When MINI launched the Countryman back in 2010, it was the brand’s first attempt at the subcompact crossover genre. Now, seven years later, the sophomore effort — that’s just been given the sporty John Cooper Works (JCW) ALL4 treatment — is being described as “a more distinctive and mature proposition than its predecessor.” Let’s find out what that statement is all about.
The maxi-MINI will officially be the largest product sold by the BMW subsidiary, and in JCW form, combines race-ready dynamics with off-road pretensions. Measuring at 4,314 millimetres in length, 1,822 mm width and 1,557 mm height, it is 200 mm longer and 30 mm wider than its predecessor. And rare for a performance vehicle, there is loads of cargo space, ranging from 450 litres to 1,390, depending on how the back seats are configured.
All the second-generation styling highlights, like the floating “helmet roof,” are combined with model-specific extras such as red accents, body kit, roof spoiler, enlarged front bumper air-cooling inlets, Brembo brakes and unique 18-inch Grip Spoke alloy wheels. Inside, occupants are treated to five full-sized seats, JCW leather sports steering wheel and gear lever and an anthracite-coloured roof liner. And for those relaxing drives to the countryside, a “Picnic Bench” folds out of the luggage compartment providing open air seating for two.
The JCW Countryman features the quickest powertrain of all the variants: a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine receiving MINI Twinpower Turbo Technology churning out 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A controllable internal baffle and specialized tailpipe of the sports exhaust allows the system to produce a signature sound profile.
The powerplant is mated to a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an optional eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox with paddle shifters and launch control designed to enable the quickest possible off-the-line acceleration. Combined with standard ALL4 all-wheel drive and sports suspension, the JCW is as comfortable cornering at high speed as it is zooming down a muddy road.
The 2017 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 will launch this spring at a MSRP of $38,500, the same cost as the outgoing version.