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New plug-in hybrid electrifies MINI Countryman

The MINI brand is offering its first plug-in hybrid powertrain and they have chosen to do it in their Countryman model, the brand’s largest offering. Its full name is MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4.

Since it is a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), in this review, I will simply refer to it as the Countryman PHEV.

It is worth noting that the Countryman PHEV is not your typical hybrid. Instead of having its electric motor propelling the same axle as its gasoline engine, the Countryman PHEV utilizes a front-mounted gasoline engine to drive the front wheels and a rear-mounted electric motor to drive the rear wheels.

When all-wheel drive traction is required, power from the front-mounted gasoline engine and rear-mounted electric motor can be applied as needed.

This unique hybrid technology is borrowed from the BMW i8. The major difference, though, is that i8 features a rear-mounted gasoline engine and front-mounted electric motor.

The Countryman PHEV offers three power modes; Electric Mode, Hybrid Mode and Save Battery Mode.

In Electric Mode, the Countryman PHEV’s 87-horsepower rear-mounted electric motor and high-voltage battery pack (mounted under the second-row seats) can deliver up to 12 miles of electric-only operation.

In Hybrid Mode, the 134-horsepower 1.5-liter 3-cylinder front-mounted gasoline engine and rear-mounted electric motor work together (for a combined 221 horsepower) to provide 65 MPGe and a driving range of up to 270 miles.

Save Battery Mode is recommended for longer excursions. It allows for electric-only operation when you reach your destination. In this mode, the gasoline engine propels the vehicle and provides power to charge the 7.6 kWh Lithium Ion high-voltage battery pack and keep it at 90 percent charge.

Thanks to its gasoline engine, the Countryman PHEV can be driven long distances without having to charge the battery. But depending on your driving habits, you may need to make frequent fuel stops as its fuel tank capacity is just 9.5 gallons.

Recharging the Countryman PHEV’s high-voltage battery may take up to 3.25 hours at 240-volts or up to 6.5 hours at 120-volts.

For urban driving, or commutes within 12 miles, you can certainly enjoy electric-only operation and plug-in to recharge for your trip back home.

I did experience all three driving modes and can appreciate the case for each. In Hybrid Mode, I found most of the engine on/off transitions to be smooth. However, there were times when they became a bit more noticeable.

I should point out that the Countryman PHEV is no slouch in the power department. It provides excellent acceleration, going 0-60 mph in just 6.8 seconds. That is faster than all of its non-hybrid counterparts, except for the John Cooper Works model which is rated at 6.2 seconds.

The Countryman PHEV weighs 3,948 lbs. That is about 400 lbs. heavier than most of its non-hybrid counterpart. Stopping distances are longer with the Countryman PHEV. Suspension tuning is firm and the ride is a bit rough on poorly paved rounds.

The Countryman was completely redesigned one year ago, becoming the biggest and most versatile model in the brand’s history. While it is based on the BMW X1 platform, the MINI Countryman obviously offers a much different experience.

MINI branded vehicles deliver uniquely designed exteriors and interiors. Like the exterior, cabin styling is a feast for the eyes.

All Countryman models provide seating for five adults and there is adequate head and leg room in both rows.

Due to its high-voltage battery pack and rear-mounted electric motor, the Countryman PHEV offers 1.2-inches less rear headroom and its cargo area is reduced by 0.4 cu. ft.

Overall, though, the Countryman PHEV is a fuel-efficient and versatile vehicle with a unique personality. It may not appeal to everyone, but it is sure to delight those who choose it.