Cool cabin, plenty of infotainment lag: The 2025 Mini JCW Countryman

Enlarge / The new Mini Countryman is 5.3 inches (135 mm) longer and 3.9 inches (99 mm) taller than before. But it’s only 0.9 inches (23 mm) wider.

Jonathan Gitlin

CASCAIS, PORTUGAL—Mini is in the process of revamping its entire model lineup. Later this year, the small one—now called the Mini Cooper—will hit the streets with a predictable lashing of brio. But first out of the gates is the big one, Mini’s SUV, aka the Countryman. It’s now built in Germany, and there’s a fully electric variant, but you’ll have to wait until next week to read about that one. Today, we’re looking at the all-wheel drive, range-topping John Cooper Works model.

With a starting price tag of $46,995 (plus delivery charge), this Countryman might feel like more of a maxi than a Mini. The JCW Countryman’s amped-up attitude is on clear display, with styling touches like the bright red brake calipers, side mirrors, and roof trim. That impression isn’t dispelled upon a walkaround—not when you see the four fat exhaust pipes nestled under the rear bumper.

That works out to one pipe per cylinder; under the hood of the JCW Countryman ALL4 (to give it its full name) lives a 2.0 L four-cylinder engine that, in US market spec, generates 312 hp (232 kW) and 295 lb-ft (399 kW). That’s about 4 percent more powerful than the Euro-spec JCW Countryman, which makes do with a little less power thanks to a gasoline particulate filter.

Quad exhaust pipes feel like overkill.
Enlarge / Quad exhaust pipes feel like overkill.


In fact, it’s a little slower than the model it replaces, losing half a second in the dash to 60 mph from a standstill, which now takes 5.4 seconds.

Once you open the driver’s door, you’re greeted with a bold new interior from Mini. The metal toggle switches of old, with their little crash regulation-required protectors, are gone, making way for a simplified dash layout dominated by a large round OLED infotainment screen. The dash is covered in a woven fabric that makes use of recycled materials, and there’s a new multifunction steering wheel that sheds a few ounces by using a nylon strap as one of its spokes.

The front seats are comfortable, and the seat heater worked well on a wet and windy day north of Lisbon. But there’s not as much storage in the cabin as you might expect, particularly between the front seats, where you’d normally find a large cubby with a lid. Instead, you get a rather small one.

It’s definitely a slightly bigger crossover than the old model we tested a few years back, and that room shows up as extra rear leg room and a slightly larger cargo capacity of 56.2 cubic feet (1,846 L).

Mini has made more use of recycled materials, including the aluminum in the alloy wheels.
Enlarge / Mini has made more use of recycled materials, including the aluminum in the alloy wheels.


To toggle through the different drive modes—of which there are eight—use the big switch in the middle of the dash below the infotainment screen. Unless you disable it, this will be accompanied by a Mario-like “wahoo” as you engage Go-Kart mode, which is the JCW Countryman’s sportiest setting. (The other drive modes are various flavors of a more chilled-out experience, plus an off-road mode.)

There’s a fair amount of torque steer from the front wheels if you try to deploy all the power, and you’ll hear a popping, burbling soundtrack that’s synthesized by the car’s interior speakers. Plenty of our peers on the first drive disliked the artificial engine noises, but you can turn them off, and they aren’t really audible outside the vehicle. (Personally, I rather enjoyed them.) It’s not the last word in driver engagement, however, and I’m not sure the JCW Countryman would make me take the long way home.

I have to commend Mini on the new infotainment screen, which is bright and presents you with a pleasant user interface. Well, mostly. The screen may be up to snuff, but the processor driving the whole thing could use a little extra horsepower of its own. Our preproduction build wasn’t bug-free, but since the system will be updated before it goes on sale here in the US later this spring, I’ll mostly limit my complaints to the lag, which will almost certainly show up in production cars.

MIni will bring a cheaper Countryman ALL4 to the US, which should cost about $10,000 less, albeit with about 20 percent less horsepower. As for the JCW version, adding a few options quickly pushes the car’s price above $50,000, which is a lot of money, particularly when something like a Honda Civic Type-R costs about the same. Check back next week to read our take on the all-electric Countryman.

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