When our friends at The Tire Rack told us they'd be sending over a set of Bridgestone Blizzak WS-70 tires mounted on 17-inch Sport Edition alloy wheels for our long-term Mini Countryman, our minds were immediately filled with images of the little blue hatchback bounding along snowy roads with razor-sharp precision and confidence. Instead, editors Neff, Paukert and myself can literally count on one hand the number of times we actually had to drive the Mini on snowy/slushy roads. So much for winter tire/all-wheel-drive snowy playtime.

To say that we've had an unusually mild winter here in the Midwest is truly an understatement (note: we are absolutely not complaining). In mid-March, we saw record-high temperatures in the mid-80s. As Neff said in last month's update, seriously, what the hell is going on?

So rather than wear down the tread on our Blizzaks even further, we took the Countryman over to Motor City Mini once again to have its stock Pirelli Cinturato 18-inch wheels and run-flat (boo!) tires put back on. Perfect timing, too, since the car was just about to roll over the 12,000-mile mark, meaning its first scheduled maintenance was due. The oil was changed, fluids were topped off and all of the other mechanical elements inspected, and thus, our Mini is now prepped and ready for spring and summer in The D. We griped about the harshness of the run-flat tires combined with our optional sport suspension already, so we'll spare you another round of grumbling. If there's one thing we'll miss about the winter tires, it's the smoother – albeit, slightly louder – ride.

Our observed fuel economy numbers are falling short of what the EPA suggests.

With 12,000 miles now under our belts, the Countryman is plenty broken in. But after a quick math session with the car's logbook, it seems our observed fuel economy numbers are falling short of what the EPA suggests. I'll personally admit to driving the Mini more aggressively than most consumers likely will (hey, this thing is seriously fun to throw around), but even so, the fact that our observed fuel economy is only 24.9 miles per gallon is indeed questionable. The EPA rates the 2011 Cooper S Countryman All4 at 26/32 mpg city/highway and 28 mpg combined when fitted with the six-speed manual transmission, and our best recorded fuel economy is only a dismal 29.3 mpg. Either I'm not the only one with a heavy right foot or something is off here. We'll definitely be keeping a close watch over this as time progresses.

In the next month, associate editor Chris Shunk will put the Countryman to use as a family hauler, so we'll get a better idea of just how kid-and-cargo-friendly the four-passenger interior really is. Stay tuned.

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