Test: Mini JCW Countryman ALL4 – potent midi SUV with Go Kart driving mode

Can this maxi Mini live up to the high expectations?

Mini JCW Countryman ALL4 - runningMini JCW Countryman ALL4 - runningMini JCW Countryman ALL4 - exteriorMini JCW Countryman ALL4 - exteriorMini JCW Countryman ALL4 - interiorMini JCW Countryman ALL4 - interior

Mini JCW Countryman ALL4 - running

In the Go Kart driving mode we chase the Mini JCW Countryman All4 over challenging mountain roads from bend to bend. But is such a Mini SUV the suitable material for this? Although it says Mini on all sides, the car is larger than the Austin Maxi of old.

How English is a Mini JCW Countryman?

The Mini Countryman is a closed book for the Nedcar factory. A completely new, third generation will now be produced in Leipzig. This is the first time that Minis are built in Germany. The choice for the BMW factory in Leizpig is a logical one. The BMW’s X1 and X2 are also built there, cars to which the Countryman is very similar. In addition to the same scalable platform architecture, they also share the same drive technology. The Countryman, like the BMWs mentioned, is now available with a fully electric drivetrain. Fine. At the other end of the spectrum, for the petrol heads: the drivetrain of the sporty X1 M35i can be found in the Mini JCW Countryman All4. JCW stands for John Cooper Works, a label with a great sporting history that is now used for hot-tempered Mini variants. This means that the Mini SUV is equipped with a 300 hp two-liter four-cylinder in combination with a seven-speed DCT automatic transmission and drive on all four wheels. John Cooper Works, our expectations are high, but he is by no means English.

Mini JCW Countryman ALL4 - exterior

A name can’t sound much more English than Mini, Countryman and John Cooper. Yet the car simply comes from Germany

Does the car want to move forward a little?

The Countryman has no fewer than eight different experience modes, from eco and comfortable to off-road (after all, it remains the SUV in the Mini family). When first introduced to the car – on a challenging winding road – the preferred choice for us is the Go Kart mode. In Mini jargon, that is the sport mode. In this position the car is most explosive. The four-cylinder is full of zest for life, although we expected the response to the accelerator to be a little sharper. The gearbox usually knows exactly what needs to be done; Touring is not avoided. You can interfere with the gear selection via the shift paddles behind the steering wheel. Remarkably, the gearbox sometimes responds more smoothly to the paddle commands than other times. And that is unfortunately not consistent enough when exploring the boundaries. Shame.

Mini JCW Countryman ALL4 - running

With 300 hp and 400 Nm, the Mini SUV has above-average motorization.

Does the Countryman sit on the road like a go kart?

In principle, the Countryman is a front-wheel drive – it is a Mini after all – and you also notice that when you dive smoothly into a bend. It remains neutral for a long time and then continues with controlled understeer. It takes no effort at all to get the car to follow the desired course; there is more than enough grip. We do miss a bit of direct communication, the kart-like thing that is needed to know exactly what is happening between the tires and the not always smooth asphalt when driving threatens to turn into sliding. The chassis is sturdy in design, but it still allows quite a bit of movement of the carriage. Admittedly, it is a high-slung SUV, but in the hairpin bends the carriage leans out just a little easier than we expected from a car with a JCW label. The springs and stabilizers could be a bit firmer in that respect. And if possible, perhaps also a recalibration of the shock absorbers, because the car moves just a little too much in the vertical direction to match the expected go kart experience.

Mini JCW Countryman ALL4 - running

The Countryman grips the road well, but we don’t get a kart-like feeling.

What is BMW’s new multimedia software like?

The barking and hissing, the extra pops for intermediate throttle, it is only there for the occupants. Synthetically orchestrated, it comes to us via the Harman Kardon sound system. It can be turned off via the multimedia system. The multimedia system with its large round screen is located centrally on the dashboard, the traditional nod to the centrally located speedometer of yesteryear. The system runs on BMW’s latest software platform: OS 9. In several BMWs we experience OS 9 as a nice step forward in user-friendliness compared to OS 8 and OS 8.5. In the Mini it comes out significantly less well. The infotainment system is a colorful fair that requires quite a bit of attention. The round shape of the screen doesn’t really help either.

Mini JCW Countryman ALL4 - interior

The first car with a round OLED screen. Beautiful, but the multimedia system requires some attention.

Should we adjust our expectations?

Basically, the Mini JCW Countryman All4 is absolutely not a bad car, on the contrary. It offers a lot of fun on winding mountain roads. But is he worth the JCW label? No, this Mini SUV would be better off with a little less pretension, with a more modest type designation. Then the car will probably live up to expectations better. Although the price tag of €76,990 still remains quite high. For a throw-and-throw toy, you’ll have to rely on Mini’s compact three-door hatchback.

– Thanks for information from Autoweek.nl

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