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Words by Jay Kana
For a brand of car named MINI, having the Countryman ALL4 in its lineup isn’t exactly an accurate simile. Classified as a “sport-ute,” the 2015 offering sees standard 4 wheel drive included in both the S and John Cooper Works model.
Now there’s quite the breadth of offerings in the “sport-ute” category as nearly all manufacturers offer at least one. And in a very crowded room, standing out has its challenges.
Imagine you’re looking into a room where all the women are wearing the same black dress. On the surface, it’d be hard to differentiate. But look closer and appreciate the attention to detail each woman illustrates. Some will have earrings, necklaces, bracelets, watches, different hair lengths/styles, different make-up, different shoes, purses/clutches and so on. So yes, on one hand they’re all wearing the same dress. On the other, each woman is unique.
Having said that, MINI’s Countryman S ALL4 definitely stands alone in this segment. While it’s not the largest and doesn’t boast the largest engine/horsepower, what it does do well in comes via the “fun to drive” factor. Powered by a 1.6 Liter 181 HP Twin Scroll Turbo engine, the ALL4 is one helluva dancing beauty that can tango, salsa, cha-cha and ballroom dance in a league of its own! It can also slow dance and tap its toe quietly in the corner, depending on the situation.
If you’re looking to kick your heels up, flick the “Sport” lever and the ALL4 goes from a “pleased to meet you handshake” to a thundering “high-five!” Or as the marketing team at Mini says on their website: from “Oh my” to “Holllyyy $#!%*.”
As with all MINI offerings, the ALL4 boasts stellar handling, quick responsiveness and nimble steering, all of which were maximized during my week long drive.
The MINI Connected system (with available app) emphasizes entertainment and excitement. It can even sync with your social media, not that you should be doing that and driving, but it’s still a trendy option. The navigation system was easy to operate and there’s a decent sound system to blare your early British rock tunes along with whatever’s current these days (I hear the names Taylor Swift, Pharrell and One Direction a lot).
Taking a realistic approach to things, the ALL4 isn’t trying to replace the full size sport-ute’s and I feel they’ve made that clear. What they are offering is a bigger than usual MINI offering (5.8” taller to be exact) with four doors, a hatch for easy loading/unloading of larger items, comfortable seating for five and room to pack camping gear, golf clubs, bags for a gals weekend away, a few guitars and an amp, and various other “yup, toss that in the trunk” items. If you’re good at Tetris or know someone who is, there’s surprisingly quite a lot of room to maneuver and fill the boot.
One thing I’ve always admired about the MINI brand (aside from their cheeky attitude in ads) is that they’ve always been proud of what they are. They’re not out to re-invent the automobile or to create an entirely new segment. They’ve got their formula, they’ve strategically and surefootedly grown since The Italian Job and still have a cult-like following. They’ll never brand the ALL4 (I hope not, at least) as a full sized SUV or a compact CUV. It’s a sport-ute vehicle: it’s fast, it’s fun, it’s fantastic and it’s the beautiful gal in the black dress with her own accessories and appearance that’ll knock you off your feet. Or, in my case, my two left feet.
Read more of Jay’s car reviews!