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Review: Mini electrifies the Countryman, with plug-in hybrid drive system

Emma Jayne Williams, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in Automotive News

The distinctive design and individual styling possibilities, along with efficient driving fun of the Mini, have been thrilling fans for over 15 years.

During that time, the Mini Clubman and Mini Countryman have placed the brand in the premium compact segment. A plug-in Clubman hybrid was introduced for 2017, the British brand's first, paving the way for pure electric driving in the form of a Mini Electric.

The 2018 Mini Cooper SE Countryman All4 plug-in hybrid, subject of this review, brings the most-advanced technology to date, with a world-class 134-horsepower 1.5-liter inline three-cylinder TwinPower Turbo engine and an electric motor powered by a 7.6-kWh battery for an instant 87 horsepower boost and combined 221 horsepower of unstoppable power. The hybrid has a six-speed automatic transmission.

This model is also the most spacious, versatile, and powerful Mini ever, with enough range for a trip beyond the everyday drive. EPA estimated overall driving range is 270 miles, with an estimated electric-only range of up to 24 miles at speeds up to 77 mph.

Six Countryman models are available, priced from $26,600 to $37,800, with electric-enhanced ALL4 all-wheel drive now available on all variants. The Plug-in Hybrid can be charged at any standard three-prong 110-volt outlet, using the included charging cord as long as the outlet is within 15 feet. Using an extension cord is not recommended. Charging is optional, thanks to battery charging by the gasoline engine. The Plug-in-Hybrid drivetrain makes the new Mini Countryman a pioneer in sustainable mobility.

The latest Mini Cooper models present a great racetrack feeling, with a drivetrain, chassis, and exterior and interior styling taken from motor sports and track-tested. The versatile Clubman and Countryman also bring an explicit sporty appearance, go-cart driving feel, and impressive sound. The all-wheel drive is standard for both models.

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Unique eALL4 all-wheel drive uses the gas engine to power the front wheels and the electric motor to power the rear. Starting at 50/50, the system is able to send up to 100-percent of power to the front wheels. Interestingly, at highway speeds power to the rear starts to diminish as speed increases, reaching 100 percent front-wheel drive at approximately 80 mph. Of course, the power ratio is changed automatically if slipping is detected in the rear.

Three distinct modes determine how the engine and motor operate. Electric Mode uses the power stored in the lithium-ion battery for short distances such as city driving, producing zero emissions.

Hybrid Mode uses both the engine and motor for trips outside city limits, for up to 270 miles and EPA estimated 27 mpg combined. The fuel tank holds 9.5 gallons.

Save Battery Mode uses power generated by the engine to partially recharge the battery and keep it at 90 percent, allowing longer trips without worry.

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