2012 MINI Cooper Countryman Performance

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Performance
Though it wears a MINI badge and MINI design cues, the 2012 Countryman is more BMW under the skin. Based on the same platform that underpins the X1 crossover (not yet on sale in the U.S.) the Countryman pairs front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine available in a variety of power configurations.

The base Cooper Countryman comes with a normally-aspirated engine rated at 121 horsepower. The Cooper S Countryman adds a turbocharger and a rating of 181 horsepower, while the Countryman John Cooper Works, due to be unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, is expected to generate up to 225 horsepower. The Cooper S Countryman ALL4 gets the 181-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive--the others drive the front wheels only. The S Countryman is good for a 7.5-second 0-60 mph dash. Both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available.

Like all MINIs, however, the Countryman is surprisingly nimble, thanks in part to its relatively light weight. Steering isn't sports-car sharp, of course, and there's more body lean due to the higher ride height, but it's still filled with MINI-ness.

Free-revving four-cylinders, punchy turbocharged upgrades, and light weight make the 2012 MINI Countryman a capable, fun-to-drive car.

While the Countryman isn't intended as a real off-roader, and in front-drive trim, isn't particularly suited for more than mild unpaved roads and trails, the ALL4 model at least offers improved all-weather capability.

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