posted 2 months ago

New MINI Countryman Plug-In Hybrid Preview

Manufacturer reveals a handful of facts that hint at the strengths of its first, plug-in hybrid, electric vehicle.

Exterior and interior styling

The new, 2017, MINI Countryman looks set to launch in the near future and incorporate the manufacturer's first, plug-in hybrid, electric trim. Preview pictures suggest that it has a chunky, robust, sports-utility look mixed with the brand's traditional styling cues such as the curvaceous mirrors and circular headlamps.

On this basis, the car in the preview shots looks reassuringly familiar even though it has black/yellow camouflage paint. There is, however, a feature that confirms it is a plug-in. It is the second fuel filler cap in the front, left, wing scuttle that covers the charging socket for the battery that powers the electric motor. 

MINI concealed much of the interior with cloth in the preview pictures, but confirmed it has a familiar look. Distinguishing features include the start/stop button in the centre of the dashboard that glows yellow rather than red. Furthermore, the “power display” replaces the rpm counter on the instrument cluster.

Combustion engine, electric motor and all-wheel-drive

MINI has only confirmed a few technical details to build anticipation. We know, for example, that it has an internal combustion engine which sends power to the front wheels only. Rumours suggest it is a 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder, turbo petrol. In contrast, the electric motor sends its power to the rear axle only. 

The Dynamic Stability Control system exploits this set-up. It engages all-wheel-drive if the road surface becomes slippery, for example. MINI explained: “As soon as there is any risk of drive slip, the second drive unit is activated to provide more traction”.

Operating modes

The MINI Plug-In Hybrid has various operating states. AUTO eDRIVE   enables it to travel at 50mph in fully electric, zero-emission, mode. MAX eDRIVE, in contrast, permits speeds of 78mph. It is likely the latter reduces how many electric miles it can travel before the battery expires, but the manufacturer has not commented.

Finally, SAVE BATTERY starts the internal combustion engine which enables the battery to maintain, or increase, its charge via a generator. Its purpose is to stockpile electricity so the vehicle is better prepared for a long, electric only, run at a latter time. 

What else we know

MINI highlighted a few other facts and perceptions. These include: 

  • the throttle has to be pressed “very firmly indeed” in one of the electric modes to fire-up the internal combustion engine;
  • the electric motor produces maximum torque “from standstill”;
  • acceleration is “catapult-like”;
  • it has the “go-kart feeling” typical of the brand;
  • MINI wants this forthcoming vehicle to “convince” customers that its plug-in hybrid drive is beneficial.