My Buddy, the MINI Cooper Countryman

 

From now on, MINI Cooper drivers are my go-to friends when I want to turn my frown upside down. Like many new vehicles, the 2018 MINI Cooper S E Countryman All4 offers a lot of cool features. I experienced one delight after another while test driving this plug-in hybrid, four-door SUV — the biggest of the MINI lineup.

My initial stroll up to the driver’s door was quite a show. When the puddle light (beaming the logo on the ground outside of the driver’s door) welcomed me to MINI Cooper land, I smiled like a kid at Disney World. It’s quite a treat for those of us who have not seen it before.

Once inside the Melting Silver metallic-colored five seater, I accepted the carbon-black leatherette interior as a safe color. Then I hit the start-stop yellow toggle to turn it on. The dash and the door lit up with an amusement park of shapes and colors. A life-size fidget tool for adults came to mind when I started to play with the rainbow of ambient lighting choices and host of chrome toggles. Even the audio alert to que drivers to buckle their seat belts had a sound of its own.

You can’t miss the circular touchscreen infotainment system. I was impressed with the painstaking detail that went into rounding off almost every feature from the headlamps and taillights to the door handles.

I like how the various drive modes — eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery – allow the driver to engage in a fuel efficiency strategy within their vehicle budget. For example, the Save Battery mode uses power generated by the gas engine to partially recharge the battery and hold it at 90 percent charge for later usage. A fully charged battery gets electric range up to 12 miles. Not bad for short errands.

Producing a total of 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque between the 1.5 turbocharged three-cylinder engine and the electric motor, the hybrid Countryman kept up with the bad boys on the open highway and was very responsive to the stop and go of rush hour traffic in the city. For drivers who love a snug fit, the heated front sport seats will keep you secure in the twists and turns.

And when it comes to the dreaded parallel parking, the rear view park distance control makes it a breeze.

I had fun working the manual lever to adjust seat height, and appreciated the wireless charging in the center armrest storage area, hands free tailgate, and the too-cool head-up display. I liked being able to see the speed limit right in front of me.

There’s so much in this package.

I really do need a Countryman owner in my circle of friends. If this is their ride, what must the rest of their lives be like? While behind the wheel of MINI Cooper land, I personally wanted to hand out cotton candy and stuffed animals all day.

2018 MINI Cooper SE Countryman ALL4 MSRP: $36,800. Combined city/highway MPGe: 65. Combined city/highway MPG: 27.

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