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The Mini Countryman is tough, capable, all-wheel driven, comfortable and agile, but it's not a sports car - right?
From today, wrong.
BMW has announced the first Mini to combine high-revving John Cooper Works power with all-wheel drive.
Scheduled for world launch in the third quarter of 2012 - and due in South Africa before the end of the year - the Mini John Cooper Works Countryman will have Mini's familiar All4 drive system, driven by a newly developed 1.6-litre JCW engine rated at a muscular 160kW.
That comes courtesy of a twin-scroll turbocharger with a new, bigger intercooler feeding an engine with direct fuel-injection and variable valve timing, reinforced pistons and intake valves, and tweaked cooling, intake and exhaust systems.
The result, says BMW, is 160kW at 6000rpm and 260Nm from 2000-5600rpm - with 280Nm (briefly) available between 2100 and 5200rpm on overboost.
ELECTROMAGNETIC CENTRE DIFF
The CooperCountryman will also be the first JCW to be the offered with a six-speed, automatic transmission as an alternative to the usual six-speed manual 'box.
Either way, BMW quotes a 0-100km/h sprint in 7.2 seconds and fuel consumption of 7.2 litres per 100km (8.0 for the auto tranny).
The All4 all-wheel-drive system uses an electromagnetic centre differential to distribute drive seamlessly between front and rear axles. Under normal conditions it sends all the power to the front wheels, just like a 'normal' Mini, but as much as 50 percent of the power can be directed to the rear axle if the front wheels begin slipping.
The standard sports suspension includes particularly stiff spring and damper settings, strengthened anti-roll bars and a 10mm drop in ride height. Dynamic stability control is also standard, as is dynamic traction control, allied to a special high-performance braking system.
Pressing the Sport button (also standard!) tweaks the engine responses, stiffens the power assistance and uncorks the exhaust system for a seriously authoritative soundtrack.
A SPECIAL PRESENCE
Deep front and rear aprons, custom side skirts and a tailgate spoiler - all standard - give the car a special presence, as do 18” twin-spoke alloys with polished spoke fronts and black rim wells. 19” rims, also exclusive to the John Cooper Works Countryman, are an option.
No matter what colour you choose for your CooperCountryman you can have the roof (and the mirror housings) in white, black or bright red, with or without go-fast stripes in the same colour. In any case you'll get the John Cooper Works logo on the grille, tailgate and sill strips, and near the side indicators, as part of the deal.
New sports seats with diagonal-track fabric upholstery in black with red contrast stitching have been designed specially for the new model; leather trim in black and red can also be ordered.
A LITTLE DEVIL OF A CAR
The trim strips around the cockpit, door panels and centre console come in gloss black as standard, or you can order them in bright red, with extra red elements for the cockpit and doors, and red stripes for the black trim elements on the centre console.
The rest focuses on a sports steering wheel with red contrast stitching and JCW logo, dark speedometer and rev counter dials, dark grey roof liner, a black gearshift lever with red shift-pattern lettering, red contrast stitching on the gearshift lever gaiter and floor mats with red stitching, making sure you know that this is a little devil of a car.