving because you have to use brain power to decide on the correct mode for optimum fuel economy.

    Unfortunately, whipping the Countryman on backcountry roads doesn’t match up to the typical kart-like reflexes of its smaller brothers. The extra weight of the battery pack and bulky stature dampers its agility. And it can struggle to reign in that mass on bumpy roads. Flip to Max eDrive and flog the Countryman under full power with both the engine and electric motor at full tilt, we discovered the combined power figure of 221 hp isn’t enough to spark the liveliness usually associated with the MINI Cooper platform. Moreover, the immediacy of the electric motor was missing whenever we tried to launch off the line or flatten the accelerator for more speed.

    After our day with the plug-in hybrid Countryman, we looked at the numbers and confirmed the 27 mpg EPA rating. We also found the 12-mile range of the battery is realistic even when tackling the elevation changes of San Francisco.

     

    2018 MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 PHEV interior
    [Photo: MINI USA]

    Price and Features

    The 2018 MINI Cooper S E Countryman All4 PHEV may not be fully polished, but it won’t force you into a compromise. You can have all the space you need, a comfortable ride, and loads of character. It is pricey, but the long list of standard equipment and qualifying tax incentives soften the blow to your bank account.

    Our test car has a base price of $36,800 and a final retail price (excluding destination charges) of $40,150 after adding select options. The plug-in hybrid model includes a comprehensive list of standard equipment compared to lesser MINI models.

    2018 MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 PHEV
    The Mini Cooper S E Countryman offers three power modes: Auto eDrive, Save, and Max eDrive. [Photo: MINI]

    The standard trim includes a three-spoke sports steering wheel, the Mini Power Modes, a navigation system with a 6.5-inch display, and the Mini Controller in the center console. The list of standard equipment continues with rear view camera and Park Distance Control, automatic LED headlights and fog lights, rain sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, eight airbags, and All4 all-wheel drive.

    Select options that pumped the price tag are the head-up display, 8.8-inch high-res touchscreen navigation system, 12-speaker Harmon/Kardon premium audio system, front and rear parking assist, Cooper S sport seats, panoramic sunroof, and the “Melting Silver Metallic” paint.

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    2018 MINI Cooper S E Countryman All4 PHEV Specs
    MSRP $36,800
    Price as tested $40,150
    Total Power Output of Combined System 221 hp
    Combined System Torque 284 lb-ft
    Engine 1.5L turbocharged inline-3
    Transmission 6-speed automatic
    Electric motor – rear wheels 87 hp (65 kW)
    Range 12 miles
    Electric Top Speed 77 MPH
    Acceleration 6.8 seconds
    EPA-estimated fuel economy mpg 27 (combined)
    Curb weight 3,948 lbs
    Wheelbase 105.1 inches
    Length | Width | Height 169.8 in. | 71.7 in | 61.4 in.
    Seating capacity 5
    EPA interior volume 114.9 cu. ft.
    Maximum cargo volume (XLE) 47.4 cu. ft.
    Basic Warranty 4 yr. / 50,000 miles

    Watch this video of the second generation MINI Cooper Countryman tested in snowy conditions while at the media launch in Portland, Oregon.


    Derek Mau
    Derek Mau
    Before becoming an automotive journalist, Derek was diving into engine bays and wiring car audio systems for competitions since high school. Granted, there were a few extra bits and pieces after reassembling everything but nothing ever fell apart on the road. Today Derek applies his enthusiasm and gearhead knowledge into the latest cars, unraveling today's complex automotive technology, and learning the rich history behind classic cars.

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