Where to begin? As an enthusiast, I’m a fan of Mini and MINI products. I’m also a lover of wagon-like cars, crave AWD and just about anything with a good dose of power, performance and handling. Enter contestant No.1: the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4! A longer-named, sexier-looking, more-promising car, I’d not seen…
My anticipation was palpable. I was truly salivating at the thought of a week with this car. Seriously, I’d not been this excited about test-driving a car since the Golf R. Whereas the Golf blew my mind the MINI deflated my bubble in the saddest and wheeziest of ways.
The final experience is this: The John Cooper Works Countryman is damn fine to look at and loves to be pushed hard, but the 6-speed autobox is a crying shame, and the Countryman’s added girth robs John Cooper from truly shinning.
What is a MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4?
First, John Cooper Works is the optimum name in factory tuning when it comes to all MINIs. This shop’s expertise goes way back. The current company belongs to BMW, as does MINI.
The 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 is the biggest, nearly most expensive MINI one can purchase, and it served as the base for MINI’s return to the WRC (which sadly only lasted a year).
The Countryman is as close to a CUV as the brand has come since its rebirth nearly 15 years ago.
The 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 is powered by a turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder engine. In all JCWs (save for the GP), it produces 208 hp. Torque numbers for the Countryman are 192 lb-ft with an overboost function that adds a further 15 lbs.
Transmission choices are a must-select 6-speed manual and a doesn’t-belong 6-speed auto with ghastly flappy paddles. As the ALL4 tag suggests, this JCW is equipped with AWD.
The 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 starts at $38,500. My as-tested unit retailed for a whopping $48,695, which included the Sound, Premium, and Wired packages.
Driving the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4
First: The optional $1,300 automatic transmission should not be offered in the first place. I do understand it improves the take rate… Mr. Cooper himself would probably roll over in his grave knowing it were available. However wrong I think this is I cannot fault the box itself. It’ll rev-match, shift, hold gears, and play along. Although, the paddles are straight from BMW’s 2003 spare-parts bin. The buttons do both up- and downshifts; a big no-no in this car.
Next up: The 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 is fat -- real fat. At 1,480 kg (3,256 lbs), the Countryman tips the scale at a monstrous 270 kg (594 pounds!!!) over the “basic” JCW MINI.
This massive avoirdupois is immediately felt. The John Cooper Works Countryman still carves apexes with supreme precision through an electric steering system that responds telepathically to the driver’s whims. The difference between the JCW Countryman and the JCW I drove a few years ago is how fast the car can intelligently enter a corner. The Countryman wants, but like a fat dog, it can’t keep up… At least its brakes are up to snuff.
The weight also affects off-the-line acceleration, but (mercifully) the autobox doesn’t. Seven seconds are required to hit 100 km/h on the way to a 205 km/h top speed. Passing is quickly dispensed with, but the leopard-like reflexes of what I’ve come to know as a MINI JCW are diluted and muffled under girth.
What JCW should have done here is endow the Countryman with a larger engine or more boost for more power to offset the weight.
Inside and out of the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4
I can best describe the experience with this car as going out with a dolled-up Alison Brie and only getting a peck on the cheek while holding her hand, and not being able to round third base and go home…
With the available, sick 19” Cross Spoke Crusher wheels, Oxford green paint job, and black sport stripes, this JCW is the hottest I’ve come across. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go to bed with her either, if you know what I mean.
The cabin is swank, rank with carbon-black leather with red stitching, and chili-red interior trim. The seats offer fair support and are comfortable. The rear bench is good for two adults, and the trunk is a good size.
Comparing the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4
I get that MINI has gone where no other Mini has gone before, and that’s fine. However, I think the JCW moniker should remain reserved for cars that deserve these coveted letters.
For the price, the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 lines up with the likes of the Subaru Impreza WRX and STI, and the Volkswagen Golf R. These cars more powerful and priced equally or cheaper and, although the JCW might be exclusive, you won’t find thousands of Rs or STIs on the road, either…