Mini ups the ante with JCW models

The Mini brand has undergone a host changes since it was purchased by the BMW Group at the turn of the century.

The most noticeable is likely the fact that, well, the vehicles that it produces aren’t that mini anymore. The Mini range just gets bigger and bigger, as I found out when I travelled to the Lowveld to sample the updated Clubman as well as the more powerful John Cooper Works Clubman and Countryman models recently.

The John Cooper Works treatment

As the man behind the original Mini Cooper, John Cooper, and his Cooper Car Company had a long history of success in motorsport. Later – in 2002 – his son Michael Cooper founded John Cooper Works (JCW), which was purchased by BMW in 2008. Before BMW acquired the brand, JCW provided aftermarket, but still Mini-approved performance and aesthetics upgrades for Mini products which could be retrofitted at a dealership level. Now that the brand is over a decade into BMW ownership, JCW models are part and parcel of all Mini products, whether it is cosmetic additions or full-fat performance upgrades. The two new JCW products to reach local shores are indeed the most powerful production Mini models ever.

Both the Clubman and Countryman JCW feature a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine that has been modified extensively to produce 225 kW and 450 N.m, some 55 kW and 100 N.m more than previous versions. The revisions made to the models include a new exhaust system, larger air intake, uprated crankshaft and main bearing, stronger pistons and connecting rods, a larger turbocharger and new blow-off valve which is integrated into the exhaust manifold as well as a reduced compression ratio and the BMW Group’s Valvetronic and dual-Vanos camshaft control. The powertrain, which also features in the new BMW 135i, features the All4 four-wheel-drive system along with an eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox to assist in putting the added power down. This allows the Clubman to reach 100km/h from a standstill in a claimed 4.9 seconds while in the larger Countryman the same benchmark takes 5.1 seconds. Both models are limited to a top speed of 250km/h.

Unfortunately, I was unable to spend any time behind the wheel of either JCW model during the media event, so all of my comments regarding my driving impression will be reserved.

Updated Mini Countryman

At the media event, I spent my day piloting the updated Countryman in Cooper and Cooper S guise. Keen observers will note that the Countryman has received a raft of aesthetic upgrades which include new LED headlights, a revised front grille and updated fog lamps. There are also new alloy wheel designs, a few new exterior colours, the option to provide a black exterior trim package and new LED taillights with the option of a Union Jack design. Inside, there are new leather and interior trim options too along with added Mini accessories. Powering the Clubman Cooper and Cooper S models are two different engines, a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol which produces 100 KW and 220 N.m in the former and 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol which produces 141 kW and 280 N.m in the latter. Both are paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that powers the front wheels. Consumption for the Cooper is claimed at 5.40litres/100km while the Cooper S is claimed at 5.6-litres/100km.

Driving both models across some truly epic, but pock-marked roads in the Lowveld exposed the rather hard ride quality and overly direct steering that seems to plague modern Mini products. The Cooper S has the better powertrain, as the three-cylinder in the Cooper can feel gruff at times, however, the Cooper was the more agreeable car across the winding roads thanks to higher-profile tyres and the fact that is wasn’t fitted with the optional sports suspension.


Mini Cooper Clubman R433 000

Mini Cooper S Clubman R511 000

Mini John Cooper Works Clubman R642 000

Mini John Cooper Works Countryman R708 000


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