First drive: MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 PHEV

By HONG BOON HOW | 2 April 2018


Located in downtown Lisbon near the city’s waterfront, Pestana CR7 hotel is a nondescript and squarish building that used to be a bank.

Step inside and you will be surprised by the 180-degree change in outlook - a sports-theme hotel with youngish staff in white tees and jeans, and an interior paying homage to the country’s best known personality, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Adding spunk to the homely Ikea-styled reception is a quote from Ronaldo — “Your love makes me strong. Your hate makes me unstoppable.”

IMG_20171127_034315763 (1)


Non-football fans might not have guessed that CR7 is his initials with 7, his jersey number. Pestana CR7 is Ronaldo's move into the hospitality business with Portugal’s Pestana hotel chain, leveraging on his football star power and brand.

While Ronaldo’s goal keeper terrorising career has not shown any sign of slowing down, the hotel business is one of the preparations he has made for life after football.

Like Ronaldo, MINI has also made preparations for a future where all cars will be electrified by introducing its first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) - the Cooper S E Countryman ALL4.

DSC_7198


We had a chance to test the latest MINI on Portuguese roads recenty during a media trip organised by BMW Group Malaysia.

Based on the regular Countryman, the PHEV Countryman does have a few subtle exterior differences such as a charging point behind a flap on the left scuttle, “e” badges with the optical illusion of a electric power plug and a yellow ‘S” badges.

Underneath the car is where much of BMW’s iPerformance know-how comes in to turn the Countryman into a fuel-sipping yet athletic compact crossover in a funky package.

An electric motor is installed at the rear to drive the rear wheels and is powered by a 7.6kWh lithium ion battery under the rear passenger seats.

DSC_7254
DSC_7255


This compact arrangement also ensures the hybrid drive system does not eat into rear interior space. However, boot space is reduced to 405 litres as opposed to 450 litres in the regular Countryman. Folding down rear seats will increase storage capacity to 1,275 litres.

Under the bonnet is the Countryman PHEV’s heart - a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine with 136bhp and 220Nm of torque mated to a six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission that drives the front wheels. This perky engine is also used in the non-hybrid Cooper Countryman.

With a petrol/electric motor combined output of 224hp and 385Nm of torque, the Countryman PHEV boasts a typical hot hatch time of 6.8s when sprinting from 0-100kph.

DSC_7240


The advantage of the hybrid system is that the car can be front-wheel, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive depending on whether the petrol engine or electric motor or both are running.

Taking off in electric power, the Countryman PHEV is eerily quiet and vibration-free and it can travel 42km on a full electric mode. As long as you don’t stomp on the accelerator pedal or run low on battery, the petrol engine will not fire up so you can continue driving emissions-free.

Its top speed of 125kph in electric mode is considered fast among the PHEVs available in Malaysia.

Although the Countryman PHEV usually recharges the hybrid battery through its petrol engine or regenerative braking, the battery can also be charged to full in 2.5 hours through a 3.7kW (16A, 230V) outlet.

DSC_7074
DSC_7062


Similar to the BMW’s hybrid offering, the Countryman PHEV also has three drive modes of Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery, controlled by an eDrive toggle switch on the lower centre console.

Under Auto eDrive, electric power is used at speeds up to 80kph and the petrol engine will start up once battery level is low or extra speed is needed.

Max eDrive allows the Countryman to use electric power for speeds of up to 125kph. The petrol engine is used to drive the car and keep the battery charge above 90% full under Save Battery.

Additionally, the car’s steering and accelerator response characteristic can also be set from Sport to Mid to Green via a slider switch at the base of the gearshifter.

DSC_7097


Steering is responsive and provides good directional stability even at high speeds as shown in a drive from Lisbon towards the seaside town of Ericeira, some 50km away.

Despite a kerb weight of 1,660kg, the Countryman PHEV is nimble and fast on its feet, especially when both petrol engine and electric motor are working together. The petrol engine cuts in to deliver extra power and it’s seamless and seldom noticed.

Suspension set-up is good and going over rough stretches using 225/50/R18 99W Pirelli P Zero tyres is firm.

Our unit was upgraded with the MINI navigation system Professional which has multimedia support, satellite navigation and an 8.8-inch touchscreen control.

The New MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4 (5)
DSC_7257


With its array of safety features — among them airbags, dynamic stability control and a rigid body structure — the Countryman PHEV has achieved a top 5-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash test.

Aside from trendy looks and a fun-to-drive appeal, the Countryman PHEV’s low fuel consumption of 2.1 litres per 100km will add to its allure.

BMW Group Malaysia will launch the Countryman PHEV on Thursday (April 5) with local price and specifications to be announced then.

SPECIFICATIONSMINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4Engine: 1,499cc, in-line 3-cylinder, 12 valves, MINI TwinPower Turbo
Maximum power: 136bhp at 4,400rpm
Maximum torque: 220Nm from 1,250rpm to 4,300rpm
Transmission: Six-speed Steptronic automatic
Electric motor: Synchronous electric type
Maximum power: 88hp at 4,000rpm
Maximum torque: 165Nm from 0 to 3,000rpm
Total system output: 224hp/385Nm
Drive concept: Combustion engine driving the front wheels, electric motor driving the rear wheels
Hybrid battery: Lithium ion
Capacity: 7.6kWh
Charging time for 100% charge: 2.5 hours at 3.7kW (16A .230V)
Features: Airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with brake assistant, hill start assistant, brake dry function, Fading Brake Support, Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC)
Steering: Electrically-assisted unit with Servotronic function
Wheels: 225/55 R17 97W (standard), 225/50/R18 99W (optional)
Fuel capacity: 36 litres
Luggage capacity: 405 to 1,275 litres
Acceleration (0-100pkh): 6.8 seconds
Top speed: 198kph
Top electric speed: 125kph
Electric power range: 42km
Fuel consumption (combined) 2.1 to 2.3 litres per 100km

DSC_7246
DSC_7224
DSC_7208
DSC_7235 (1)
DSC_7237
DSC_7192
DSC_7189
DSC_7179
DSC_7113
DSC_7115
DSC_7111
DSC_7100
DSC_7096
DSC_7095
DSC_7069
DSC_7061
DSC_7057
DSC_7055

Keywords