Oxford, England – You can say what you like (everybody in our office already has) about the fact that the latest Countryman is close to twice the size of the original 1959 Issigonis Mini and more than double its weight, but Sir Alec could scarcely have envisaged a Mini with five doors, five seats, all-wheel drive and a two-litre turbopetrol four wielding 170kW and 350Nm.
Thanks to special pistons, a big intercooler, an extra radiator and a rorty free-flow exhaust, boost has been boosted (if you’ll forgive the pun) to 2.2 bar from the specially uprated turbo built into the cast steel exhaust manifold, with maximum power available from 5000-6000rpm and peak torque all the way from 1450-4500rpm.
According to parent company BMW, it's the most powerful engine yet offered in a production Mini, and the rest of its numbers are just as impressive: 0-100 in 6.5 seconds and 234km/h flat out. Nominal fuel-consumption in the NEDC laboratory cycle is quoted at 7.4 litres per 100km – which is probably the only number Issigonis would not have been impressed by (his baby was good for 6.5 litres per 100km in real-world testing).
Short-throw manual 'box
When it’s released in South Africa in the third quarter of 2017 the Mini John Cooper Works Countryman will be available with either an uprated, short-throw six-speed manual or eight-speed Steptronic transmission featuring a special JCW selector lever, paddle shifters and a launch control function.
Uprated All4 all-wheel drive is standard, with a bevel-drive power take on the limited-slip front differential, a two-piece propshaft and an electrohydraulically controlled hang-on clutch on the rear differential. To reduce torque loss in the gearing, the system defaults to front-wheel drive, using electronic traction control and the limited-slip front differential to keep the car going where it’s pointed; only when necessary is drive transferred to the rear wheels.
Also standard are sports suspension with tighter bushings and damping than the ‘ordinary’ Countryman, special four-piston front brakes (finished in red with the JCW logo in front) from industry leader Brembo of Italy, 18 inch alloys, LED headlights and special John Cooper Works aero kit with bigger front air intakes.
Special John Cooper Works sports front seats with integrated head restraints are complemented by a multifunction JCW sports steering wheel, while a rotary switch at the base of the gear lever lets you choose between Sport, Mid and Green driving modes. The response curves of the accelerator pedal, steering, engine acoustics, dynamic damper control and the shift points on Steptronic models are modulated for a tauter ride and sharper responses in Sport, while Mid relaxes into cruise mode with a more comfortable ride and Green introduces an extra sub-routine that automatically decouples the engine from the transmission any time the driver lifts his foot off the loud pedal between 50 and 160km/h.
Find MateThanks to Mini Connected, the car will tell you when you need to get going in order to be on time for your next appointment, based on calendar entries and real-time traffic conditions. You don’t even have to enter them in the navigation system; addresses and appointments on saved on your phone are automatically transferred to the car next time you get in.
And last but definitely not least, Find Mate comes with a bunch of tags that you attach to the things you lose most often – keys, phone, tablet, the remote for the garage door – and as long as whatever you’re looking for is within Bluetooth range, the car will tell you exactly where it is. If it’s not, the system will show you the last place it spotted the lost item, which at least helps you to figure out where to start looking.