2025 Mini Countryman JCW Hands-On Preview: Family Fun
Yes, it's big. It's also clever.
The 2025 Mini Countryman JCW will claim a few brand superlatives when it launches next year. The Countryman in general will be the brand's largest vehicle; the John Cooper Works will also be the most powerful, and most expensive.
As the de facto flagship of the brand then, the Countryman JCW is—pardon the pun—kind of a big deal. We went hands-on at the model's world debut in South Carolina earlier this month to get a feel for the SUV ahead of its arrival next year.
It's big. That's the point.
"It's not very mini anymore" has to be the Mini equivalent of "working hard or hardly working." Everybody is tired of hearing both. It's not clever, and it ignores a few important realities: chiefly, buyers want the size—and Mini is in the business of making money.
During a chat with Michael Peyton, head of Mini Americas division, he described the traditional Mini hardtop buyer profile as something approaching a bell curve. Folks buy when young, but then filter out as their needs grow, only to return once, say, they become empty-nesters. The Countryman helps flatten that curve: if people need more space, this is the way they can stay with the brand.
In person, it's the height that makes the strongest impression. Two and a half inches taller than before, this new Countryman is about as tall as the average American woman (5'4"). Proportionally it's much more SUV-like now too, since it's gained almost half a foot in length.
The pay-off is actual adult-sized space. I was easily able to sit "behind myself" in the JCW, with good amounts of both leg- and headroom.
ICE and EV in unison
Mini hasn't been subtle about its electrification plans. The good news is that folks will be able to get the Countryman in both EV and ICE flavors. Much like parent company BMW is doing with its latest models, Mini is keeping both powertrain offerings essentially identical. So if you want an all-electric Countryman, you can do that; Mini will even sell you a 308-horsepower SE All4 model.
Of course, the JCW will remain as the highest-performing model. Its 312 horsepower routes to both axles via an eight-speed automatic transmission with standard paddle shifters. The rolling stock is larger now too, with the show car running 245/20 tires; 19s will also be available. Mini says the JCW also has an upgraded braking system.
In person, I'm transfixed on the tailpipe layout. Quad pipes on a Mini? Heck yeah.
Fun is still a high priority
Sure, this is an SUV, but this is Mini we're talking about. It has to be a little cheeky. There's a whole lot of personality to the cabin, from the recycled-polyester dashboard to the stunning round OLED center display. We're a little surprised to see the brand sticking to the separate glass panel head-up display, but it keeps the most pertinent info right in front of the driver. Also ahead of them is a funky, redesigned steering wheel with a fabric six-o'-clock spoke, like a watch strap. The same material pops up on the center console storage, too.
The central screen wows with its crispness and rejigged menu layout. Mini Experience Modes is just the sort of feature we expect of the brand, reskinning the system in one of multiple different design layouts. What's more, MEM utilizes a small projector mounted just behind the screen, which beams ambient lighting across the dashboard. Is your car's ambient lighting just static strips of LEDs? That's so 2023.
With the redesigned Cooper badge all over the place, the JCW promises to be a fun-to-drive entry in the small SUV space too. We won't know until we get behind the wheel, but we have high hopes. Pricing starts around $47,000 ($56,000 CAD) before destination, which drops the Countryman right around the hot hatch club of Volkswagen Golf R and Integra Type S. It arrives next spring.
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Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.
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