Road Test: Mini Countryman JCW Auto
It’s been 17 years since John Cooper passed, but the Cooper name lives on, thankfully, and although some of the essence has been diluted, when you get behind the wheel of a John Cooper Works, the feeling is still rather quite special. We drive the 2018 Mini Countryman JCW and see how much of that essence remains in this mini-van.
Interior & Exterior
The usual mini quirkiness prevails inside with the traditional round centre binnacle, which now houses the infotainment system and thankfully not the speedo like in the original. The seats in Countryman are part Alcantara and although not electric (at this price point I certainly wouldn’t want to be bothered with levers) are exceptionally supportive and comfortable without being too firm for the inevitable daily commute. Interior ergonomics are good, once you get used the fact that Mini does almost everything differently. From struggling to find the Bluetooth setting (my friend who’d owned a supercharged JCW easily pointed it out) to screaming at the SatNav lady to shut up, potential mini owners are advised to spend extra time getting familiar with the controls before drawing any conclusions around how the instruments work.
A few minor changes have been made to the exterior, such as bumpers, lights and optional 19″ wheels. Other than that the exterior is typically, and recognisably Mini.
2018 Mini Countryman JCW now comes with ALL4 technology and unlike other four-wheel-drive systems, some rear bias comes into play in a predictable and fun manner. Understeer is reigned in, but not eliminated at the limit and lift off oversteer is still easily induced but with much smaller slip angles than the front wheel drive models. Apply more throttle mid-corner and you can feel the rear wheels getting involved but without creating more push or oversteer.
Thanks to the 19” Pirelli tires Countryman JCW has exceptional amounts of grip. The car is balanced and composed but I can’t help but feel that more power or less weight would really complete this package. The 170kW engine also runs out of steam at 6500rpm and even though 0-100 comes up in 6.5 seconds it just doesn’t feel quite as dramatic as the figures would suggest.
The 8-Speed automatic gearbox is always on the boil thanks to the close ratios and when driving at around town is seamlessly working in the background to make for effortless city driving.
Overall a worthy bearer of the JCW name and drivetrain that could teach other seasoned manufacturers a thing about what a fun four-wheel drive system should be. At R636 972 it’s expensive but Countryman JCW owners have grown accustomed to paying a premium for the exclusivity of this brand. The Cooper S might be a worthy consideration, and save you over R100 000.
Need to know:
- Price – R636 972
- Power – 170kw @5000rpm
- Torque – 350Nm @1450rpm
- 0-100km/h – 6.5s
- Top Speed – 234km/h
- Fuel Consumption – 8.9l/100