Mini is out to prove ‘hybrid’ and ‘fun-to-drive’ aren’t mutually exclusive

Ronan Glon

BMW’s Mini division has confirmed a longstanding rumor by announcing it’s in the final stages of developing a plug-in hybrid version of the upcoming second-generation Countryman. The gasoline-electric crossover will be the company’s first series-produced plug-in hybrid model.

Mini is intentionally keeping technical details under wraps until the new Countryman is shown to the public. However, the company promises the crossover will boast at least three driving modes named auto e-drive, max e-drive, and save battery, respectively. The Countryman will be capable of driving without using a drop of gasoline at speeds of up to 77 mph when max e-drive is engaged.

Related: Mini’s John Cooper Works Clubman is a 228hp go-kart with a trunk

An earlier report finds the plug-in drivetrain will be made up of Mini’s 1.5-liter, turbocharged three-cylinder engine and a compact electric motor programmed to generate 88 horsepower. The triple will spin the front wheels, and the electric motor will be installed right over the rear axle in order to spin the back wheels. In other words, engaging both power sources will give the Countryman weather-beating all-wheel drive.

Mini stresses the weight added by the components that make up the hybrid drivetrain won’t affect the go-kart-like handling the brand’s cars are known for. In fact, the company promises handling will improve because the battery and the motor will be mounted as low as possible in order to reduce the center of gravity.

MINI Countryman PHEV teaser
MINI Countryman PHEV teaser

The preview images also give us our best look yet at the all-new Countryman. In spite of the camouflage, we can tell the soft-roader’s design is evolutionary at best. It’s expected to ride a little taller than the current model in order to better compete against similarly sized crossovers, and stretch a little bit longer than the Clubman.

Mini is expected to introduce the new Countryman online in the coming weeks, and we expect to see it in the metal for the first time next month during the Los Angeles Auto Show. Look for the next Countryman to land in showrooms early next year as a 2018 model.