|At first glance:|
The new MINI John Cooper Works Clubman and MINI John Cooper Works Countryman
|New 4-cylinder engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo technology||225 kW of power and 450 Nm of Torque|
|New 8-speed Steptronic sports transmission with integrated mechanical differential lock for the front wheel||New exhaust system with remarkable sound development|
|New bigger John Cooper Works sport brake system||MINI ALL4 all-wheel drive as standard|
|New LED headlights with Matrix high beam function and LED rear lights in Union Jack design in the new MINI John Cooper Works Clubman||Model-specific chassis design and coordination|
I had been tormented by the question of which car to feature on the first-ever cover of this publication even through there were many to choose from. It needed to by something fun, sexy, dynamic with a powerful presence; but when I received my invitation to attend the launch of the latest MINI John Cooper Works Clubman and Countryman models to South Africa it was a wrap; problem solved. Not, only did the new MINI models meet all my Car-on-the-Cover criteria, these siblings were the most powerful derivatives in the brand’s sixty year history. Plus, it didn’t hurt that MINI is one my all-time favourite compact vehicles.
Over the years, MINI has mastered the market on nostalgia, then continuously added modern design twists to each new generation; and the latest John Cooper Works models are proof of just that. With short overhands, big scowling face and roundish headlights, the new JCW Clubman and Countryman are undeniable relatives of every MINI produced, since the 1950s.
As soon as I settled into the cockpit, I set about letting the MINI JCW Countryman off its leash. Ignition engaged, the little giant-slayer greeted me with a suggestive, gravelly exhaust note and it was love at first rev. Whoever had driven the Countryman previously had set the mood light setting to neon pink so when the car came alive the entire cabin lit up like an 80s disco ball causing me to blink a couple of times. The characteristic interior sports car flair of the Countryman is partly down to the John Cooper Works sports seats with integrated head rests, the John Cooper Works sport steering wheel with multifunction buttons and the John Cooper Works selector lever.
Armed to the roof lining with the latest tech and bling without being impractical. The toggle switches – for ignition, drive modes and stability control are located under the centre stack for safe and easy reach by the driver. An LED ring surrounding the 6.5” touchscreen interface, illuminates in response to drive mode selection and engine speed. The integrated Connected Media equipment is able to access numerous MINI Connected online services, including Real Time Traffic Information.
Navigating the beautifully twisty roads of Mpumalanga it felt like I was in a remake of The Italian Job as the not-so-diminutive Countryman gobbled up the tarmac. As I built up speed I was thankful for the Heads Up Display (HUD) because there was no ways I was going to look anywhere but straight ahead. Unsurprisingly, the new John Cooper Works Countryman is very stable, without an inkling of a twitch to is nose. With foot pinned to the floor, my body relaxed into the ride although my adrenaline levels had spiked considerably and my attentiveness was sharper than usual.
Flowing through the long meandering curves and frequent sharp bends, the JCW Countryman’s, low-ride height, sharp handling and breath-taking burble worked in unison to deliver good ride quality and make each acceleration an immensely joyful occasion.
Like everything BMW-related, the John Cooper Works range of vehicles are happiest when showing off their powerfully raucous attitude so naturally, I knocked the gear shifter into Manual mode and the Countryman roared back in mutual glee. But of course, using the paddle-shifters is much more fun so, with Sport mode in play I made a commitment to the right pedal and was rewarded with 250Kw and 450Nm of tyre-frying vivacity.
Propelled by the concentrated power of it extraordinarily powerful 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder engine, with MINI TwinPower turbo, the John Cooper Works Countryman delivered an emotionally charged driving experience, sprinting from 0-100km/hr in 5.1 seconds. Even though the previous generation also gave an extreme driving sensation, the model has elevated that to a new dimension of pure, unadulterated fun. That said, it must be noted that for the first time with MINI vehicles, the maximum speed has been electronically limited to 250 km/h.
As the power source for extreme driving fun, I soon discovered that the new MINI John Cooper Works Countryman features DSC (Dynamic Stability Control), which I came to appreciate for its ability to regulate the vehicle’s driving dynamics on loose terrain, and when taking bends with a sporty driving style. Also, the sport brake system has also been redesigned – another useful feature I called upon when a dedicated member of the traffic department leapt out from behind a cover of shrubs to ‘greet’ me.
|WHAT I LOVE||WHAT I DON’T|
|Fantastic looks||Price. Yikes!|
|Comfy, sports seats|
|Perky 2.0-Litre engine|
|Paddle shifts which don’t compromise performance when in use|