► Biggest Mini gets the JCW makeover
► 231bhp, 258lb ft and all-wheel drive
► Costly at £30,675 but few obvious rivals
Seems like the new Mini Countryman has only been on sale five minutes, yet it’s already been given the John Cooper Works (JCW) treatment to create this warmed-over range-topper.
The latest Countryman has already earned our respect because of its usefully spacious, high-quality interior, practical boot and keen handling. Good news is, all these facets remain in the JCW – only difference being a generous turn-up on the performance wick.
Faster than the Countryman Cooper S ALL4?
SUV or not, performance changes for the Countryman follow the current JCW formula. This involves fitting the familiar 2.0-litre TwinPower turbocharged petrol engine, but this time in a more potent 231bhp and 258lb ft flavour. Changes over the Cooper S ALL4 engine include unique pistons, a larger charge-air cooler and an extra radiator – the reason for the larger cooling grilles in the front bumper and deletion of the parking and foglight units.
Choose either the six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmissions (we’ve got the auto here) and the Countryman JCW will scorch its way to 60mph in just 6.5 seconds – not bad for a big car, and 0.7sec ahead of the Cooper S ALL4. Top speed is 145mph, versus the Cooper S’s 138mph.
There are three driving modes: Green, Mid and Sport. Green seems a bit incongruous on a performance car as it retards the throttle to fractionally save fuel, while the Mid settings feel well-suited to everyday driving. And we dare you not to smile at the extra pops and bangs in the Sport mode from the JCW exhaust.
What’s the auto ’box like?
We’d prefer the cheaper six-speed manual, but if you’re happy to let this Countryman change its own gears, the eight-speed auto makes quick, smooth changes and, like the manual, has an automatic rev-matching feature keeping the downshifts equally smooth. Steering wheel-mounted paddles allow full manual control if desired.
With all that added performance, thankfully the new Countryman JCW has a set of Brembo-developed four-piston calipers. They shrug off speed effectively when working this Countryman hard – shame they lack feel.
Any exterior or interior changes?
The more aggressive front bumper, chunkier 18-inch JCW alloy wheels (or the optional 19-inch ones we have here), a rear diffuser and red highlights, looking at home on the latest Countryman’s more pumped-up design than its predecessor.
Interior highlights include the high-backed JCW branded sports seats and dark ‘anthracite’ headlining.
Despite its un-miniature dimensions this is still a Mini, remember, so there are endless personalisation options, such as different colours, alloy wheels and interior trim, and a larger touchscreen Navigation XL system to make your Mini Countryman JCW stand out further.
The Countryman JCW starts at a pricey £30,675, but direct competitors are currently few and far between.
This Countryman drives generally well, the sharp steering and ALL4 all-wheel drive allowing you to attack corners and carry considerable speed. However, you’re always aware of its bulk and it doesn’t feel considerably faster on the road than the already-quick Cooper S version.
Whether you think it’s worth more than £4000 extra will depend upon how much value you place on the sharpened handling, and the implied racing heritage of that John Cooper Works badge.