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The MINI E was a pretty cool car based on the MINI Cooper two-door hardtop, fun to drive and pretty attention-getting with its unique, yellow electric plug graphics. We were sorry to see it go and really expected to see a production version introduced shortly after the MINI-E’s 2009/2010 field trials came to an end…but that wasn’t to be.

More recently, MINI has been offering its Cooper SE Countryman ALL-4, a plug-in hybrid model featuring gasoline engine power and 18 miles of all-electric driving. It’s not all-electric, but does champion MINI’s continuing interest in electrification. Now, after a long wait by MINI fans, the follow-up all-electric 2020 MINI Cooper SE has arrived.

The earlier Mini E’s battery pack replaced the rear seat, making it a two-seater. Contrasting this is the T-shaped battery pack in the new MINI Cooper SE that’s located beneath the rear seat and runs between the front seats. Thus, the Cooper SE remains a four-seater without compromising passenger or luggage space. While the MINI E had a range of about 100 miles on its 35 kWh lithium-ion battery, the Cooper S E improves on this a bit with an EPA estimated range of 110 miles with power from a smaller 32.6 kWh battery. It’s also energy efficient with an EPA rated 108 combined MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent).

Powering  the Cooper SE is a synchronous electric motor featuring 181 horsepower and 199 lb-ft torque.  Since maximum torque is available from standstill, the front-drive Cooper SE accelerates from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 7.3 seconds. To prevent slip during launch, the electric traction control system was integrated into the MINI’s primary electronic control unit (ECU), enabling computer control to shorten the time between wheel slippage and system response.

Four driving modes are offered. The default MID setting brings comfort-oriented steering characteristics, while a GREEN mode results in greater efficiency to increase range. GREEN+ disables features like heating, air conditioning, and seat heating to further increase range. SPORT mode, as you would expect, provides more sporty driving.

A driver can control the car’s degree of regenerative braking to increase or decrease deceleration intensity. A stronger regen setting can be selected if one-pedal driving is preferred. With aggressive regen, a Cooper SE begins decelerating as soon as a driver’s foot is lifted from the accelerator, enabling the car to be slowed at low speeds without using the hydraulic brakes. The softer regen setting is available for those who prefer a more conventional driving and braking feel.

Cabin heating is provided by an energy-efficient heat pump system that collects waste heat from the motor, drive controller, high-voltage battery, and outside temperatures. The result is 75 percent less energy use than a conventional electric heating system, thus saving all-important battery power to gain additional driving range. On hot or cold days, cabin temperature can be pre-conditioned by activating heating or cooling through the MINI Connected Remote App on a smartphone. The app also displays battery state-of-charge, available range, and energy consumption statistics. A map shows nearby public charging stations.

Standard equipment includes either Connected Navigation or Connected Navigation Plus, depending on the trim level. Connected Navigation includes a 6.5-inch central touchscreen. It enables Real Time Traffic Information to help a driver navigate around traffic congestion, along with Apple CarPlay and the internet platform MINI Online. Connected Navigation Plus includes an 8.8-inch color screen and adds wireless cellphone charging.

Speed, remaining range, battery charge level, and power demand are shown on a 5.5-inch digital instrument cluster screen behind the steering wheel. Also shown are navigation directions, selected MINI driving modes, status of driver assistance systems, and traffic sign detection.

The Cooper SE can be charged with a 120 volt AC household outlet or quicker with a 240 volt Level 2 wall or public charger, the latter taking about 3 1/2 hours from depleted to full charge. When 50 kW Level 3 fast-charging is available, the Cooper SE can be charged to 80 percent battery capacity in only 35 minutes. Charging is via a charge port above the right-hand rear wheel, the same location where you refuel a conventional MINI.

MINI’s Cooper SE is what fans of the marque have been waiting for. It’s packed with technology and promises a fun driving experience, at a reasonable base price of $29,900. Sign us up!

mini-cooper-countryman-all4-drivingThe 2018 MINI Countryman is the biggest MINI ever, featuring 30 percent more cargo space than the previous Countryman, more front and rear legroom, and greater headroom and rear seat shoulder room for five occupants. Adding to the model’s appeal is the MINI Cooper S E Countryman ALL4, a new plug-in hybrid variant that starts at $36,800.

The all-wheel drive Countryman ALL4 eDrive adds an 87-horsepower, 122 lb-ft torque electric motor to the MINI TwinPower engine for greater performance and efficiency. The turbocharged, direct injection 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine is rated at 134 horsepower. Altogether, combined system output adds up to an available 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft torque.

mini-cooper-countryman-all4-engineWith its ‘through-the-road’ all-wheel drive architecture, the Countryman SE ALL4 uses its gasoline engine to power the front wheels via a modified 6-speed Steptronic automatic transmission. The synchronous electric motor housed beneath the luggage compartment floor delivers power to the rear axle via a two-stage, single-speed transmission.

This powertrain setup is linked to the vehicle’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system that analyzes both the road situation and the driver’s wishes. When it detects excessive slip, both the gasoline engine and electric motor are engaged. The ALL4 all-wheel-drive system features a power take-off integrated into the front axle differential, a propeller shaft leading to the rear axle, and a hang-on clutch that ensures precisely measured transmission of drive torque to the rear wheels.

mini-cooper-countryman-all4-rearA 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery is located beneath the slightly raised rear seat, as is a 9.5-gallon fuel tank. The PHEV has an EPA estimated all-electric range of 12 miles on batteries, with a total range of 270 miles on gasoline-electric power. Charging at 240-volts takes 3 hours and 15 minutes.

An intelligent energy management system ensures that engine and motor use is optimized for both driving fun and efficiency. The driver can also use the MINI’s eDrive toggle switch to choose between three operating modes. In AUTO eDRIVE, the PHEV operates in electric-only mode at speeds up to 55 mph. At higher speeds and under intensive loads, the engine automatically starts. In MAX eDRIVE power is delivered by the electric motor alone at up to 78 mph, with the engine started at higher speeds or upon kickdown. SAVE BATTERY mode can be selected to conserve battery capacity or raise its charge state to at least 90 percent while driving.

mini-cooper-countryman-all4-displayA Technology Package includes a new 8.8-inch touchscreen navigation system, a new-generation user interface and operating system, and Qi wireless device charging capability. The MINI’s standard rear-view camera and rear Park Distance Control can be extended to include front parking sensors and a Parking Assistant feature for easy parallel parking.

Those interested in driver assist systems are not forgotten. A MINI Driving Assistant option includes collision warning with a city braking function, pedestrian warning with initial brake function, and road sign detection. Camera-based adaptive cruise control enables cruise control function that senses the vehicle ahead and adjusts speed accordingly, making longer distance drives that much more pleasurable.