2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4: Suspension Walkaround

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

What does it take to turn a Mini Cooper into a Mini Cooper Countryman? I jacked up our 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 to find out.

The 2001 Mini Countryman goes by the engineering code name R60, while the regular 2nd-gen Cooper on which it is based is known as the R56.

Here's a quick spec comparison:

Compared to a Cooper S, our Countryman is...

  • 15 inches longer than a Cooper S
  • 4.1 inches wider
  • 6.1 inches taller

Furthermore, the Countryman's... 

  • wheelbase is 5.1 inches longer
  • front track is 2.8 inches wider
  • rear track is 3.6 inches wider
  • weight is 385 pounds higher than a Cooper S (front-drive Countryman)
  • All4 hardware adds another 111 pounds

Despite these differences, there are plenty of similarities in the suspension, which is based on the same basic design philosophy, front and rear. Most of the specific parts are different, though, because of the added weight, higher stance and the four-wheel drive system.

As you check out the pictures after the jump, feel free to compare them to those of an R56 Mini, in this case our dear departed Mini E.

On with the show...

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

Right away, we can see a similar-looking front strut setup. But there are some differences.

For one, the front hubs are beefier, employing five lugs instead of the regular Mini's four. The whole thing looks to be taller, too. Not surprising, really, when you consider that the Countryman's nominal front suspension ride height is 1.8 inches higher than that of the R56 Cooper.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

I asked a Mini representative if the 2.8-inch increase in front track width was dues to longer lower control arms (yellow), a wider front subframe (white) or a bit of both. I was told, "a little of all of the above including wheel/tire configuration."

The Countryman's wheel offset is only 2mm larger than that of a Cooper, so the wheel/tire contribution is but a small fraction. The lower control arm and subframe are behind most of it.

And that lower control arm (yellow) is forged steel here instead of stamped steel in the R56.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

The forged lower arm has a distinctive kink (yellow) that improves clearance underneath; the part that loops down to the ball joint (green) is inside the wheel where it is protected.

This material change required a new ball joint design, but it is stall easily replaceable because of the new way it bolts to the new knuckle (white).

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

As before, the front end of the lower control arm pivots on a rigid ball and socket joint (pillow ball, in JDM lingo) for good lateral suspension stiffness.

The Countryman's front stabilizer bar measures 22 mm in diameter, a half-millimeter larger than the R56 Cooper. The sport package, which this particular Countryman has, uses a 23 mm diameter front bar and sits 10 mm lower than a standard Countryman.

To the surprise of no one, the Countryman sticks with a rear-mounted steering rack (white), and, like the Cooper, it's still an electric power steering unit with a 14:1 steering ratio.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

Here we can see that the Mini's EPS unit is column mounted, but very low down, right above the point where the pinion gear intersects the rack. What this means is that most of the conventional steering shaft and u-joints sits unfiltered on the driver's side of the EPS unit, which imparts a degree of authentic mechanical feel.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

Our Countryman's suspension still imparts the feel of a Mini, but the higher ride height and the longer suspension travel it permits does allow the suspension to breath more and hammer your backside less. I thought it did quite well on the washboard dirt roads on the way to the Holy Jim Trail a few weeks back.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

Like the Cooper, the Countryman uses single-piston sliding front calipers, but the diameter of the ventilated front rotors is up by a half-inch to 12.1 inches.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

This view shows the wire leading from the electronic pad wear sensor.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

Yes, the ducts in the front bumper are functional, and they direct air directly to those brakes.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

The basic layout of the Countryman's suspension is the same as that of the Cooper. There's an aluminum trailing arm (black) and two diagonally-mounted semi-trailing links (yellow).

But like the front, the body rides higher here than it does in a Cooper. Measured from the lower rim flange to the top of the fender opening, a Countryman sits 2.1 inches higher in back than a regular Mini.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

The Countryman's rear trailing arm (yellow) is a convoluted forged aluminum piece and it pivots on an angled axis that points in the general direction of the pivot axis of the two semi-trailing links.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

According to Mini, the two semi-trailing links shown here share their part numbers with the links on the R56 Cooper, but the subframe to which the inner ends (yellow) are bolted is unique on the Countryman. The track width is 3.6 inches wider back here, so these left side pivot points almost certainly sit farther away from those on the right side.

Note also that the lower link is slightly longer than the top link, and that allows a favorable increase in negative camber as the suspension is loaded in turns.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

The regular Cooper and Countryman use a 16 mm rear stabilizer bar, though the shape of the bar isn't quite the same. A Countryman with the Sport package gets a 17 mm rear bar, the same size as the R56 Cooper S. The R56 Cooper S with a sport package gets an 18 mm bar.

You can't quite compare the two because other dimensions besides the diameter come into play, dimensions we don't quite know. It's likely that the Countryman's stabilizer bar produces a bit less roll stiffness because you wouldn't want too much rigidity in a car with more suspension travel and mild off-road capability.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

The stabilizer bar's end link (yellow) and the coil-over shock (white) both bolt directly to the trailing arm. All in all, the Mini's rear suspension packaging is pretty clean, with few parts and a lot of open space for the addition of rear drive axles.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

The Countryman's rear brake calipers are of the single-piston sliding variety. You can see where the hydraulic supply line (white) and the brake bleeder fitting come in to the piston chamber, but a cable-operated mechanical ratchet is used to push the piston when setting the parking brake.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

Like the R56, The R60 Countryman's rear brake rotors are non-ventilated. But these 11.0-inch rotors are 0.8 inches larger than those on a Cooper.

2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4

Goodyear Efficient Grip run-flat tires are fitted to our Countryman S, and the size is 225/45R18 on account of the sport package. They weigh 57.5 pounds mounted and ready to go. The standard tire size for the Countryman and Countryman S is 205/55R17.

As run-flats go, these feel reasonably compliant on broken surfaces. Still, I don't like the idea of RFTs on anything with even the barest amount of off-road capability. Cars like the Countryman really can be driven farther off the beaten path, which means farther away from tire stores within run-flat range.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

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