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The Astounding SUVs. Eppur si muove

When Porsche announced they were going to launch an SUV, a wave of protests from brand fans (and not only) emerged, raging like a cataract in a thunderstorm. Journalists snorted in disgust, further supporting the heated views of the most vocal Boxster/Cayman/911 clients or of those that, since childhood, only dreamed of touching one of the cars made in Stuttgart, without even knowing that Porsches don’t have their ignition keys on the right side of the steering wheel.

Naturally, a downpour of so-called comparative tests followed, virtually demonizing the poor Cayenne and giving the press yet another chance to explain to us that Porsche lacks tradition in the SUV segment and that, besides offering just a modified Touareg, they will never be able to deliver something superior to what Mercedes and BMW had been dishing out for ages.

Still, the people over at Porsche carried on with their work (and vision) and, in the end, made it big with an SUV that not only outperforms the Touareg on all levels, but also stole every chance Mercedes, BMW or Audi had to stand out anymore. The Cayenne sold like hot cakes, surpassed all initial expectations and finally proved itself one of the best SUVs ever made. Extremely reliable, incredibly well built, very very powerful and... comfortable.

Slowly, people started to forget that "Porsche doesn’t do SUVs" and everyone who wanted a practical but powerful car, with real all-wheel drive and performance that puts most sports cars to shame, chose to purchase a Cayenne.

Certainly, a few whimpering purists still exist, but I guess they’ll always have those small, uncomfortable, extremely expensive small cars that also suffer from all the problems common to sports vehicles. They’ll be happy with their weekend cars, while clients that wanted a vehicle that works just as well in low temperature or offroad conditions and generally doesn’t "care" about the weather reports, now have a Porsche Cayenne in their garage.

An very profitable outcome for Porsche. So profitable, in fact, that they considered acquiring VW for themselves, but that’s another story altogether.

Although BMW tried to respond with a penguin-whale hybrid, their X6 experiment was unsuccessful at drawing the interest of the target client group, while the Cayenne continued to be a top-notch option for those that can appreciate a luxury SUV.

History seems to be repeating itself this year. After the Clubman experiment, BMW seems to have learned its lesson and now offers (probably) the first comfortable and actually useful Mini in recent times.

The new Countryman S reminded me of the Cayenne story. Surprisingly comfortable and impossibly spacious for a 4.1 meter long Mini, sporty and equipped with a basic but useful all-wheel drive system, very agile for something that aims to be an SUV of sorts, ground clearance that allows owners to drive out of an underground garage without the issues that show up with cars like the 1 Series, a decent fuel consumption level and an overall design that’s difficult to dislike. During the test drive carried out recently by the Autoevolution team, there wasn't anyone who didn’t admit they liked the look of the new Countryman. The design, albeit clearly still Mini-themed, is very appealing and uses very well thought out proportions.

To sum it all up, the differences between the Countryman S and its smaller siblings undoubtedly favor the bigger and newer member of the family. Mini has managed to break the old rules and turn an uncomfortable car into an all-around vehicle, especially when generously equipped, something that will easily leave a 40,000+ Euro mark in your check book.

Obviously, "dissapointed fans" didn’t miss the party this time either and they seem to miss out on BMW’s plan to sell more cars than the handful purchased by trendy young ladies who imagine they look good in a 3.7 meter Mini S that’s as frail as them and rides lower than a Lambo.

Something’s certain though: BMW’s pretty and expensive Countryman will manage to move quite a lot of units. Not only am I willing to bet on its success, I am convinced that it will go mainstream over the next years.

Speaking of highly unlikely events, get ready for the huge fuss the announcement of Lamborghini’s first SUV is going to make. And you know what? It looks amazing, it will be amazing and it will have amazing sales. Wanna bet?

 
 
 
 
 

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