2011 MINI Cooper Countryman

2011 MINI Cooper Countryman

The 2011 MINI Cooper Countryman is on its way to dealers later this year. When it arrives, it'll be one of the first MINI products to bring the world of Internet radio and Twitter into the car via a new setup dubbed MINI Connected.

Earlier this year, at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, MINI laid out the new service, which it says brings the car's audio player and its driver into tight integration. What that means in practice is that an Apple iPhone equipped with online radio services like Pandora can now be used in place of the car's radio itself, says Steve Saward, sales manager for MINI.

In essence, you can forget XM, Sirius, AM, FM and HD radio--though the MINI lineup offers flavors of all those. The MINI Connected service plugs your iPhone directly into the car's audio head unit, accesses Pandora and other applications, and gives you the audio feed you really want, no matter your location.

The MINI Connected service sounds much like the in-car connectivity we've been promised for vehicles from the 2011 Ford Fiesta and the 2011 Kia Sportage. All of them will have the same ability to channel radio apps later this year--and like those vehicles, the MINI Connected setup also will have access to apps like Twitter, going as far as allowing a response to tweets with pre-programmed answers.

MINI's app may not offer the Bluetooth and voice controls coming to the Ford Fiesta, and we haven't heard yet exactly how your Tweets will be delivered without distracting the driver--other than being displayed on the big high-resolution color LCD screen implanted into all MINIs outfitted with the system and with GPS.

We couldn't take the new system for a spin on our first drive of the 2011 MINI Cooper Countryman yesterday--and we're curious to see if mobile apps for our favorite local radio stations like Atlanta's WSB 750, will also work.

We're also interested in how these apps will work in the near future, when data providers put caps on their most voracious consumers. Apple data provider AT&T already limits most customers to 2GB of data per month in its new iPhone 4, for example.We'll keep you posted on this brewing tech stew--and bring you video of MINI Connected as soon as we're able.