Hot on the heels of presenting its Beachcomber Concept at the Detroit Auto Show, MINI has now released official photos of the production vehicle it was based on: the new MINI Countryman crossover. Due for its public reveal at the Geneva Auto Show, the Countryman becomes the fourth and most distinctively styled and appointed variation on the original MINI theme. Built on its own unique platform, the Countryman also will be the first MINI to ever offer all-wheel drive as an option -- and the first to be manufactured in Graz, Austria, and not at the main plant in Oxford, England.

Remaining fairly true to the MINI Crossover Concept shown at Paris in 2008, the production Countryman embodies a unique visual interpretation of the fundamental MINI cues -- which display a slightly more aggressive character on the hotter Cooper S version than on the standard Cooper model. While the basic shape remains, complete with signature elements like bold wheel arches and short overhangs, the Countryman's recast front quarters, taller profile, distinctive front side-marker treatment, increased ground clearance and four-door-hatchback configuration set it on a path that intentionally diverges from the rest of the family. Measuring 161.3 inches nose to tail and a set on a 102.2-inch wheelbase, it also exceeds its Cooper (145.6/97.1-inches) and Clubman (155.0/100.3-inches) kin in basic scale and offers meaningfully enhanced passenger and cargo space as a result.

Inside, the Countryman continues with its own stylistic mix of familiar and fresh, including new takes on instrument configurations, material textures and trim elements. Standard seating for four sees the front buckets add sport-spec support in the "S" models, although the rear perches on all versions offer individual fore/aft adjustment to accommodate different sized passengers and can be flat-folded to boost cargo capacity from 12.2 to 41.0 cu ft. Like the Beachcomber and the Crossover Concept, the Countryman jettisons its conventional center console in favor of MINI's new Center Rail system that provides flexible easy-on/easy-off anchor points for items like cupholders, stow boxes and various personal electronic devices. In addition to leather upholstery, a panoramic roof, and various navigation/audio upgrades, MINI assures us that Countryman buyers will have a wide choice of personalization and accessory items.

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The MINI Countryman will arrive here in two basic flavors, both fitted with iterations of the 1.6-liter inline-four used other MINI models. Although MINI released only provisional specs, the naturally aspirated version in the front-drive Countryman will feature variable valve timing as well as Valvetronic variable intake lift control and make "at least" 120 horsepower and 118 lb.-ft. of torque, same as the current MINI Cooper. The Countryman S -- which will be the first MINI available with the ALL4 all-wheel drive---gets a force-fed 1.6-liter fitted with a single twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection. Here, as in the Cooper S, it's slated to develop a minimum of 180 horses and 177 lb.-ft. of twist (or 192 lb.-ft. with Overboost active). Transmission choices will include a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic with manual control capabilities. Although a variety of John Cooper Works performance components also will be available, there's no word yet on whether a full JCW-spec Countryman is planned.

All U.S. Countryman variants will have Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Hill Start Assist, anti-lock disc brakes and offer an optional limited-slip front differential. Stepping up to an "S" with optional ALL4 adds an electro-hydraulic differential that can send up to 100 percent of the available power to either axle, depending on traction conditions. Standard wheel/tire fitment matches 205/50 runflat rubber with 17-inch alloy rims, but 18-inch and 19-inch upgrades will be available. Countryman pricing is still being finalized but appears likely to open in the mid-$20K range and top out around $30,000 for an all-wheel drive Countryman S.

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