The all-wheel drive JCW has more power than the Cooper S, for more money: is it worth it?

The Countryman John Cooper Works is a model modern Mini. It is a crossover that weighs over 1.5 tonnes and is about as far removed from the original 1959 purist Mini as can be. As for the Cooper branding, well, that used to be reserved for championship-winning F1 cars. Does it merit a place on a Mini like this?

The new JCW Countryman isn’t short on firepower, that’s for sure. It has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine uprated to produce 228bhp and a substantial 258lb ft of torque – that’s almost diesel-like. A combination of launch control and All4 running gear serves up a swift 0-62mph time of 6.5sec.

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Mini fits adaptive suspension damping and has stiffened up the base Cooper S setup. The brakes have also been uprated with beefy-looking four-pot Brembo front calipers, all the better for avoiding fade when slowing down such mass. It all works, too. It’s immediately apparent that this is a more focused Mini: suspension is super-stiff, steering is quick and the brakes are sharp.

It feels smaller and lighter than it looks – until you press on. Then, you’ll discover the chassis actually feels rather lifeless, falling into understeer all too easily and lacking the agility we’ve come to expect from a Mini over the years. Apparently, the four-wheel drive system can send all its drive rearwards when necessary, but we couldn’t feel it.

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Surprisingly, it also didn’t feel as quick as we expected. It may well have 228bhp, but it all felt rather flaccid, lacking the promise of that decent-sounding 0-62mph time. It seems the fact it weighs a hefty 200kg more than a normal Mini Cooper S hatch has a bigger bearing than Mini would have us believe.

At least it’s nice inside, with upgraded JCW bucket seats, Alcantara trim and a feel-good sports steering wheel. It’s characterful within and all finished in very high quality materials. As you’d expect for more than £32,000…

Trouble is, we don’t think it’s worth it. The JCW doesn’t really deliver that much more than a standard, cheaper, Mini Countryman Cooper S. It doesn’t up the levels of involvement sufficiently, which left us a bit disappointed. For such money, you’d get more satisfaction and involvement from today’s broad range of hot hatches; this JCW can’t quite cut it.

Mini Countryman John Cooper Works Automatic

Price £32,275
Engine 4cyl, 1998cc, turbocharged, petrol
Power 228bhp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque 258lb ft at 1450-4500rpm
Gearbox 8spd automatic
​Kerbweight 1530kg
​0-62mph 6.5sec
Top speed 145mph
Economy (combined) 38.1mpg
CO2/BIK tax band 169g/km, 32%

Rob Adams is a writer for AutoCar.

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