2013 Mini John Cooper Works Countryman - Henny's First Drive:

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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

FRANKFURT, September 11, 2012. My first encounter with the Mini John Cooper Works Countryman was last December (story here), in Kühtai, a small ski resort in the Tyrolean Alps, Austria.

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That was a logical place to organize the first drive event with some prototypes, because the Countryman is the first Mini that is standard equipped with ALL4 all-wheel drive and should feel at home on snowy roads. But also because the Countryman is built in the Austrian plant of Magna Steyr. That company specializes in assembling four-wheel drive models, and also contributes to the development of such models, of which the BMW M3 is only one example.

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Already in the beginning of the eighties I was familiar with the name Steyr, as my husband drove his first Paris-Dakar Rally with a 6-wheel driven (6x6) Puch Steyr Pinzgauer. This was an high-mobility and very strong all-terrain vehicle, mainly used for military purposes. It proved its value in the Sahara desert and the many countries where the rally passed through. But this aside

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This time, I drove the John Cooper Works Countryman in the Frankfurt area, where it could show its drivability under normal circumstances on the public roads. Well, they were not exactly going to be normal, as John Cooper Works stands for rally roots and the JCW Countryman promises lots of performance, as it is the most powerful in the Mini range. So forget practicality, but expect lots of driving fun in the big Mini. Its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine delivers 218 hp and has 207 pound-feet of torque.
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With overboost it is 221 lb-ft. It has the well-known BMW technology such as twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection and Valvetronic variable valve management and makes the Countryman accelerate in 7 seconds to 62 mph. A standard 6-speed stick shift, or the optional 6-speed Steptronic automatic works together with the motor to drive the four wheels.

I like the quick response being translated into impressive acceleration, although you feel that the weight is there. The JWC Countryman weighs some 200 pounds more than a John Cooper Works hatch. It is not only the weight but also the center of gravity that marks the fast Countryman.

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Even though the suspension is lowered by 0.4 inch. The four-wheel drive makes handling excellent. Under normal conditions, the system divides power between the front and rear axle, while in extreme circumstances ALL4 can send every bit of torque available to where it is needed.
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The beauty is that there is no sign of torque steer and stability is very good.

The risk with the limit being so high, is that you go really fast until the Mini gets into a four-wheel drift. But on the public roads that is hard to reach. And, sure, I used the Sport button. The engine reacts somewhat faster to the input of your right foot, steering input is more direct and the engine sound is more prominent.

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Steering into a corner is direct and the Countryman’s body hardly leans over. The only remark may be the car tends to dive during braking. But then, in total the package of the roomiest Mini is nice and sporty.

Mini also showed the new John Cooper Works GP, that made it public debut at Mini United the big event for Mini fans, that was organized this year in France. The fast Mini accelerated in 6.3 seconds to 62 mph, has a top speed of 150 mph and set a lap time at the famous Nordschleife of the Nürburgring of 8’23”, which is nearly 20 seconds faster than its predecessor. The little bomb will make its show premiere at the Paris Motor Show on September 27.

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