I often say on the Car Pro Show that a Mini Cooper is not for everyone. I still believe that while this is true, Mini is evolving into a company that is building more cars for more different lifestyles. This week, I bring you the Mini Cooper Countryman, the largest of the Mini fleet. Some call it a hatchback, others a station wagon, and I have even heard people refer to it as an SUV. For me, it is a 4-door hatchback but whatever classification you put it in, it’s a cool car ESPECIALLY with the John Cooper Works package like the one I have this week.
For history purposes, John Cooper was the inventor of the Mini Cooper before the company was purchased by BMW. John Newton Cooper (1923 – 2000) was a co-founder, with his father Charles Cooper, of the Cooper Car Company. Born in Surbiton, Surrey, England, he became an auto racing legend with his rear-engine chassis design that would eventually change the face of the sport at its highest levels, from Formula One to the Indianapolis 500.
You certainly see a racing influence in every John Cooper Works (JCW) Mini. All of them have more power, sharper handling, and a unique interior and exterior. This JCW features a revised version of the Mini S model’s engine. It is a 1.6 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder generating 208-horses and 207 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard on the JCW and my test vehicle has a 6-speed automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters. Mini estimates the 0-60-at under 7 seconds with the automatic.
For you gearheads, The JCW’s engine is pretty amazing. The boost pressure of the twin-scroll turbocharger has been dialed up, and to handle the additional heat and pressure, it receives a reinforced block and head, stronger, low-compression pistons; sodium-filled exhaust valves; a larger intercooler, and changes to the intake, exhaust, and cooling systems. The BMW-sourced Valvetronic variable valve timing system has been added to the JCW engine for 2013.
This is the first all-wheel Mini I have driven and it is impressive. Its all-wheel-drive system is called ALL4, which means power is sent to the front wheels by default, but up to half can be distributed to the rear wheels in certain conditions. Hard acceleration from a standstill exhibits a marked improvement from the torque-steer-heavy front-drive JCW models of the past.
The JCW Countryman drives great and is smoother than I remember other Minis being in the past, part of that I am sure is the sheer weight of the car, which is around 3250 pounds. The car goes through a major transformation when you flip up a fairly hidden switch labeled SPORT. Sport Mode increases the steering weight, throttle response and exhaust sound. You also get an additional 14 lb-ft of torque overboost available for short bursts, a particularly useful tool for jumping on the freeway.
All Minis are unique and cool inside and outside. A huge speedometer sits right in the middle of the dash and cannot be missed. Passengers will notice the JCW logos on the sills, and the more supportive sport seats and steering wheel are suited to the vehicle’s performance character. MINI’s Lounge Leather is available as an option. The JCW comes with an outstanding mix of two-tone colors inside. Although the rear seat slides, room is tight back there. A child seat would be fine, but adults are going to need a can opener to exit. Cargo room with the back seats folded down is good.
The exterior features sportier styling as well. An aero body kit and standard 18-inch or optional 19-inch alloy wheels differentiate the Works version from tamer Countryman models, and JCW badges mark the grille and rear hatch. Fog lights are standard. My tester is Black with Red mirror caps and a roof finish, with Red racing stripes and alloy wheels. This is without a doubt the best looking Mini Cooper I have ever seen.
A good value for $750 is Mini Connected, which features a large display inside the speedometer and a corresponding console-mounted controller that operates Bluetooth, iPod and smartphone integration. A navigation system can also be added to Mini Connected, but my test car does not have this feature.
I like this John Cooper Works Mini a lot. I stop short of giving it 5 out of 5 stars due to the price, but it is a lot of fun to drive, and in Sport Mode, it’s a little rocket!
What I liked most: Looks and performance.
What I would change: I wish it were a little less money on the MSRP.
Fuel Economy: 23 City/30 Highway
2013 JCW Countryman in a few words: FUN FUN CAR with great looks!
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles of free maintenance.
Car Pro Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Stars.
Dealers: If you want to purchase a new Mini Cooper, we have two Certified Car Pro Show dealers, Sewell Mini in Dallas, and Bob Smith Mini in Los Angeles.