We head to the mountains and coastal roads of Portugal to see if The New, more powerful, Larger Countryman can live up to the JCW name.

Hustling a 3,800 crossover through mountain roads on the west coast of Portugal shouldn’t be this much fun. Stringing together corners and pounding the BMW M2 derived brakes, I simply could not believe the steps MINI had taken with this car. Forgot about it being down on torque, weighing too much, losing a gear and being too big. The new MINI Countryman JCW is the most capable, refined product that the brand has ever created.

MINI fans can breathe sigh of relief. The new MINI Countryman JCW is good. Really good in fact. And that bodes well for the entire new Countryman range. But it’s also different. And not all in ways that, on the face of it, sound entirely promising.

The New Countryman JCW is the Biggest MINI Ever

It’s big. For a MINI. But according to MINI designers and engineers that’s because it needed to be based on consumer feedback. MINI has been watching long time costumers reluctantly leave the brand as they have families, dogs or just need more space. The solution to this was to carefully grow the Countryman taking the majority of the BMW X1’s chassis and the rear portion of the European BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. The result is an increase in size that’s likely noticeable to MINI fans but lost on most consumers. We’re talking about five inches in length and two inches in height. Not something you’d likely notice unless you see the two side by side or know the previous Countryman well.

R60 Countryman JCW (’10-’16) F60 Countryman JCW (’17-’23)U25 Countryman JCW (’24-’30+)
Length4097 mm / 161.3 in4298 mm / 169.2 in4429 mm / 174.37 in
Height1562 mm / 61.5 in1557 mm / 61.3 in1613 mm / 63.5 in
Wheelbase2596 mm / 102.2 in2670 mm / 105.1 in2670 mm / 105.11 in
Weight3,307 lbs3,688 lbs 3,825 lbs

So what does this new size get you? There’s more legroom in the front and back along with 25 cu-ft more luggage capacity with the seats up. That grows to over from 47.6 cu-ft to 56 with the seats folded down. This gives the new Countryman class leading space in the subcompact luxury crossover segment. 

In short things are more comfortable and inside – exactly the attributes that people buy crossovers. But this is a MINI and any increase in size is inherently noticeable by previous owners. It’s here where we felt a sense of relief. There’s certainly a change but the overwhelming feeling we had was that this new U25 Countryman has been pushed gently outward creating a more spacious interior without sacrificing too much in the way of smallness – at least in its segment.

The Countryman JCW’s Revolutionary New Interior & Technology

Part of this is due to the entirely reimagined interior. MINI has minimized and reduced as much as possible to make the new Countryman interior feel modern and uncluttered. The star of the show is the circular display that introduces an entirely new operating system (MINI OS9) to the brand. It’s a focal point for the entire driving experience housing almost all functionality save for a row of switches, buttons and toggles just below it.

There’s a new (and slightly improved) heads up display (standard in the US) helping to put some of that information in front of the driver’s view. But in my experience it’s the center display that dominates your experience making the HUD not necessarily a mandatory option.

Stationary the new MINI OS9 interface had felt intuitive in our previous experiences. But as we know, on the road things can be a bit different. In our experience we found a relatively short learning curve before we felt fully acclimated with the new system. Within the first hour we had quickly become accustom to the new interaction language and overall placement of functionality.

One feature that became indispensable is the handy shortcuts drawer that you pull-up from the bottom of the screen. It’s completely configurable and an easy way to get to functionality that might otherwise be several taps away. Seat massage is a good example as we found it unnecessarily buried in a settings menu and a perfect candidate for a shortcut.

MINI’s new augmented reality navigation

One thing we were particularly excited to test was MINI’s new mapping software. It looked fantastic, but could it actually perform at the level of what we have on our smartphones? We tested MINI’s mapping software alongside both CarPlay and Google Maps and somewhat shockingly preferred it. Not only does it fill the entire screen (something neither CarPlay or Android Auto do in their current iteration) but its speed and the quality of data felt on par with Apple Maps or Google Maps.

The standout feature however was MINI’s new augmented reality option within the navigation system. The augmented reality view overlays mapping graphics on a live video feed in the top of the circular display helping to literally paint directions on the road in front of you. On the bottom is a top-down map view which is perfectly synced with the video and gives you a full picture of where you are as you get clarity on when and where to turn. It worked flawlessly for us and felt like a game changer for urban environments.

mini Countryman

The New Countryman JCW – A Touch Slower But Much More Satisfying

Countryman has grown in every dimension over the previous generations.Yet the new U25 Countryman JCW never feels much bigger than its predecessor and in fact it feels more engaging all around. So what’s the magic? Turns out it’s just smart engineering. MINI has rethought the suspension tuning, dropped the run-flats, quickened the steering rack (it’s now 13.6 :1) and created more aggressive throttle mapping. This has made the new Countryman JCW both quicker to respond to inputs while delivering more feedback as a result.

In the US the Countryman JCW’s B48A20T2 four cylinder delivers 312 hp and 295 ft lbs of torque. That horsepower figure goes down to 300 hp in the EU due to emissions regulations. Torque on the other hand is down 36 ft lbs everywhere due to the new 7 speed Getrag dual clutch transmission’s torque limitation vs the previous 8 speed Aisin torque converter auto. The means the new Countryman JCW is technically slower 0-60 with a time of 5.2 seconds (compared to 4.9 for its predecessor). Weight and less torque will do that. But it’s also worth noting that 0-60 times can be funny things. We’ve seen 0-60 times as low as 4.4 seconds for the previous F60 variant so there’s a good chance that this new Countryman JCW’s figures are just as conservative.

Helping the overall performance is a new “Boost” feature that activates the of all max performance setting for 10 sections. It’s functionality designed to help in overtaking or at the track. The function allows for quick activation of these settings that would typically include manually setting the car into Sport Mode with the center toggle, switching to Go Kart Mode, going onto Go-kart mode’s secondary menu and picking all of the sportiest sportiest individual settings. The result is a MINI that feels on its toes ready to pounce. However it’s worth noting that his is not a launch mode – something MINI isn’t offering on the new Countryman JCW.

Then there’s the suspension itself. The MINI Countryman JCW comes standard with an adaptive suspension – that’s not new. What is new is where it comes from – BMW M. More specifically it’s a unique MINI tuned version of BMW M adaptive suspension found on the BMW X1 M35i and X2 M35i. MINI says that this new system is a step on from what we saw in the previous F60 JCW by including updated frequency-selective dampers and sport steering.

In practice what we found was a suspension that delivered on both comfort and performance more effectively than any MINI before. There’s a compliance in the Countryman JCW’s suspension that subdued the typical brittleness of the MINI ride while filtering in more feedback than its predecessor the F60 Countryman. The sum of this was confidence. By the end of my time in the new Countryman JCW I was pushing the car hard with total confidence in its capabilities and (more importantly) how it would react to inputs. That aspect of the new JCW isn’t necessarily new – its predecessor was similarly predictive in corners. The F60 would gradually exhibit oversteer at the limit and a touch of lift-off rotation when called on. But it’s the way this new U25 Countryman JCW delivered at the limit felt more refined and ultimately more confidence inspiring.

And it gets better. If you opt for the optional 20″ wheels, you get a set of the car are a set of vented 380 mm front rotors with a four piston caliper taken (almost directly) from the F87 BMW M2. The only difference being the caliper design which offered six pistons on the M2. This is up from the non-vented 360 mm discs on the LCI versions of the F60 JCW, F54 JCW and the most recent JCW GP.  They were excellent in both stopping power and pedal feel and sustained constant abuse on mountain roads without a hint of fade.

Reflecting on the performance improvements it’s clear to see that MINI engineers worked hard to create a better connection with the road and the car. Straight line speed is one thing but where MINIs really excel is in the corners. And for the first time the Countryman JCW feels appropriately MINI like. The quicker steering rack and higher-level of feedback are immediately noticeable behind the wheel. For someone like myself who has put over 30,000 miles on the F60 JCW Countryman over the last few years this new car feels like a revelation. While we still need to test the two back to back, on the mountain roads of Portugal this new Countryman JCW was poised and engaging in ways we’ve ever felt in a Countryman before.

Let that sink in for a moment. The new Countryman is larger, heavier, slightly slower and yet more engaging than before. This is a huge surprise to us and speaks to the amount of work that has been happening behind the scenes over the last few years at MINI. It also bodes very well for the rest of the Countryman range which we’ll drive soon.

One area we must mention is sound – or lack there of. EU noise and emissions regulations forced MINIs hand and mandated particulate filters in the exhaust that deaden the sound and kill any pops or gurgles JCWs have been known for previously. Oddly that’s only on the outside. Inside MINI has used all of its Active Sound magic to re-create the drama of the past – exclusively through speakers. It’s executed so well that I simply couldn’t believe the sounds I was hearing were almost entirely created synthetically.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it all yet. On one hand the sound is a source of feedback and it is directly tied to the engine RPM, shift points and perfectly mimics what you’d hope to hear from the outside. On the other it’s ornamentation that feels disingenuous. If I had to choose I’d likely opt to keep it on (it can easily be turned off in the settings) if only for the drama it adds to a daily commute.

Value for The Money

There’s so much here that’s new that it’s hard to compare apples to apples with the previous Countryman JCW. The previous F60 Countryman JCW retailed for $43,800 while the new one is now at $46,900. $3,000 feels easily explainable given the increases in standard equipment and tech but an increase is still an increase and we’d be remiss not to lament the steady rise of prices across the entire automotive world.

Still for under $50,000 the new Countryman JCW feels like a fair value for money given all that it delivers. Knowing that MINI quality has never been higher and the fundamentals of the drivetrain (engine, gearbox and all wheel drive system) are evolutions it would be safe to assume this new MINI will be as trouble free as the recent F60 Countryman was. All a stark contrast to earlier generation MINIs of course.

Our Key Take Aways on the New Countryman JCW

Where does that leave us. The all new Countryman is a bigger, more comfortable car. It packs features and tech that we could’ve only dreamt in a MINI just a few years ago. But if you’re a JCW fan, that might sound oddly disappointing. Yet here’s the surprising thing. The new Countryman JCW is the most capable (and crucially) most engaging Countryman JCW we’ve ever driven. 

The synthetic nature of the sound is a bit disappointing but it’s a by product of the time we’re living in. And let’s be honest – much of the driving dynamics of all new cars are fairly synthetic these days. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t real enjoyment and engagement to be had and the Countryman JCW delivers here. Even more than the previous version – and that’s despite the 137 lbs weight gain. 

Make no mistake at 3,825 lbs, this is nothing like a MINI Cooper in terms of driving dynamics. Yet for a small crossover this is a rapid, engaging driving experience that lives up to the brand name.

In our time with the new Countryman JCW, we came away with the distinct impression that it has a sharper turn-in and more feedback through the wheel than its lighter predecessor. All while being noticeably better damped, more comfortable and offering more room for passengers and cargo.

It’s down on power to 300 hp in the EU – which is the car we’re testing here – and down on torque by 36 ft lbs globally. It’s even lost a gear. Yet MINI has created a product that is unquestionably better in almost every metric that matters to the vast majority of potential owners. And a key one for us – engagement.

Like the best JCW products, it blends every day livability with performance seamlessly. But unlike any Countryman JCW before it, it does so with feedback and poise that we’ve never had before.

MotoringFile Countryman JCW Gallery

Official Countryman JCW Gallery

U25 MINI Countryman JCW Detailed Specifications

Countryman ModelCountryman E (EV)Countryman SE (EV)Countryman C (ICE)Countryman S (ICE)Countryman JCW (ICE)
Power204 hp313 hp167 hp221 hp (241 hp US)300 hp (312 hp US)
TorqueTBDTBD206 lb295 lb295 lb
Transmission1 Speed1 Speed7 speed DCT7 speed DCT7 speed DCT
Powertrain typeelectricelectricpetrolpetrolpetrol
Electric Power204 hp313 hp19 hp19 hp (NA – US)N/A
Electric TorqueTBDTBD55 lbTBDN/A
Electric Range (WLTP)287 miles270 milesN/AN/AN/A
0-60 mphTBDTBD8.3TBD5.4
Maximum speed105 mph112 mph132 mphTBD155 mph
WLTP l/100 kmN/AN/A40.9 – 46.3TBD34 – 36.2
WLTP CO2N/AN/A155 – 138TBD188 – 177
Length (mm/inches)4444 / 1754444 / 1754444 / 1754444 / 1754444 / 175
Width (mm/inches)1843 / 731843 / 731843 / 731843 / 731843 / 73
Height (mm)TBDTBD1661 / 65TBD1665 / 66
Wheelbase (mm)2069 / 812069 / 812069 / 812069 / 812069 / 81
Curb weight (LBS)TBDTBD3,571 lbsTBD3,825 lbs
Fuel Capacity L/GallonsN/AN/A45 / 11.854 / 14.354 / 14.3
Luggage capacity (liters)TBDTBD450 – 1450 L505 – 1530 L505 – 1530 L