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2011 Mini Countryman: First Look Review - VIDEO ENHANCED

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2011 MINI Countryman



By Marty Bernstein
Senior Editor-At-Large
The Auto Channel

HAMBURG, Germany - July 19, 2010: Last year when I attended Mini United, the bi-annual international gathering of thousands of Mini’s loyal and fervent owners outside London, England one of the better rumors was, “Mini is going to build a station wagon or small SUV!” But nary was a word spoken about this.

I can now safely say with absolute confidence, the there is a new Mini … the new 2011 Countryman has arrived and I was among the first American journalists (there were just five of us) invited to the preview this week.

First Take:Think of the 2011 Mini Countryman as the famous little cars bigger brother sibling.

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There have been sightings of the Countryman at various auto shows earlier this year, but after landing at the Hamburg airport and walking to the Raddison Blu hotel where an impressive phalanx of pristine white Mini Countryman were parked waiting for 400+ auto writers to take out for a not too leisurely drive in the German countryside.

At first sight it’s obvious this is a Mini, but it’s the first MINI to come with four doors and a large tailgate and a versatile interior that’ll hold up to five people. A big Mini and that is not an oxymoron.

Gert Hildebrand, chief design of Mini’s noted, “The MINI Countryman manifests an effective and assured development of the brand’s design language. The new model combines larger body dimensions, increased ground clearance and four side doors with the hallmark features of MINI design. Short overhangs, a high window line, a commanding over-the-wheel stance and the wrap-around look of the windows – extending all the way around the vehicle – create typical MINI proportions. The Countryman provides a fresh interpretation of classic MINI features, such as the roof line, hexagonal radiator grille, large headlights set into the front of the hood side indicators.”

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The interior of the new Mini Countryman is pure Mini and retains the brand’s familiar style with new design and functional elements created to make driving the Mini Countryman even more fun.

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The slightly raised seating position allows easy entry, optimizes the driver’s view of the road. There’s the usual array of toggle switches and of course the iconic round Mini Speed-odo located in the middle of the dash.

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Utilizing every spare inch of space, the Mini Countryman has a unique center rail that runs lengthwise through the middle of the interior in place of a conventional center console and opens up new ways of integrating storage boxes, cup holders, external audio devices, mobile phones and other comfort-enhancing elements. Clip-in fixtures for the rail have a flexible range of positioning that allows the storage area to be divided up as desired and items to be kept handy at all times.

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Specs for the U.S. models are due within a few weeks at which time I’ll write my review of the new 2011 Mini Countryman from the drive in Germany which added a new element of fun since some of the actual driving was on the no-speed-limit German Autobahn as well as in the city during which a festive crowd was celebrating summer in outlandish costumes and a huge parade and out in the country where the Mini was floating on a lake. Stay tuned.