By Nauman Farooq
MINI’s are fun to drive, they are all nimble around bends, and have decent get-up-and-go! However, the best MINI’s are the ones carrying the JCW badge, and that is what we’re looking at in this issue.
Back in the 1960’s John Cooper started modifying the original Austin Mini, and made them faster. These little cars were so fast, they would destroy larger, much more powerful vehicles in the world of motorsports.
When BMW bought the rights to MINI, and started producing a new version of the iconic city car, it was John Cooper’s son who started offering go-fast bits for the new MINI.
BMW was so impressed, they bought the operation, and started offering John Cooper Works (JCW) versions right off the factory floor. So, think of the ‘JCW’ models under MINI, similar to ‘M’ models for BMW.
We have featured JCW models on these pages in the past, and since now there is a new one, it was a good excuse to borrow another one! This latest JCW offering is based on the new Countryman model, which went on sale just over a year ago. Let’s check it out in detail!
Styling: The JCW version of the Countryman can be distinguished from its lesser models, thanks to some bespoke alloy wheels, different bumpers, and not much else. It is a restraint upgrade on style, and I think it looks great – and not at all overdone!
Interior: The interior is pretty much identical to any other Countryman model, and while that is not a bad thing, I wish it had sport seats like the ones you get in the three-door Cooper JCW and the Clubman JCW model.
So, while the Countryman JCW offers a comfortable cabin, I wish it offered more style. The Countryman JCW is also decently well equipped, with the only feature I wish it -and every other MINI- had, is a heated steering wheel.
A really cool feature, open the tail gate, lift the cargo floor, and a seat pops out, so you can sit on the tailgate – a great feature for picnics!
Powertrain: The MINI Countryman JCW ALL4 is propelled by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder motor, that produces 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Power is fed to an intelligent all-wheel drive system, via a very quick shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox (as tested – a six-speed manual is standard).
All this means, that the performance is very exciting, as the Countryman JCW can sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.5 seconds, and top out at a very naughty 234 km/h. So, it is a proper performance machine.
Driving Dynamics: Numbers are one thing, how it drives is quite another.
The Countryman, being the largest and heaviest (1,657 kg) of the MINI models, is not the most nimble model in MINI’s line-up, but it copes far better than you might imagine.
On a twisty back road, it does offer thrills, and the acceleration and exhaust pops surely add to the excitement – so -in short- it is fun to drive.
On the down side, thanks to stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars of the JCW model, the ride is a bit harsh, especially at slow speeds, going over speed bumps and driveway entrances. At speed, on the highway, it feels stable and secure, and I enjoyed it on long drives.
Fuel Economy: It is thirstier than I was hoping, averaging just 9.8 L/100 km. Given that it likes to drink premium fuel, running costs are hence high.
Even the most basic Countryman model with the turbo three-cylinder motor had averaged just 9.6 L/100 km, so these models do drink much more than one expects!
Pricing: The Countryman JCW ALL4 has a base price of $38,890. My very well equipped tester had a sticker price of $48,730. So, certainly not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination, but a MINI is not an average compact car, it is a prestige brand, a lifestyle, and hence the price tag is somewhat justifiable.
Verdict: The Countryman JCW is a competent performance vehicle, wrapped up in a cool body, with a pleasant interior.
The ride quality could have been better, the fuel economy could have been a lot better, and I hope the product planners at MINI discover what a heated steering wheel is, and starts offering it in their vehicles!
As it currently sits, the Countryman JCW is a good vehicle, and if you love the MINI brand, and need their most practical and powerful model, than this is the one for you!