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John Cooper Works unveils its take on the 4x4 MINI Countryman


September 11, 2012

The MINI John Cooper Works Countryman (Photo: BMW)

The MINI John Cooper Works Countryman (Photo: BMW)

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When MINI Cooper came out with its Mini Countryman in 2010, it looked like what it was – a 4x4 crossover for people who like MINIs, but occasionally need to drive through a field or live on steep, icy hills. This year, MINI’s John Cooper Works sub-brand comes out with its version of the Countryman that takes the bucolic MINI and gives it a heavy dose of racetrack style and technology.

The MINI John Cooper Works Countryman is JCW’s first 4x4 and its first five-door MINI. It’s also the first to use the MINI ALL4 all-wheel drive system, which utilizes an electromagnetic center differential to distribute power between the front and rear axles. Backed up by MacPherson strut suspension and Dynamic Traction Control, this allows for greater traction in adverse conditions while maintaining the Countryman’s “go-kart” handling. Car makers like Alfa Romeo might not care to have their creations compared to go-karts, but MINI John Cooper Works goes out of its way to make the comparison.

MINI John Cooper Works bills the Countryman as the “performance model” of the range and has tried to give the car a distinct racing feel. Its four-cylinder 1.6-liter engine has a twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection and fully variable valve management based on the BMW Group’s VALVETRONIC technology, and puts out a respectable 218 bhp (160 Kw) and 207 foot-pounds (280 Nm) of torque. The makers like to call the Countryman’s 0 to 100 kph (62 mph) in 7.0 seconds “intoxicating,” but it’s probably not causing Aston Martin to lose any sleep.

The Countryman comes with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, but there’s a six-speed automatic version available with flappy paddle shifts. Top speed is 225 kph (140 mph) for the manual and 223 km/h (139 mph) for the automatic.

Despite all the racing mods, the mileage is not bad at 7.4 liters per 100 km, or 38.2 mpg (automatic: 7.9 liters per 100 km/35.8 mpg). This is probably due in part to the use of the BMW Group’s MINIMALIST technology package. This is basically a bit of an electronic nanny to make sure you eat your greens. It includes Brake Energy Regeneration to reclaim energy while coasting or braking, electric power steering that only kicks in when needed, a Gear Shift Indicator to tell you when’s the best time to change gears, plus the manual version has an Auto Start-Stop feature that turns the engine off if the car stops at a light.

Then there are the toys like the Sport Button. Pressing this tweaks the engine so that gear changes in automatic mode are faster, but its more important function is to make the exhaust growl so you’re reminded that this is supposed to be a performance car. However, the performance angle isn’t restricted to sound effects, as there is also sports suspension, strengthened anti-roll bars, and souped-up brakes with red calipers.

The racing motif extends to the bodywork and interior as well. The outside has an aerodynamic kit to optimize airflow, which no doubt helps while going flat out, but the low wheel clearance and aprons mean that this is definitely a 4x4 for the road and the odd gravel track rather than bouncing through mud holes – not that the Countryman is an urban car only, as its recent inclusion in the World Rally Championship was intended to prove.

The interior is very aggressive for a MINI with all sorts of protuberances meant to suggest a racing cockpit, and a speedometer/sat nav display that looks like something out of Dan Dare. This being a five-door, there’s a large tailgate providing access to the boot, and it seats up to five passengers depending on the seat option.

Source: BMW

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

How is this bloated, oversized, poorly packaged, ugly,kitsch, and very expensive blob in any way a Mini?

Minis (the real thing, not the BMW monstrosity) were intended to be inexpensive, basic cars designed to carry four adults in as compact a space as possible- and was one of the first cars to fit the engine sideways and fit the gearbox in the sump to save space. It could outrun far more powerful cars on twisty roads, won rallies, and more importantly, provided Europeans (and Brits in particular) with an economical set of wheels that was also a hoot to drive. The BMW Mini, and its ever more pointless derivatives, is in no way it's spiritual successor.

The most basic BMW Minis, without the poor-taste graphics and codpiece extrustions, is if not a real Mini, at least a competent bit of kit, if you can live with the poor internal design and lack of space, and the fact that it is enormous externally by city car standards. The Countryman on the other hand is the size of a small SUV- how is this remotely 'Mini' (that's supposed to be short for 'miniature' btw). What is this supposed to be a 'Mini' version of? A Chevrolet Suburban?

If BMW want to make oddly-styled, blobby 'small' cars, or 'soft roaders', then fine- but they already cover this market with the 1 Series, X3, etc. Actually their worst offense is the 'Mini Clubman', a Mini estate car (station wagon in US speak), that is supposed to draw on the heritage of the original Clubman estate, and has an extra tiny door on one side only. Unfortunately, for a car that is pretending to be British, that extra door is on the wrong side for the British market- we drive on the left, and getting kids out of the back of the car into the path of oncoming traffic on our narrow and congested roads is not clever.

Oh, and if anyone is fooled by BMW's 'Union Jack' waving, as it scrapes the barrel one more time to get even more milage out of the Mini's pretended British heritage, this car isn't even built here in the UK.

Fashion victims will no doubt read in their 'lifestyle magazines' that this car (and it's ill-begotten brethren) is a 'Must Have' and will ensure this car sells, even though it is underpowered, overpriced and not very fast by small(ish) European 'hot hatch' standards.



But...but..... it has "souped-up brakes with red calipers"!

Doesn't that count for anything?



Those red calipers must be worth the extra expense on an already pricey car.

And it has a Sport button to make the exhaust growl... which I suppose is a bit more grown-up than having to make 'brrrrrrrrrrmmmmmm' noises yourself.

That central speedo is even sillier than in the more basic versions. With SatNav you can only see the tip of the speedo needle, so you can't see how fast you are going at a glance. Having the speedo mounted in the middle was a post-war feature of certain British cars like the Morris Minor and Austin A30 fame, and later the original Mini. It was put there to save money in those cash-starved days to facilitate exports, since they wouldn't have to produce two different instrument packs for LHD or RHD. Made sense when small British cars could barely do 70mph and traffic speeds were lower- you knew what speed you were doing from the noise of the engine and transmission without taking your eyes off the road to check the dial. It is entirely out of place in a modern vehicle.


Since I actually DO own a Mini Station Wagon I can comment and post! This is a Mini (See my link)! 4 doors! Two for passengers, two at the back for goods, and trust me... you can get LOTS in there!


Bmw started out with a great re-interpretation of an old classic but in an dreadful move to cash in, has produced lots of insult to the original.

So for those that are easily confused by colourful callipers... take a look. I'm not anti BMW but their latest Mini moves are silly.

Oh and BY THE WAY! A Mini Cooper would have been CREATED from an engine similar to mine (1275 GT) and ONLY once it was of racing standards was it call a Cooper! Not the average bottom of the barrel plain and ordinary vehicle. BMW screwed that up too!

Jo Rodrigues

I read the orig Mini was not a cash cow for BLMC. Ford did some cost analysis then decided not go into competition with Mini. None the less Alec Issigonis did real fine job to created the orig mini.

These new one is a kind to putting too many lipsticks on ms. piggy! Also the weight is concentrated on the front dont see why she needs AWD. Plus there isn't much of a ground clearance, dont think they can even climb over a curb. I guess they can sell them to folks with lesser brain and more mulla.

Jimbo Jim

@Jimbo Jim,

Ford took the BMC Mini to bits and costed it- and worked out that they were losing around £30 per car, which was a lot of money in the '60s.

Problem with the original Mini, brilliant car that it was, was that it was developed in haste and was very costly to build. Issigonis himself developed a successor to it which would have been cheaper to build and with a better engine, but by then BMC had hit the rocks and was bought up by Leyland Trucks. The priority then was to combat the Cortina and the Escort, so they developed the Marina and the awful Allegro- the latter despite the existence of far better 1100-based alternative proposals. It was a catalogue of bad management decisions, compounded by appalling industrial relations- consequently the old Mini stayed in production, largely unchanged until 2000, by which time it was beyond anachronistic.

Issigonis was no saint- his development of the plain-jane Maxi and similar but oversized Austin 1800 (neither of which was what the market wanted) helped bring about the demise of BMC. Had Issigonis been better managed then that may have been one less factor.

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