22nd April 2011

Now that the MINI Countryman (model designation R60) is launched, I can finally talk about this! For me, it was an experience I would never forget. WARNING: Long, gushy post…

Shortly after the first few units of Countryman arrived in Port Klang and we had shot the “hijack teaser” with the awesome bunch at Driven Media and Creature, the fleet was prepped for an overnight product training for sales advisors. Two of us from the agency were lucky enough to be invited! It was like nothing we’ve attended before. No classroom, no powerpoint presentations….just wide open roads :D from Cyberjaya all the way to Tanjung Jara Resort, Terengganu! And back!!

Our journey began bright and early at BMW’s office in Cyberjaya. Filled with excitement we eagerly waited for the customary safety briefing to be over and get our hands on the beauties that awaited us. We had two R60 Cooper and two R60 Cooper S for this two-day drive trip and I was glad to have driven both to experience their different driving dynamics. The drive to Tanjung Jara would be a combination of city jams (getting out of KL), long wide highways, as well as winding narrow trunk roads (yeah!!).

Driving in a convoy with a lead car setting the pace, we were “fast” on our way to Terengganu by about 8am. The grins on our faces were priceless. What excitement! The Countryman is indeed the biggest MINI, ever, with 4 doors, over 4 meters long and with 4 wheel drive (Cooper S only). We took turns at the wheel swapping cars along the way so everyone could drive both variants. As a passenger on the first leg I couldn’t help but notice the delighted stares we got from other motorists during the morning jam out of KL. For once, I didn’t mind getting stuck in a jam.

Along the drive, at every rest stop we drew crowds of curious people wanting to have a look at the cars. We were greeted with ooohs and ahhhs and typical Malaysian “waah…nice ah, how much ah?” LOL. Soon we got off the highway and arrived at Hyatt Kuantan for a wonderful seafood lunch by the beach. The sound of the waves were awesome but I guess everyone was just itching to get back behind the wheel and eat up the last leg to our final destination.

So, what’s it like driving the Countryman? AWESOME!! Be it Cooper or Cooper S they both handled brilliantly. I think a lot of people, myself included, were worried that the R60 would be too heavy or too tall and it would lose the go-kart sharpness. I’m no expert but safe to say just about anyone would enjoy love it! The throttle response, cornering, ride quality and engine sound were sweet. It made you feel more confident a driver than you really are! Even as a passenger you would enjoy it as the ride is much better than the hatch. There’s lots of space inside and more places to chuck your junk. The Cooper S handles better with 4 wheel drive around corners and has better acceleration with its turbo-charged engine. So no guesses which was my favourite ;-)

We finally got to Tanjung Jara and what was a five hour plus drive felt like two. We got a warm welcome from the hotel and were ushered to our beautiful rooms. More makan-makan followed with some R&R time to ourselves. Day 2 was some fun and games about the various features of the Countryman after a heavy breakfast. Ok….there was a short classroom session with powerpoint presentations. Soon it was lunch and a group photo. And then, more driving!

The same drill – paired up and back on the road again in a convoy. Only this time, it began to rain (yippie!!). Definitely more adrenaline on the drive back to KL although less traffic around the Genting stretch would have been better for those hunting apexes. We arrived KL around 7pm on Friday and was stuck in the jam again. When we got to Cyberjaya around 9pm the feeling was a mix of exhaustion and sadness as we had to return the cars. It really has been a fantastic getaway and an experience of a lifetime. Big big thanks to our client for letting us be part of this. It gave us perspective like no briefing document could and truly inspired us, not just about the product but about the brand.

Here are some photos we took along the way…enjoy!