John Cooper Works Countryman bends SUV rules

New features add to the appeal of sporty Mini.

For some single-minded car enthusiasts, the very idea of being made to drive an SUV is akin to having teeth pulled. 

Big, heavy and usually lacking the performance and corner-carving qualities that purist’s value, SUVs are considered the unholy offspring of ill-fated dalliances between cars and 4x4s – a fundamentally compromised creation to be avoided at all costs. 

Unless, of course, it’s an SUV like Mini’s John Cooper Works Countryman, an updated version of which is due here later this year.

With its renowned racing heritage, the John Cooper Works (JCW) badge bestows instant credibility on any Mini it’s applied to, even the SUV-like Countryman, which is Mini’s stretched solution for compact car fans who require a bit more space and versatility. 

Mini John Cooper Works Countryman

Mini recently revealed a new-look JCW Countryman, due in Australia in the fourth quarter of 2020, which brings a fresh look, new technology and equipment over the existing model. 

Changes to the fun and versatile Countryman include new front and rear styling features, with redesigned front grille, standard LED headlights, and snazzy LED rear lights with a distinctive Union Jack design integrated into the lenses. 

There is also a JCW-specific exhaust with enlarged 95mm tailpipes for enhanced sportiness, while a new digital cockpit display and enhanced infotainment system feature on the inside. 

The updated interior offers increased appeal thanks to a new 5.0-inch digital instrument screen ahead of the driver. 

Mini John Cooper Works Countryman

There is a newly refined surface around the familiar 8.8-inch circular infotainment unit in the centre instrument panel, which now features restructured navigation options and Amazon Alexa integration. 

Some of the main controls have also been reorganised for ease of use, with touch-sensitive bookmark buttons and premium looking high-gloss piano black surfaces rounding out the interior changes. 

There are no changes to the JCW Countryman’s high-performance turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, which still produces a bristling 225kW and 450Nm.

The engine drives all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, with an electronic front differential lock providing potent performance on all surfaces.

Mini John Cooper Works Countryman

The combination fires the 1560kg pocket-rocket from 0-100km/h in just 5.1 seconds, faster even than the reigning hot hatch king, Honda’s explosively quick Civic Type R.

The JCW Countryman gets around bends like a true sports car, too, thanks to its high-rigidity chassis, stiffened body, and components such as dampers, brakes and suspension that have all been tuned with JCW racing know-how.

A standard sports brake system features four-piston fixed caliper disc brakes on the front wheels, and single-piston floating-caliper disc brakes on the rear wheels, as well as 18-inch JCW light-alloy wheels.

There’s no word yet from Mini Australia on pricing, but the current Mini JCW Countryman is the brand’s most expensive model, with a list price of $65,900.