Experience Big Fun with the 2025 Mini Countryman JCW

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Image credit: MINI

The John Cooper Works trim injects thrills into Mini’s largest model yet.

Isn’t it amusing how people react differently to various types of hot dogs? Consume a bunch of little smokies, and no one bats an eye. But scarf down an equal number of Koegel Viennas, and suddenly, there are concerns about needing an ambulance and questions about more hot dogs. Mini’s latest Countryman, their largest yet, is anything but “mini.” It’s significantly larger in every dimension. Despite its beefed-up size, our test drive of the 312-hp John Cooper Works model in Portugal showed it’s still a blast to drive, retaining Mini’s trademark fun factor.

The updated 2.0-liter inline-four turbocharger now has port fuel injection in addition to direct injection, a rebuilt cylinder head that incorporates the Miller cycle, and reworked intake ports and combustion chambers. With 11 additional horsepower, this unit (also known as the B48A20T2) reaches its peak 750 rpm later than the previous unit and continues strong all the way to its redline at 6500 rpm. The eight-speed automatic torque converter has been replaced with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which transfers the reduced torque of 295 pound-feet to the wheels.

Especially on downshifts, it’s quick. Ignoring the paddle shifters in Manual mode will prevent the dual-clutch from automatically shifting into a higher gear at the redline. A car crash is like a facepalm gif if you don’t remember to press the “up” shifter. Boost mode, which is another name for Sport mode, allows the driver to engage the most aggressive driving settings for ten seconds when the left paddle is pulled all the way to the top.

Go-Go Gadgets

Image credit: MINI

Regrettably, the Go-Kart drive mode’s thrilling hum and throaty burble of exhaust noises are all synthetic. When you’re behind the wheel of a Countryman, it sounds like it’s performing in Nivolet Pass from The Italian Job, but when you’re on the sidelines, the drama isn’t even close.

John Cooper Works (JCW), the most comfortable Countryman to date, is also the sportiest. The Countryman now has a 0.9-inch larger wheelbase to match the dimensions and look of the revised BMW X1, which is its UKL platform brother. To make it easier to drive quickly, the JCW has had some of its angularity smoothed off. A JCW-tuned Adaptive M suspension, adapted from its BMW equivalent, provides progressive and pleasant damping with the help of a strut tower brace mounted over the engine.

Having run-flat tires removed contributes to its better ride quality. Wheel sizes for the Countryman range from 17 to 20 inches, and the tires are a little broader. The JCW we were behind the wheel of has optional JCW Flag Spoke wheels shod with Pirelli P Zero PZ4 245/45R-20 tires. The ride quality is better with the regular 19-inch wheels, but the stunning 20s-style Flag Spoke design is too good to pass up.

Unfortunately, the steering lacks the direct feel and tactility that we would anticipate from a dynamic bike. Although there is no drift mode to play about in, the basic ALL4 all-wheel-drive system does permit some fairly aggressive tactics, and traction control and stability control can be disengaged to enable a wider range of shenanigans. There is now a 1.5-inch wider opening for the new JCW’s 8.0-inch ground clearance, which is enough to keep raccoons out. Bring attention to the plight of animals.

Our best guess is that the Countryman JCW gained about 100 pounds due to the redesign and enhancements. Calipers painted a vibrant chili red to secure the vented and cross-drilled 15.2-inch front rotors, which are marginally bigger than the 453-horsepower BMW M2 components. Whether the larger braking system and fresh tires are on par with or better than the prior car’s 161-foot stop from 70 mph, we will have to wait until we test one.

Jingle Jangle Jingle

Image credit: MINI

The interior of the Countryman JCW is reimagined with a focus on enjoyment. Instead of the screen that was previously located behind the wheel, a small head-up display is now available. The 9.4-inch circular OLED display in the middle of the Countryman’s dashboard houses the infotainment system.

There is a jingle, unique theme, and highlighted data for each of the eight drive modes: Go-Kart, Core, Green, Vivid, Timeless, Personal, Balance, and Trail. To activate the go-kart mode, flick the switch. A huge digital tach and speedometer will appear alongside a goofy “Yahoo!” sound effect. After the second hearing, it does start to sound like Wilhelm’s scream, but these jingles—which also interrupt music when changing drive modes—can be turned off.

We discovered that the program is readily overwhelmed, much like a shoestring used as a belt. On a couple of occasions, the dashcam’s augmented reality feature took precedence over the navigation system, and we missed a turn because of it. Although it’s aesthetically beautiful and has a lot of information, the display could be more active to catch up because of all the action happening on it.

To its credit, the sparse stack does contain some physical buttons: a Park button, a volume knob that a front-seat passenger can easily reach, and toggle switches for the ignition, gear selection, and drive modes. Additionally, there are buttons for the parking cameras, emergency lights, front and rear defrosters, and more. The digital interface and the steering wheel include the remaining controls.
Outside, you may choose from three different lighting themes that alter the look of the LED headlights and taillights. Daytime running lights can be adjusted to illuminate other sectors for a sportier appearance, although this feature is only available when the car is turned off.

The Countryman JCW’s inside materials are show-stopping, but only up to the waist. Underneath the “carbon-friendly” layers that cover the dashboard, you’ll find plastic—the kind that becomes shiny from fast food. Although Mini claims that the space in the middle console may be filled with adaptable cargo modules, there isn’t much storage there due to the lack of a container in the center armrest.

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