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No distance is too far, no snow is too deep: Road trip with the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

Anybody wanting to create a festive atmosphere in their homely living room, first needs to venture out into nature. They have to be really determined to bring the most beautiful fir tree of all back home. With this end in mind, even an extended road trip is worthwhile – all the more so if the versatile allrounder from the British premium brand promises to transform the journey through snowy landscapes into wintry fun.

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Munich. The expectations are high, the mission is clearly defined, and a glance at the calendar shows there’s no time to delay. As we draw closer to the yuletide season, the search for the perfect Christmas tree becomes the most important mission of the year – well, at any rate for the month of December. Not too big, but there again not too small, a straight trunk and evenly configured branches of a uniformly deep green. This is what the traditional fir tree should look like, decorated with lights and baubles to conjure up a festive mood in the living room back home. In other words, you need to be picky when you’re making a decision about the right Christmas tree. And anybody who entrusts this mission to husbands, partners or fathers generally suspects that the search for an iconic symbol of a peaceful Christmas celebration is inevitably going to be rather a protracted affair.

As far as Jürgen Metz from Munich is concerned, the search for a tree takes off directly after breakfast has finished with a selection of the appropriate means of transport. A classic Innocenti Mini is ready to go. He has already been on some awesome road trips in the lovingly cherished Italo-British runabout. But today, the member of the personnel working in dynamic driving development at MINI has something rather bigger in mind. The new MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 (combined fuel consumption: 6.5 – 6.2 l/100 km, combined CO2 emissions: 149 – 142 g/km) is the obvious choice with its optional roof bars and carriers supplied in the MINI Original accessories range. It’s ready to be transformed into an Xmas Tree Express. And in principle, procurement could undoubtedly be dealt with quite swiftly. It’s true that all types and sizes of tree are available in the car park in front of the local supermarket. But are they really fresh? And isn’t it just much too risky to purchase an off-the-peg fir tree that’s already shrouded in netting ready for transportation?

It’s true that the selection is even greater in front of the DIY store on the edge of town. But word has clearly got around. Hordes of prospective customers are standing in front of the fenced-in open-air market and waiting to be let into the “forest” of fir trees arrayed in serried ranks and sorted according to size. Surveying the scene gives Jürgen food for thought. Wouldn’t it be a lot more festive to go on a more traditional search and look for the perfect tree far from the madding crowd in the midst of pristine nature? In the hilly Eifel region where he grew up this was always the only proper way to get in the Christmassy mood. And even today, a fir tree cut down by hand is still regarded as the optimum signal for the start of the festive season.

The navigation system of the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 lists almost a dozen locations in the Munich area for “Cut your own Christmas tree”. Tactical thinking is therefore necessary when it comes to selecting the destination. Jürgen calculates that the best choice will be where there’s not a mad rush of big-city dwellers. He quickly decides to head for a forests of conifers located to the south of the city. Combining the purchase of a Christmas tree with an outing into the snowy mountain landscape is extremely appealing.

Already after a few kilometres of travelling along winding country roads, a new festive spirit takes hold behind the steering wheel of the new MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4. The four-cylinder petrol engine packing 131 kW/178 hp and augmented by MINI TwinPower Turbo technology bears testimony to its athletic temperament with each burst of speed. Lakes Starnberg and Staffelsee are quickly left behind. The Zugspitze – Germany’s highest mountain – is approaching, and driving fun has only just begun. Once he’s in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Jürgen is convinced that the very best Christmas trees of all will be found in Austria. A little later, it's over the border and into Tyrol.

More than 25 years ago, a host of forestry owners in this Alpine Austrian state got together to establish the “Tyrolean Christmas Tree” as a brand. Today, the name stands for a seal of quality that guarantees professional cultivation of the trees in a natural environment. Every year, some 30,000 trees from the forests of registered growers ensure a festive glow in living rooms. This is a very good reason to search for the right Christmas tree in Tyrol.

However, the stunningly picturesque mountain panorama has meanwhile ensured that the actual reason for the road trip through the Alpine uplands has almost been forgotten. Jürgen is only too well aware that the agility so typical of MINI will come into its own when cornering on hairpin bends at the wheel even of the biggest model from the British premium brand. With every metre scaled by the new MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4, it’s not just the mountains of snow piled up along the sides of the road that grow. Winter driving fun also attains unimagined pinnacles of intensity as the powerful allrounder makes its ascent.

Shortly before the road up to the glacier skiing area of Sölden, a road sign once more brings to mind the driver’s original goal for the outing. “Christmas trees directly from the forest” are advertised there. The sign points along a snow-covered woodland track that leads into the depths of the forest. The all-wheel drive system distributes power between the front and rear wheels within the space of a few milliseconds. This meets the driving requirements at any point in time and means that the new MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 is utterly in its element in the wintry landscape. A few minutes later, the pop-up point of sale has been reached – behind it, there are fir trees stretching as far as the eye can see, all waiting to become the illuminated centrepiece in a festively decorated living room. Surely it must be possible to find the perfect Christmas tree here.

Awesome: In the Christmas tree plantation on the edge of the forest located in the Ötztal Alps, virtually every fir tree has the right dimensions. After a brief inspection of the shape of the crown and the branch density, the sound of the chain saw shatters the peaceful scene.

Shortly after that, Jürgen has loaded the tree onto the roof carrier of the MINI Countryman. “That went really fast,” he ruminates with satisfaction, while the descending twilight immediately puts this assessment in perspective. But he’s quite clear about one thing: the long road trip was well worth it, because it simply wouldn’t have been possible to find such a great tree as this one, even with looking all over Munich. The series LED headlamps of the new MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 now show Jürgen the way back to the metalled roads where he quickly selects the fastest route back home in the navigation system. After all, the carefully selected tree is destined to be put up and decorated that very same evening.

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