2011 Mini Countryman
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Our long-term 2011 Mini Countryman is nearing the end of its year-long stay in the Autoblog Garage, the past six months of which have been spent bouncing back and forth between the various Detroit-based team members (and Cleveland – we mustn't forget about Herr Neff). And while we've all had plenty of time behind the wheel of the biggest Mini, this is one car that always seems to be in high demand, whether its for long road trips or just because we all really like driving the thing.

With the odometer nearing the 20,000-mile mark, I must commend the Countryman for how well it's held up over the past ten months of use. I recently spent a few days in it for a quick jaunt across Michigan, and aside from surface detritus like dust on the IP and an occasional french fry found under the driver's seat, the interior doesn't seem to really show any signs of aging – something we couldn't say about our recently departed long-term Hyundai Equus after only six months of service. There are no rattles or creaks to speak of and the various fabrics and plastics used throughout the cabin look as good as they did on Day One. Then again, we expect nothing less considering our Mini's $38,000 price tag.

The one constant complaint from literally every single person who drives the car is how harsh it rides on the road.

The one constant complaint from literally every single person who drives the car is how harsh it rides on the road, Detroit's horrific street surfaces aside. It's not entirely the fault of our car's optional sport suspension, though – we think it all comes down to its awful run-flat summer tires. The whole car will jolt as you coast over even the most minute of pavement irregularities, and it gets to be very, very annoying. I truly miss the Bridgestone Blizzak WS-70 winter tires that were fitted to the car during the cold months. Yes, the 18-inch Pirelli Cinturato P7 run-flats offer better grip on dry roads, especially when driving the Countryman enthusiastically, but the rubber compound of those Blizzaks was so much more pleasant for everyday driving scenarios.

Brake dust also continues to be an issue, and it makes me wish we had opted for one of the darker alloy wheel choices when ordering our car. (I suppose I'm the one to blame, since you readers picked this Mini in our initial poll, and the car you see here is the one I had configured.) But still, even after just a week of driving, the front wheels become coated in black soot, and even a run through a car wash won't completely do the trick in removing the grossness.

But these are simple fixes. Get yourself a proper set of summer (or all-season) tires and the ride quality will surely improve. And if you build a Countryman with one of the dark alloy wheel options, there are plenty of lighter body colors that look really sharp with contrasting black accents. Even so, these quibbles with our long-term tester won't steer me away from spending more time with the Mini before it leaves, and judging from all the requests from other staffers eager to get another stint behind the wheel, they haven't upset too many of my fellow editors, either.

Keep your eyes locked on the official Autoblog Facebook page for the majority of our updates, as well as the official Autoblog Twitter account (@therealautoblog, look for the #ablongterm hashtag).

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