Newcomer puts 228bhp to the ground through All4 all-wheel drive. We get behind the wheel
Putting aside the question of whether this 1550kg crossover can still justifiably be termed a ‘Mini’ – or indeed, whether such a lump is deserving of wearing the revered name of legendary racer and tuner Mr Cooper – we’ve driven the new Countryman John Cooper Works. Does the end result justify the extra premium over the existing models?
The newcomer boasts 228bhp from its reworked Cooper S 2.0-litre turbo. Teamed with a swifter-changing eight-speed auto box, standard-fit launch control and, most importantly, All4 all-wheel drive, this results in a 6.5-second 0-62mph sprint – 0.8 seconds quicker than the next-fastest Countryman. Then there’s the upgraded sports suspension with adaptive dampers, plus Brembo four-piston brakes, to accommodate the increased performance. JC would have approved.
Mini Countryman John Cooper Works Automatic
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 228bhp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque: 258lb ft at 1450-4500rpm
Gearbox: 8spd automatic
Top speed: 145mph
Economy: (combined) 38.1mpg
CO2/BIK tax band: 169g/km, 32%
Yet while the Countryman JCW retains the ‘go-kart’ character of which Mini is so proud, it’s come at some cost. The bulky crossover’s high centre of gravity, that firm suspension, darty steering and rather highly strung stoppers give a less-than-natural feel. Too-easily accessed understeer belies BMW’s claim that the Mini can feed all its muscle to the back tyres.
In all, the newcomer does not offer the exciting, properly fast drive we’d expect of the JCW brand. Could the culprit be the extra 200kg the Countryman carries over the Cooper S? We reckon so. At least the premium cabin retains that characterful, slightly flash feel we all know and love. The Alcantara-trimmed bucket seats are very supportive and comfortable, too.
While we rather like the Countryman Cooper S, we can’t really see how this JCW version improves on the package. It carries a lot more bulk, and in trying to cover too many bases – fast family crossover meets flashy, overblown go-kart – it essentially feels like it’s having something of a personality crisis.