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Green Go Kart: 2019 MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 Test Drive Review

We’re living in the age of MINI 2.0. It started on April 26, 2001. That’s when the first new MINI made under BMW’s corporate ownership rolled off of the assembly line in Oxford, England. The Chili Red Cooper two-door with white roof and mirror caps bore an undeniable resemblance to the original Mini launched in 1959, but it was meant to lead the brand into the future. Since then, the MINI brand has expanded its vehicle lineup significantly. Of course, you can still get the iconic Cooper two-door hatchback. MINI also offers a four-door version. If you want to feel the wind in your hair as you zip down a winding road, you can get a two-door convertible. The specialists in the John Cooper Works (JCW) division make a variety of performance-focused variations of several MINI models. The Clubman four-door is available for those who need a MINI that’s not so…well…mini.

Then there’s the biggest MINI of all, the Countryman. It not only takes the beloved brand to a level of spaciousness, but it’s also the most versatile vehicle MINI produces. In addition to a variety of turbocharged gas-powered engines, the Countryman is available with a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) powertrain. That’s right – if you want to, you can fill it with stuff without putting a drop of gas in the tank. During my week with the 2019 MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, I made sure to plug it in and drive it in its all-electric mode, but I also put my right foot down to see what its gas engine had to offer.

2019 MINI Cooper

2019 MINI Cooper S E Countryman Exterior

My Thunder Grey test vehicle arrived wearing a generous amount of functional and cosmetic options. According to the window sticker, it was a PHEV Sport Edition. That meant it was equipped with LED headlights that could steer into turns, LED foglights, keyless entry, power-folding mirrors, black roof rails, all-season tires, and a power liftgate. MINI dressed my press loaner up in the JCW Appearance Package, which consisted of an aero kit, 18-inch “Thrill Spoke” wheels, and a high-mounted rear spoiler. Bright yellow mirror caps and “E” badges on the driver’s-side charging port door and rear liftgate made it immediately obvious to anyone near the S E Countryman that it could not only zig and zag, but also zap its way down curvy roads.

2019 MINI Cooper

2019 MINI Cooper S E Countryman Interior

If MINI had left my S E Countryman media special completely stock, it would’ve had six-way manually adjustable front seats (with movable thigh bolsters – a personal favorite feature), split-folding rear seats, Carbon Black Dinamica and cloth seating surfaces for both rows, a six-speaker AM/FM/HD radio audio system, and a 6.5-inch center screen, as well as multi-color ambient lighting. By ticking the box for the PHEV Sport Edition Package, MINI added a heating function to the front seats, automatic climate control, a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, and topped off the interior with a panoramic moonroof. The JCW Appearance Package gave me a leather-wrapped JCW steering wheel and an anthracite headliner. MINI packed several tech features into the Touchscreen Navigation Package, including Apple CarPlay, wireless mobile device charging capability, and, of course, navigation.

2019 MINI Cooper

2019 MINI Cooper S E Countryman Performance

The controls for all of those various systems were within easy reach. Believe it or not, some of them were also fun to use. Every time I got behind the wheel of the S E Countryman, I looked forward to flipping the chrome toggle switches and pulling up on the small neon START|STOP paddle under the climate controls. Doing that fired up the gas engine/electric motor combo. The internal combustion part of that duo is a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine that generates 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The electric motor is connected to a 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and pumps out 87 horsepower and 122 lb-ft of torque. Combined system output is 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft and routed through a six-speed automatic and ALL4 all-wheel drive. With the added weight of its electric motor and battery pack, the S E is not the lightest Countryman available. However, its added weight didn’t spoil my fun. It felt like a big go kart whenever I made rapid lateral moves, such as when I needed to change lanes in a hurry…or I just felt like testing its reflexes. In straight lines, the S E Countryman progressively built power to a peak where acceleration was satisfyingly quick.

The S E Countryman isn’t picky about how it gets charged. You can juice it up using either a 120-volt regular wall outlet or the 240-volt outlet that you normally plug a large appliance (such as a dryer) into. My test car came with a portable charger that worked with both types of power supplies. If you go the 240-volt route, you can fill up the battery pack in three hours and 15 minutes. That equates to 12 miles of gas-free, nearly silent driving range. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the S E Countryman can cover 27 combined (city and highway) mpg using just its gas engine.* With a full charge and assistance from its gas engine, the S E Countryman gets 65 combined MPGe.* Using use all of the power in its battery pack and every drop of gasoline in its 9.5-gallon fuel tank, MINI’s plug-in hybrid can rack up 270 miles on its odometer.

One of those fun toggle switches I mentioned earlier allowed me to tell the S E Countryman which source of power to use and how to use it. In Save Battery mode, the gas engine charged the battery pack up to 90 percent full, then kept it there for me to use later. If I happened to be low on gas, but high on juice, I could engage the Max eDrive mode to fully tap the battery pack’s range at speeds up to 78 mph. North of that speed, the three-banger kicked in. Auto eDrive struck a more even balance: It used only electricity to get the S E Countryman up to 55 mph, then brought the gas engine into the mix. It also incorporated engine power when I accelerated quickly or when the battery pack fell below seven percent charge.

2019 MINI Cooper

2019 MINI Cooper S E Countryman Safety

Inside the S E Countryman, I was surrounded by eight airbags – one of which could deploy to protect my knees. On the outside, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a rear camera, and rear parking sensors helped me battle the elements and protected me from other vehicles.

2019 MINI Cooper

2019 MINI Cooper S E Countryman Overall

If you want to do more than just live in the age of MINI 2.0 and make your experience with one of its cars part of the brand’s history going forward, go to an AutoNation MINI dealership. That’s where you’ll find the full MINI lineup of vehicles, including the 2019 Cooper S E Countryman ALL4. Prices start at $36,900**; one equipped just like the vehicle you see here will have a final price of $45,750. No matter how you configure your S E Countryman, just know that you may be eligible for a federal tax credit.

* Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

** MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

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