MINIs are, well, no longer all that ‘mini’ given the size and weight (1615kg) of the new MINI John Cooper Works Countryman All4 that lobbed this week.
It’s bigger than the previous model with a longer wheelbase and more rear seat legroom and the equipment list is more comprehensive.
JCW Countryman sells from $57,900 and shares plenty of its underpinnings with BMW’s X1 but with a whole lot more sass.
A number of option packages are available with grouped features to ‘customise’ your JCW Countryman but you might have to wait up to five months for delivery.
Though an SUV with all-wheel drive, the emphasis on this Sport Utility Vehicle is definitely on Sport.
Underlining the point is a 0-100kmh sprint time in the low 6.0 second bracket and a new eight-speed conventional auto transmission with paddle shift to flick quickly between ratios.
Three drive modes can be selected including Sport mode which sharpens the reflexes of the steering, engine and transmission. Mid and Green modes offer less urgent driving.
A six speed manual is available if you want to swap cogs yourself.
The JCW Countryman is MINI’s performance halo vehicle and most expensive, something reflected in its luxury accoutrements including quilted leather seats as a no cost option.
It gets Harman Kardon audio, climate control, high end sat-nav through a large touch screen controller, multiple ambient light selections and an auto tailgate.
Safety is well addressed with a selection of advanced driver assist features like autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, park distance control with park assist, auto high beam and rain sensing wipers.
Power comes from a turbo charged, 2.0-litre, petrol engine with 170kW and 350Nm outputs capable of returning 7.4-litres/100km.
A burbling sports exhaust is added along with 19-inch alloys, big Brembo four piston front brakes and dynamic damper control that alters according to the drive mode selected.
Typically, interior ambience is `coolio’ accentuated by a rather garish light array surrounding the centre console that changes colour.
Bit tacky particularly when you take the classy overall interior look into account.
The seats have deep side bolsters, there’s plenty of headroom in all five pews and a reasonable load space down the back.
On the road, the JCW Countryman makes a convincing argument as there’s plenty of performance readily available matched with sharp, responsive dynamics.
It steers quickly with accuracy rarely seen on a road car let along a small/medium SUV. The Brembos are super strong stoppers and even the tyres offer a high level of grip.
And get this, the above applies whether on sealed roads or gravel fire trails.
Yep, for moderate off-road driving, the JCW Countryman is an impressive device that simply refuses to get out of shape even when provoked.
I thought ground clearance might be an issue but within normal bounds, it isn’t.
The exhaust bangs and pops away in the background and the MINI JCW is just a joy to drive in most environments.
I am not really a fan of the goofy face or the overall exterior styling but that’s subjective and plenty would probably like it.
The money buys a wide variety SUV clones from numerous manufacturers but few have the character or overall look-at-me appeal of the JCW Countryman.
Would I buy one?
No because my kids have left the nest and I would prefer the JCW hatch…because I can’t help myself.
NUTS and BOLTS - 2018 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman All4
- Engine: 2.0 litre turbo-petrol producing 170kW/350Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed auto or six-speed manual (no cost option)
- Safety: Five stars
- Warranty: Three years
- Origin: Netherlands
- Price: from $57,900