Big Mini Gets More Athletic
With the 2013 Mini Cooper Countryman S All4 John Cooper Works (geez, can that name be any longer?), Mini believes it has addressed the biggest gripe many had about the car: not enough Mini-ness. While it didn’t shrink the Countryman, the John Cooper Works (JCW) treatment transforms the four-door Mini into a legit performer by adding more power, a tweaked suspension, subtle aero kit, and unique wheels.
The front-drive and All4 versions of the Countryman and Countryman S arrived for the 2011 model year, and the JCW version will go on sale later this year as a 2013 model. We sampled a pre-production prototype in the Austrian Alps last winter and recently had a chance to get behind the wheel of a German-spec JCW Countryman during this year’s Mini Takes the States event to get a better feel for the hottest version of Mini’s so-called crossover.
Like with all JCW models, a reworked version of Mini’s turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4 powers the JCW Countryman. The boost pressure of the twin-scroll turbocharger has been dialed up, and to handle the additional heat and pressure, the JCW engine receives a reinforced block and head; stronger, low-compression pistons; sodium-filled exhaust valves; a larger intercooler, and changes to the intake, exhaust, and cooling systems. The BMW-sourced Valvetronic variable valve timing system, which became standard on the Mini S engine in 2011, has been added to the JCW engine for 2013.
Mini says the JCW Countryman makes 211 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 30 hp and 30 lb-ft of torque over the Countryman S. An overboost function temporarily increases turbocharger output, upping torque to 221 lb-ft between 2000 and 5200 rpm. Also new for 2013 is an available six-speed automatic transmission, a first for a JCW model.
While other Minis with the JCW kit are front-drive only, Mini’s All4 all-wheel drive is standard on the JCW Countryman and helps negate torque steer. All4 uses an electromagnetic center differential to route power to the front wheels under nominal conditions and up to 50 percent of torque to the rear axle when needed. The JCW Countryman’s standard sport suspension includes stiffer springs and dampers, and thicker anti-roll bars. Ride height is 10mm (0.39 inches) lower than the Countryman S and 18-inch wheels are standard equipment, with 19-inchers optional.
Although the aerodynamic kit is subtle, it makes the JCW Countryman stand out — especially the lower rocker moldings, which lend the Countryman a sportier look. Mini claims the JCW body kit is for more than just visual impact; the pieces are designed to optimize airflow over and around the vehicle.
Not surprisingly, the JCW feels livelier than regular Countryman S All4 models. What was surprising is that it felt quicker than the smaller, lighter Roadster S we also sampled during the Mini Takes the States event. In fact, the JCW Countryman barely felt slower than the JCW Roadster also on hand. Plenty of power was available in each gear. The smooth-shifting six, combined with the aggressive exhaust note, begged to be rowed from second to fourth gear just so you could hear the sound emanate out the back as the revs climbed up the tach. Lifting off the throttle was rewarded with pops and pings. The JCW Countryman exhaust sounded a bit more aggressive than the JCW Roadster, even with the top down.
While driving the JCW Countryman through Salt River Canyon, it kept up with the JCW Roadster at a brisk pace. There seemed to be little tradeoff between improved handling and ride comfort compared to the Countryman S All4. Our tester rode on the standard 18-inch wheels. After spending most of the day behind the wheel above 75 mph, we hopped out without feeling fatigued thanks to the supportive, bolstered seats. The next day, we were greeted in Los Angeles by traffic and road construction. The JCW Countryman’s clutch pedal was smooth and easy to modulate in more than an hour of stop-and-go traffic, and while it never felt stiff, it was a bit springy.
We haven’t been able to put the JCW Countryman through our usual battery of tests, but Mini claims it is capable of reaching 62 mph in 7.0 seconds regardless of transmission with a top speed of 140 mph (139 with automatic transmission).
Mini hasn’t announced pricing for the JCW Countryman, which is expected to go on sale later this year, but don’t be surprised to see a price bump similar to other JCW models of about $6000 over the Countryman S All4’s base price. For those wondering if the JCW is worth the premium over a Countryman S All4, buyers can add a sport suspension ($500), aero kit ($2194), and 18-inch wheels ($750-$1250) to the 2012 Countryman S All4, but would still come up 30 hp and 30 lb-ft of torque short and miss out on the aggressive exhaust note. The 2013 Mini Countryman S All4 John Cooper Works, like all Works cars, is the perfect vehicle for Mini aficionados who need added space in a package retaining Mini character — and don’t mind paying a premium.
|2013 Mini Cooper Countryman S All4 John Cooper Works Euro Spec|
|BASE PRICE||$35,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 4-door, SUV|
|ENGINE||1.6L/211-hp/207-221-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||3200 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||161.8 x 70.4 x 61.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.9 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||23-25 /30-31 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||135-147/109-112 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.71-0.75 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Fall 2012|