2013 Mini John Cooper Works Countryman – Prototype Drive

At the Geneva auto show in March, Mini will unveil the John Cooper Works Countryman. But this week, high in the Austrian Alps, the company gave us the opportunity to try one ahead of its official debut. After flogging it through ice- and snow-bathed roads winding through the mountains, we have good news to report: This is the best Countryman by far, and it may well be the best John Cooper Works Mini.

Something Old, Something New

Much of the John Cooper Works Countryman is carried over directly from the Cooper S Countryman with the Sport package. The ALL4 all-wheel-drive system, which drives the front wheels under normal circumstances but can direct up to 50 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels, is identical here. ALL4 will be the only powertrain offered in the JCW model—unlike lesser Countryman Ss, which are available with front- or all-wheel drive. The Sport-packed Cooper S Countryman already is 0.4 inch lower than the regular Countryman and, as we’ve experienced in our long-termer, rides plenty stiffly. With this in mind, we’re relieved that Mini didn’t give the JCW version an even harsher suspension setup. Our dental plan only covers so many repairs per year for chipped teeth.

A JCW aero kit adds a sportier front fascia and a new rear bumper. The snout is big in person, but when paired with the JCW Countryman’s lower stance, it removes some of the hatchback-on-stilts look of lesser models. Score one for the styling team.

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