Munich. The distance from sea to sea is around 1,500 kilometers. Ideal conditions for learning to appreciate the qualities of a four-wheel-drive all-rounder.
Mother nature builds the most beautiful roads in the Arctic Circle region of Finland. Every year in November, she starts building them, and at the end of April, the spring sun takes them away again. These roads are made of gravel, snow and ice, run over frozen waters and through snow-covered forests. They lead through wilderness and untouched nature between large and heart-straight grown firs.
For locals, these thousands of kilometers of winter trails are an important part of the daily road network – for outdoor adventurers, discovering the Arctic Circle on these trails is an intense nature experience. Resting somewhere in the winter white, watching passing herds of reindeer and listening to the soft sounds of the forest. With a little luck, the night sky above all this even burns off a spectacular fireworks display of auroras. The MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 (fuel consumption combined: 7.5 – 6.9 l/100 km according to WLTP, 6.5 – 6.2 l/100 km according to NEDC; CO2 emissions combined: 170 – 158 g/km according to WLTP, 149 – 142 g/km according to NEDC) has just the right characteristics for an extensive round trip through the winter landscape in northern Europe.
The versatile all-rounder from the British premium brand not only impresses with its sporty and safe handling on the road, but thanks to its electronically controlled all-wheel drive and a ground clearance of 16.5 centimeters, it is also in its element on excursions on deep snow-covered dirt roads. And with a luggage compartment volume that can be expanded from 450 to up to 1,390 liters by folding down the rear seat backrest, as well as with its optional roof rails and the railing rack including roof box available in the Genuine MINI Accessories range, the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 is a perfect choice for the Arctic Circle.
Those who set out on the three-country tour in Kemi, Finland, have the opportunity to admire the largest castle in the world built of snow and ice: SnowCastle. Every year local architects build the castle new and always different. Sometimes a snow tower is over 20 meters high, sometimes the castle wall is over a kilometer long. Inside, tourists can spend the night on ice benches and dine on reindeer skins in the igloo restaurant. Room temperature: minus three degrees.
Heading west, the road follows the rugged coastline of the Gulf of Bothnia with its fjords cut deep into the forests for about 160 kilometers. In winter, the archipelago with its countless islands becomes a coherent landscape. Ice roads connect the islands with each other and with the mainland. In the northern Swedish coastal town of Luleå, a detour to Gammelstad is worthwhile. A tranquil church village with red-painted wooden houses, just as known from travel guides. All of them carry a good meter of snow on the roof. Gammelstad is the largest preserved church town in Sweden and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 408 houses and the stone building of the Nederluleå church from 1492 are still preserved.
Enough culture and history? About 120 kilometers to the northwest a spectacular natural phenomenon can be seen. Signposts lead to it over snow-covered gravel roads. No problem for the robust MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4. Directly and perfectly, the all-wheel drive system distributes the power of its 131 kW/178 hp four-cylinder engine to all four wheels as needed. After a short, rapid drive, the roar of the mighty waters of the Storforsen can be heard. Gigantic rapids that plunge up to 82 meters into the depths.
With a length of five kilometers, the Storforsen is one of the longest rapids in Scandinavia and forms the center of the nature reserve of the same name, which includes untouched river landscapes, lush spruce forest and countless small waterfalls. For a longer stay, vacation cabins with a view of the rapids are available on the premises.
After a stopover in Arjeplog, Sweden, the Arctic Circle is soon crossed. Far from prying eyes, BMW Group vehicle developers complete many test drives with prototypes of new BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce models in this sparsely populated region of northern Sweden. Turn in, accelerate, countersteer, stabilize: The snowy tracks and icy surfaces, on which suspension technology and driving stability systems can be so perfectly fine-tuned, make it tempting to hone the art of drifting with the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4, which is also ideally equipped for such maneuvers.
From Arjeplog, the so-called Silvervägen climbs up into the wintry Fjell. The Silver Trail fulfills every Scandinavian cliché on this passage – from moss-green plains and bubbling streams to grazing reindeer. Its name recalls the time when the Silver Trail was more dirt road than road, and mined silver was transported there on reindeer backs and sleds.
After 150 kilometers, the Silver Trail crosses the Swedish-Norwegian border at an altitude of 750 meters. A little later, the snow-covered peak of Solvågtind comes into view. The 1,559-meter-high mountain is part of Junkerdal National Park, one of Norway’s largest and most unspoiled areas with an area of 682,000 square kilometers. The Silver Trail leads here through almost deserted territory to Bodø. With four driven wheels and supported by the lightning-fast DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) including Performance Control and Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC), the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 pulls away on snow-covered roads amid wild birch forests and on narrow, winding mountain roads.
From Bodø, a ferry departs twice a day for Lofoten, a group of islands off the coast of northern Norway. It takes just under three and a half breathtaking hours to sail past vast numbers of tiny islands and in great Nordic silence toward Moskenes. Red fishermen’s houses on wooden piles cling to the narrow sea bay like birds’ nests to rock faces. Moskenes is located on the westernmost Lofoten island of Moskenesøya – framed by the jagged cliffs of the Lofoten Wall towering more than 800 meters high. This is the name of the mighty mountain range in the south of the archipelago, whose age is estimated by geologists at 3.5 billion years.
From Moskenes, the main traffic artery, the European Road 10, leads over bridges and through tunnels to the neighboring islands, which have such wondrous names as Flakstadøya, Vestvagøya, Litlemolla and Skrova. The aurora season begins there in early February. Lofoten lies just below the so-called auroral oval – a belt where the probability of observing the mystical celestial phenomenon is particularly high. After almost 1,500 kilometers of driving pleasure in the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4, the colorful spectacle in the night sky is just the right end to a great tour to the northernmost edge of Europe.