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First Drive: 2011 Mini Countryman Cooper S ALL4

Bigger, but still a Mini.

by on Jul.23, 2010

When does a Mini go maxi? The new 2011 Countryman still is a Mini, we found.

Small doesn’t sell – or so went the old automotive axiom. But these days, automotive marketers are singing a different tune. Small is beautiful, and there’s no better example than the Mini.

Since it made its U.S. debut in 2002, BMW’s British brand has handily outperformed expectations.  It’s also grown a bit, at least in terms of line-up, with additions like the Mini Open convertible.  But is a larger car still capable of being a Mini?  Or will the brand max out when the all-new 2011 Countryman rolls into showrooms?  That’s a question that sent us scurrying over to Hamburg, Germany to test drive the maker’s latest addition.

Based on an all-new platform, the 2011 Mini Countryman isn’t just larger, it’s also the British marque’s first four-door model.  And since we’re talking big changes here, the Countryman is also the brand’s first sport-utility vehicle.  No, it’s not about to take on the Jeep Wrangler to see which is more adept at handling rugged courses like the Rubicon Trail, but as we discovered during two days of driving, the new model is reasonably capable on gravel, dirt and deep ruts, especially if equipped with the new Mini ALL4 all-wheel-drive system.

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BMW, Peugeot Citroën Engine Sharing to Continue

Further development of 4-cylinder gasoline engines is agreed.

by on Feb.05, 2010

Philippe Varin, PSA Peugeot Citroën, sitting left, and Norbert Reithofer, BMW AG, sitting right.

The BMW Group and PSA Peugeot Citroën will continue their engine sharing  that dates back to the reintroduction of the Mini brand in 2002.

A revised  agreement was signed by Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, and Philippe Varin, Chairman of the Managing Board of PSA Peugeot Citroën, in Paris.

The two companies will develop the next generation 4-cylinder gasoline engine, which will meet stringent EU 6 requirements, which take effect in 2014, and strictly limit CO2, hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions.

Currently, the engine is being used in several Mini models, the Peugeot 207 and 308, as well as Citroën’s C3 Picasso.

The existing family of 1.6 – liter turbocharged petrol engines, with fully variable valve timing and direct fuel injection have power outputs ranging from 55 kW (75 hp) to 128 kW (175 hp).

The cars they are used in have been favorably reviewed, and there does not appear to be any negative effects on the brands, which could come from the use of a common engine.

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Illuminating!

There is a widespread assumption in the industry that engine technology is best held closely at individual makers. That assumption is increasingly pushed aside, though, as development costs skyrocket due to emissions and efficiency demands on what is an automobile’s single most expensive component.

Still, preserving brand integrity in a world of shared pieces is a delicate balancing act.   (more…)