2011 Mini Countryman
 2011 Mini Countryman
 2011 Mini Cooper S
 2011 Mini Clubman S

For 2011, all versions of the Mini Cooper get a few notable updates plus, Mini introduces an all-new “Mini SUV” model.

The Mini Countryman is new for 2011; it’s a four door Mini and has the option of front or all-wheel drive. With an elevated ride height and the new All4 all-wheel drive system, the Countryman is sort of Mini’s take on a crossover SUV. It’s really more of a tall Mini wagon but the large size and more versatile drive train mean those with one or maybe even two kids can now add Mini to their shopping list when checking out compact SUVs. The Countryman is a little bigger than a Clubman – it’s 6 inches longer, 4.1 inches wider, 5.1 inches taller and rides on a slightly longer wheelbase. The Countryman is available as a base Cooper, Cooper S or Cooper S All4, which is the all-wheel drive version.

Other changes in the Mini stable include a horsepower increase on both the base Cooper and turbocharged Cooper S models. The 2011 Cooper moves from 118 to 121 horsepower and thanks to the addition of Valvetronic variable valve timing, Cooper S models get a power increase from 172 horsepower to 181 horsepower. The base models still get 37 mpg on the highway while the S models deliver 36 mpg highway.

The exterior look of the various Mini models hasn’t changed much, but if you look closely you can see the 2011 models are a little fresher looking with a new lower grille, new taillights, revised reverse lights and larger fog lights. S models get functional brake ducting for the front discs too. There are also new wheel and color choices for 2011.

The high performance John Cooper Works version carries on with 208 horsepower but adds a new anti-torque steer program designed to keep the front wheels from pulling to one side under hard acceleration.

Other updates include standard USB and auxiliary inputs, reduced road noise, a new hard drive based navigation system, available Harman Kardon sound system and the Mini Connected communications interface.

Mini Connected is sort of like Mini’s version of Sync that allows iPhone integration. Add the Mini Connected application to your iPhone and you can listen to web radio, access Google local search, Google send to car function for navigation and the ability to receive RSS news feeds. The Mini Connected App also gives you the ability to have Twitter or Facebook posts read aloud in the car and provides a very unique Dynamic Music feature. It’s a selection of exclusively composed music that can be automatically played in the car based on driving style. A more spirited drive may result in quick tempo music while a more relaxed trip will bring about more soothing tones. Of course there’s a good old-fashioned Bluetooth connection too. The Mini Connected App is only for iPhone users at this point. Look for the entire updated Mini lineup later this year.

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Brian Moody has been an automotive writer and presenter for more than 10 years. He has contributed to such media outlets as CNBC, Fox Business, the Today show, Speed TV, Edmunds.com and KTLA in Los Angeles. He currently covers the automotive industry and reviews new cars for the nationally syndicated Car Concerns radio show.

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