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MINI Cooper S Countryman debuts in Paris [Live images]

by Mark Kleis

Like its recently announced off-road brethren destined for WRC, the Cooper S Countryman is a mean-looking off-road friendly four-door MINI.

As with Lotus, Paris was a busy show for MINI, with several unique debuts - including both an off-road WRC-ready Countryman, and this production version of the Cooper S Countryman.

The Cooper S Countryman marks a significant change for the MINI brand, as this is the first model to come with four doors and a large tailgate, along with seating for up to five people. MINI is counting on the Countryman to allow the brand to expand beyond its previously limited demographics and become more viable for families, too.

Like the normal Cooper S, the Countryman will utilize a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower. For those who truly want to be "countryman" in their Countryman, MINI offers optional ALL4 all-wheel drive. The system features an electromagnetic center differential that is positioned directly on the final drive, which varies the power distribution between front and rear axles.

Should you opt for the ALL4 option, MINI promises that the permanent all-wheel-drive system's quick and precise responses to changing conditions will provide for a new, traction-led expression of the handling talents for which MINI is known.

Although much of the underpinnings on the Countryman are similar to the Cooper, the suspension has been reworked to allow for added off-road capability. These changes include a front axle with MacPherson spring struts and forged track control arms, multi-link rear suspension and the electromechanical power steering system EPS. The MINI Countryman comes as standard with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system.

The list of standard equipment for the MINI Countryman includes the stuff you would expect: air conditioning and a CD audio system, a wide range of customization options. For those looking to add a little spice, one can add exterior paint finishes and interior colors designed exclusively for the Countryman, a host of upholstery variants, trim elements and model-specific equipment items, and high-quality audio and navigation systems. A further in-car entertainment highlight is the unique MINI Connected system, which includes the web radio and Mission Control functions.

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