Meet the Mini Countryman E Prototype
The British brand prepares its first-ever hybridby Ciprian Florea, on
The first production series hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, may be only two decades old, but hybrid drivetrains have become increasingly popular over the years, to the extent that nearly every automaker offers or is at least working on one. Such is the case with Mini, which is about to launch its first-ever hybrid.
Still being tested on public roads ahead of production, the company’s first hybrid will be based on the Countryman crossover. Dubbed Countryman E, it’s almost identical to the conventional model, but uses hybrid technology borrowed from BMW, and is all-wheel drive when the combustion engine and electric motor are used at the same time.
Although Mini has yet to showcase a production-ready model and the prototype is still wearing the familiar black-and-yellow camouflage, the hybrid is identical to its gasoline and diesel siblings on the outside. Like any plug-in, it does feature a charging socket, but the device is discreetly integrated into the small vent on the left bumper (or side scuttle in Mini talk). The production car will also sport an "E" badge, but other than that, you won’t know it’s a hybrid.
Inside, the start/stop button in the center of the dashboard glows yellow instead of red, while the instrument cluster display will include a battery status display and other hybrid-specific information.
Mini didn’t say what engine and electric motor make up the hybrid drivetrain, but a turbocharged, 1.5-liter three-cylinder and a compact motor rated at 88 horsepower are the most likely options. The three-pot will spin the front wheels, while the electric motor will be installed right over the rear axle and will motivate the rear wheels.
The British firm says that the hybrid model will always start in electric mode, while the combustion engine will be engaged depending on the vehicle’s speed and the intensity with which the driver operates the accelerator pedal. Speaking of the latter, Mini promises "catapult-like acceleration" due to the instant torque generated by the electric motor. The drivetrain will have three modes. Auto eDrive will permit speeds of up to 50 mph, while Max eDrive will allow the driver to travel with speeds of up to 78 mph. The third mode is Save Battery, in which the combustion engine moves the car while the high voltage battery retains charge at a constant level or recharge via the generator.
The hybrid also gives us our best look at the next-generation Countryman. The design is obviously evolutionary and the vehicle appears to ride a little taller than the current model. It should also be longer and wider, as all Mini cars have grown larger with each generation. The new Countryman will be unveiled by the end of the year and arrive in showrooms in 2017.
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Why it Matters?
Needless to say, the Countryman E looks like a standard plug-in hybrid with no features to set it apart from other similar vehicles. Specs are still a mystery, but it’s safe to assume that it won’t break the sound barrier or introduce ground-breaking technology. Still, the Countryman E is a massive step forward for Mini and big news for brand enthusiasts who want a more fuel efficient version of the Countryman. Hybrid versions of the Cooper and Clubman that are sure to follow.