The MINI Countryman now has rugged goodies

Can you guess which one is a MINI Countryman with a new off road package and which is a BMW X3 Turbodiesel racing rig with a MINI Countryman shell?

The MINI that won the 2012 Dakar Rally was a turbodiesel BMW X3 racing machine under the MINI sheet-metal. Still, they are both BMW vehicles and share the automaker’s zest for winning. MINI has opted to make some special “off road” components for the MINI Countryman to celebrate their return for the 2013 Dakar Rally. Stéphane Peterhansel beat the crap out of the competition and won the 2012 Dakar Rally for MINI, which helped the automaker gain some accolades after its poor showing and quick withdraw from the WRC.

MINI is producing special components that they will add to their factory built MINI Countryman vehicles that will serve as support vehicles on the 2013 Dakar Rally. These are not hoped-up BMWs with MINI shells. These are real MINI Countryman vehicles with some added extras and they will follow their racing cars for the nearly 5,000 miles of the race. 

Full disclosure: I love the MINI Countryman and I may buy one for “She-who-must-be-obeyed” in the near future. It’s a great little car with a gutsy engine and unique character. Sure, its performance is akin to the Subaru WRX and it’s a vehicle that can easily be cross-shopped with the Range Rove Evoque – and those are all compliments. It’s also painfully expensive and MINI’s overall reliability has been mediocre. Perhaps that’s why BMW/MINI want you to know that these support MINIs will be fairly stock (other than additional safety components).

Check out this quote from the MINI press release about their “Off-road design package:”

“Boasting powerful engines, ALL4 all-wheel drive and premium-car levels of quality, the MINI Countryman has all the ingredients to deliver maximum reliability in the heat of rally battle. And now the off-road design components from the Original MINI Accessories range have added even greater depth to the car’s ability. The four-piece exterior accessories set provides protection from stone chips on gravel tracks and accentuates the MINI Countryman’s characteristically generous ground clearance.

This is the MINI Countryman with the off road additions that will be available for consumers. The terrible paint job is aftermarket – I believe.

The off-road design addenda consist of silver-coloured add-on parts for the front and rear apron and side skirts. These components have been specially developed for the MINI Countryman and meet the exacting standards of the BMW Group in terms of design, materials, workmanship and safety. All of which means retrofitting them does not affect the terms of the vehicle’s warranty. Sales and fitting are handled by the MINI dealer network, MINI subsidiaries and MINI service partners; a short pit stop is all that’s required to give the MINI Countryman the off-road design treatment.

The Original MINI Accessories range also contains an array of other options which emphasise the MINI Countryman’s rugged character and broad spread of uses. Among the items available are 18-inch light-alloy wheels with run-flat tyres, mud flaps for the front and rear wheel arches, auxiliary headlights, and all-weather floor mats and a protective load compartment cover made from hard-wearing PVC. Plus, its four doors and large tailgate help the MINI Countryman to demonstrate exceptional versatility when it comes to interior usage as well.”

It looks like MINI is (basically) adding special tires, wheels, mudflaps and a few additional goodies.

There is no mention of price, but I would be willing to bet that the MINI website’s multitude of choices for the Countryman will add this package too. Either way, it’s nice to see MINI attempting to give the Countryman some off road cache. The Fast Lane Car attempted to take one on a nasty dirt road and only made it a few yards.

Perhaps these additions will help?

The rest of the press release talks about the other wins for the Rally Raid team. I like the fact that MINI is going out on a limb and adding real vehicles to the run. Even though these vehicles won’t be on all of the actual South American race course, they will be on some nasty gravel and dirt roads. Did I mention that they will have to haul ass to maintain their support of the team? Each vehicle will contain parts and tools for each leg of the race.

Sounds like a nifty marketing idea and I can’t wait to try the slightly more rigged MINI Countryman.

Here’s a video with Roman and I playing with a MINI Cooper Coupe!

I hope BMW gives us a MINI Countryman to test. The last one they gave us was two years ago and there was very little snow on the ground at the time.

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.