Early drive: MINI Countryman JCW

  • Range-topping £30,875 Countryman JCW tested
  • 231hp, ALL4 all-wheel drive and 0-62 in just 6.5 seconds
  • Is it worth the extra over the already quick Cooper S ALL4?

The hottest, range-topping version of the biggest MINI on sale — the MINI Countryman John Cooper Works (JCW) SUV, which packs a tweaked 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine harnessed by all-wheel drive traction.

With power up 13hp to 231hp and the fact that key rivals including the Audi Q2 and Mazda CX-3 don’t offer such as sporty model, MINI will surely be hoping that they can sell more than the rare first-generation Countryman JCW - which ran between 2013 and 2016.

So what’s changed over the already quick Cooper S?

The JCW makeover follows a similar format to that of the Hatch, Convertible and Clubman ranges. Up front, there’s a JCW-specific 2.0-litre TwinPower Petrol engine, which has been modified for extra power.

Outside, you’ll spot the special JCW specific Aerodynamics Kit, including the more aggressive front bumper with its larger air intakes and absent fog light units – a result of the extra radiator needed for the tuned 2.0-litre engine.

There are also red highlights, a different rear spoiler, rear diffuser, JCW tips for the twin exit exhaust and on our test car, the chunkier stance is helped by the 19-inch JCW alloy wheels, part of the £2,280 optional Chili pack.

Despite the JCW-branded, high-backed sport seats, interior practicality remains the same, so there’s ample room for four and the same 450-litre boot. Anthracite headlining adds a touch of extra sportiness. 

Does it drive like a sporty MINI should?

This is a more convincing JCW transformation than some others in the MINI range, with the standard ALL4 all-wheel drive and sports suspension complimenting the Countryman’s sharp steering, meaning corners can be attacked at quite high speed with impressive levels of grip and body control. 

Yet despite its nimbleness, you can’t defy physics and are always aware of the Countryman’s extra bulk compared with smaller MINIs. It doesn’t feel that much quicker on the road than the Cooper S either, which is a bit of a disappointment.

There’s the choice of a six-speed manual or for an extra £1,600, the eight-speed auto’ box we’ve got here. Whether you choose manual or automatic the Countryman JCW will claw its way to 62mph in the same 6.5 seconds — that’s just 0.7 ahead of the Cooper S ALL4. The top speed also rises to 145mph, compared to the Cooper S’s 138mph.

Thankfully, there’s a set of strong upgraded brakes to slow this MINI down.

Here are the performance figures for the MINI Countryman JCW

  • 231hp and 350Nm of torque
  • 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 145mph
  • 38.2mpg claimed fuel economy and emissions of 169g/km CO2

What’s the standard kit like?

Standard specification is pretty good, but then again this MINI does cost over £30,000 to begin with. Here’s what you get for your money:

As with all MINI models there’s plenty of choices for personalisation and extra tech including MINI’s latest touchscreen navigation system – Nav XL.

The JCW Chili pack adds £2,280 to the price but comes with bigger alloys, automatic air-conditioning and heated front seats.

Verdict

Even with the JCW performance makeover, the Countryman remains the same practical, family SUV we already know.

The JCW’s extra performance, sports suspension, all-wheel drive and sharp steering equal a fun drive. However, you’re always aware of the Countryman’s extra weight compared with lesser MINIs and we wonder if the JCW should offer more of a performance advantage than it does.

It is expensive to buy, but when you compare it with the £26,665 Countryman Cooper S ALL4 it makes more sense. Why? Well, if you add the £2,980 Chili Pack, it takes the price to £29,645. This is pretty close to the JCW’s £30,875 starting price and the JCW includes the majority of the Cooper S’s Chili Pack as standard.