Opening one more new chapter in the seemingly endless Book of Mini, the 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Countryman shows its face in Geneva and will be headed to showrooms here in the fall. The most practical member of the Mini family also becomes the hottest version yet and looks to double down on that appeal by being the first JCW model to come standard with all-wheel drive and offer an optional automatic transmission.
Like other John Cooper Works models, the new Mini JCW Countryman makes its own higher-profile visual statement with an assortment of dedicated body and trim bits. More aggressive aero-enhancing front/rear aprons and special side skirts top the list exterior enhancements with unique 18-inch Twin Spoke light alloy wheels, twin bright outlet finishers on its sport exhaust system and a bevy of JCW badges rounding out the mix. Buyers can choose from seven exterior colors -- with or without a contrasting roof panel and mirror cap treatment -- including the JCW-exclusive Chili Red. A 19-inch wheel/tire option also is on offer.
On the functional front, the new Mini JCW Countryman packs a new, even more potent variation on the existing Works engine. This time around, the top-gun 1.6-liter direct-injected four bolsters its twin-scroll turbocharger and upsized intercooler with variable valve control based on BMW's Valvetronic technology -- a feature previously found only on the Cooper and Cooper S engines. In addition to improving responsiveness and efficiency, the change helps bump output from 208 to 211 horsepower and raises peak torque from 192 to 207 lb-ft with an overboost function that can temporarily pop that twist figure to 221.
For the first time ever, this upgraded Works engine can be backed by either the standard six-speed JCW-specific manual or a specially modified version of the six-speed automatic that's offered on other Mini models. The other key first for the 2013 JCW Countryman is that it will come standard with Mini's "intelligent" ALL4 all-wheel-drive system that includes a sophisticated electromagnetic center differential that can transfer up to 50 percent of the torque to the rear wheels to optimize traction and performance. While opting for an autoshifted JCW Countryman will increase its 0-62 mph time from 7.1 to 7.5 seconds, both versions have the same 127-mph top speed.
Like its Works kin, the 2013 Mini Cooper JCW Countryman also benefits from a comprehensive chassis revamp that nets stiffer springs and shocks, bigger anti-roll bars, a 10mm decrease in ride height and bigger, model-specific antilock disc brakes. Also on hand are Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) that includes a Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) mode and the Sport button that sharpens engine response, steering effort and the engine's exhaust note.
The sporting look and feel also carry over to the cabin of the new Mini Cooper JCW Countryman. Model-specific sport seats trimmed in Diagonal Track Carbon Black cloth or optional Carbon Black Championship Red Lounge Leather are complemented by Piano Black accent bits, a sport steering wheel, anthracite headliner, dark speedometer/tachometer faces, and loads of red accent stitching in addition to a number of JCW logos. Owners seeking a bit more visual kick also can opt for Chili Red trim elements that are exclusive to the Mini John Cooper Works Countryman.
No word yet on pricing for the 2013 Mini John Cooper Works Countryman, which will be released closer to its on-sale date.