(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell, Women With Wheels.com, ChicagoNow.com “Girls Go Racing”)

Here in the Land of the Free and Largess, pint-size city cars are already a tough sell. Add classic retro models to that mix and the compromises often weigh more than the cars themselves.

 

In defiance of those odds, it has taken a luxury maker [BMW] of pricey, large executive sedans and crossovers retro city cars seems to buck the American stigma of “Anything Micro-Sized Other than a Microchip Sucks.”

 

Thus, Roadblazing auditioned the re-designed “Not as Small” 2017 MINI Cooper Countryman sporty luxury “Cute-Ute” while trying not to think “Clown Car.”

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WHAT: 2017 MINI Cooper Countryman S All4 2-Row sporty sub-compact Crossover Utility Vehicle. F60 is the 2nd generation, replacing R60 designation.

Standard Power (Base Model): transverse intercooled turbocharged 1.5L DOHC 16V DI gas I-3 = 134 hp/ 162 lb-ft @ 1200 rpm + 6-spd. manual helical transaxle.

Countryman S Power: 2.0L DOHC 16V DI intercooled turbocharged gas I-4 = 189 hp/ 207 lb-ft @ 1250 rpm + optional 8-speed torque converter planetary automatic w/ shift paddles.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: Greater length is apparent: Aft of C-pillar, roof doesn’t dip as much and center high mount brake lamp is integrated into the roof spoiler; Hood valley now creased; Lower body cladding gains adds contrasting satin metallic strip beneath rocker panels; Angel-eyes LED DRL ringed headlights are more swept back; Formerly metallic tri-bar grille, switched to black lattice design; Lower front fascia fog lamps are set in blacked-out corner aero housings; Wheel wells are less splayed to better fit larger rubber; Rear lamp housings stretch into tailgate, approaching a mid-height gloss black horizontal grab bar; -1 Faux front fender porthole with integrated side flasher;

WHY: More spacious cast and crew transporter for future “Italian Job” film installments

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Autumn 2016

WHERE: MINI new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Born, Netherlands

WHERE TO: Optional GKN built Haldex-licensed multi-plate wet clutch, open differential all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from nominal 100/0% – to maximum 50/50%, with ABS descent control. < 7″ clearance = all-weather capable ≠ gully adventurous;

HOW ROADWORTHY: Sequential twin-scroll turbocharger on 2.0L turbocharged DOHC DI gas 4-cylinder keeps boost at near full boil; Slick 8-speed planetary automatic gearbox = snappy downshifter; +1 suspension travel > standard MINI = +1 road perturbance forgiveness despite 18″ runflat low profile rubber;  Stiff springing is wallow resistant; Electric steering windup is crisply linear; Shorter than expected brake pedal travel is only chink in powerful clamping; Gas Engine clatter? -1 Run-flat tire transmitted road noise penetrates cabin above 80 mph.

HOW FAR: 23 combined miles per gallon;

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: Switch from dual 2nd Row buckets to 3-place split bench w/ 3.3″ legroom > previous R60 = 5 adult occupants; -1 Rear seat cushion dips, forcing knees up; back so coifs ; +1 Expanded cargo volume increases by 12%;

HOW USEFUL: Latching tilt cargo load floor w/ sub-floor storage;  3-place sliding split 2nd Row seat cushion; near flat folding 40/20/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks;  Integral roof rails;  Driver’s outboard sun visor; +1 forward visibility from tall greenhouse / -1 Outward rear visibility from thick seat headrests, wide side pillars & small backlight; Tow Rating: Not Rated.

HOW SAFE: 8 airbags; IIHS Safety Pick +; Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Distance Control, Roll Mitigation, Blind spot, rear cross traffic warning & lane departure warning.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Heated front passenger seats; 6-way power driver’s;  4 power windows w/ full up/ down express;  Puddle lamps at each door; Standard panoramic roof;

Cool Gizmo(s): Discus Keyfob; Wurlitzer/ Rockola variable color LED ringed infotainment display; Driver’s side MINI winged logo puddle lamp; Onboard feature video tutorials!

Details Done Right: Gated toggle switches, including glowing red illuminated keyless ignition;  Variable color full cabin ambient lighting;  Tilt / telescope JCW steering wheel = perforated leather rim inserts, w/ dorsal finger indentations;

Nearly Non-Descript: Short seat cushions; Leather wears premature, Faux embossed dashtop stitching; Hard plastic front seat backs advertise scuffs.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 8.8″ touch LCD infotainment screen,  Rotary dial display navigator w/ touch pad; Voice command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation; Subscription based Sirius XM radio Low streaming audio amplification w/ base sound system; MINI Connected Apps: USB x 2, 12V x 3.

-1 No Android Auto; available Apple Mobile App ain’t the same as Apple Car Play;

HOW MUCH: $38,500 = as tested 2017 MINI Cooper Countryman S All4; BMW-style pricey options such as not-included driver-assist tech package pushes M.S.R.P. well past $40K!

WHAT’S MISSING: Wider & more pliant front seat cushions; Conventional radial tires = less tire noise; Less sensitive & deafening Park Distance Control alarm; Android Auto/ Apple Car Play (latter arriving 2018 MY); 115V outlet, +1 Cargo management; SMS messaging app.

ANY COMPETITION: Buick Encore: +1 luxurious cabin, compliant ride; FIAT 500X: +1 value, ground clearance (AWD model); Mazda CX-3 GT: +1 sleek style, efficiency; Nissan Juke NISMO; +1 rad tuner treatment

FINAL WORD: added “Ute” to enthusiast’s “Cute” means 2017 MINI Cooper Countryman S needs make fewer apologies for retro-quirks.