WE’RE travelling from Lisbon to London covering some 1,400 miles through Portugal, Spain and France. It is a mighty big road trip and the weather is adding further challenges in some higher altitudes en-route. As we depart Lisbon news comes that the Pyrenees, in particular, is experiencing some extreme weather – snow, high winds, the lot – as are some
parts of northern Spain and France, which are devastated by floods.
The good news is our drive is the Mini Countryman, and not just any old model but the brand new John Cooper Works Countryman. This is the first Mini with four-wheel-drive to be given the rally car treatment. The JCW Countryman is also the largest and most powerful model in the family. We have added winter tyres, too, for an even more solid ride.
The Countryman takes the MINI family to a new level. Here we have a car that is essentially a small SUV but carries all the cheeky charms of the MINI – giant size instrument dials and round, bubbly vents. It boasts plenty of cabin room both at the front and rear, a generous 1,170 litres hatchback boot fits not only our suitcases, but boxes of wine and food purchased along the way. Finally, the high seating position is an ideal place to sit back and watch the world unfold.
The JCW Countryman is 10mm lower to the ground than the standard Countryman and comes with an aerodynamic body kit, red brake callipers and extra-lightweight 18-inch Twin Spoke light-alloy wheels (19-inch wheels are available as an option). Our car is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, but you can order it with an automatic gearbox.
The JCW Countryman hits 62mph in 7 seconds, has impressive traction and sporty handling. The 1.6-litre 218hp engine has peak torque of 280Nm (300Nm with the Overboost function) and enabling the ‘Sport’ button allows for a sportier drive accompanied by a sexy roaring engine note.
This is an ideal car to take on a road trip. In northern Spain, high up in the Pyrenees as we cross the border to France, we brave high winds and sleet and snow sensing that with this car we’re in safe hands. At an overnight stop in Bordeaux, we are reminded at how evocative the JCW badge is even outside the UK, with quite a few passers clearly admiring our car.
Brand Mini has been one of the fairy-tale success stories of modern motoring. This was a company basically defined by one car, the Mini Hatch. Under BMW ownership this little machine has been stretched (Clubman), chopped (Coupe), had its roof cut off (Convertible and Roadster) and got blown up (Countryman) to suit the wants and needs of more customers. And the world cannot seem to get enough of the Mini brand. Next up is the Mini Van and Paceman that promises to mix the Countryman’s practicality with cool coupe styling, and it will get the JCW treatment, too.
-Referred from Nargess Shahmanesh Banks.