FOR CLUB AND COUNTRY
John Cooper Works’ two Minis mean you can have it both ways.
Track days are excellent fun. They’re the automotive equivalent of that favourite saying among marketers: a win-win situation.
It’s when car brands get a captive audience of journalists and social media influencers in a confined area where they get to indoctrinate—sorry, inform— them of their brand values.
In turn, journalists get to drive around (and around) like complete and utter louts for the better part of two hours. After which, you get towelled off by nubile young things in stretched cotton, quaff ice cream in 1,001 flavours and rehydrate in the shade before adjourning to a sumptuous buffet where more indoctrination—sorry, informing—happens.
Downside? None. Just a bag of laughs, skid marks (on tarmac) and wor-
ried-looking execs fussing over a platoon of brand-spanking new, all-singing, all-dancing Minis on proud display.
That’s how BMW launched its latest, zippiest Mini variants to an adoring press: the John Cooper Works (JCW) Clubman and the John Cooper Works Countryman.
Damn, were they good. The cars weren’t bad either.
CLUBBABLE The JCW Clubman’s two-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 231bhp and 350Nm of torque. If that’s Greek to you, then just remember it takes just 6.3 seconds to sprint to 60mph and has a top speed of 238km/h.
Making all that usable is an 8-speed Steptronic Sports automatic transmission which offers shorter, snappier changes, with the all-important “snap and pop” (blip of the throttle to match engine speed to gear ratio) in between downshifts. Brakes are Brembo shod with four-piston callipers painted a highly visible red.
Your inner tree-hugger will be soothed by the Clubman’s combined fuel consumption of 7.2l per 100km, even if a best-case scenario. In short, the Clubman attempts that fine balance of versatility and performance. There’s a lot of usable cabin space, with the twin rear suicide doors offering easy egress and ingress.
Cost: a not-unhefty RM328,888 on the road (sans insurance). But in return, you get Mini’s flagship hatchback/estate variant brimming with all manner of goodies, like a four-year/ unlimited-mileage warranty and a fouryear/60,000km free service package.
And inestimable bragging rights in terms of racing heritage, with Minis having won the hallowed Monte Carlo Rally thrice, in the Swinging Sixties no less (1964, 1965 and 1967), driven by legends like Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Mäkinen and Rauno Aaltonen.
OUT IN THE COUNTRY(MAN) The brochure says the Countryman is for the inner adventurer in you: a bit of Bear Grylls, Austin Stevens or Andrew St Pierre White. Well, not really, since the trio would more likely traverse the Amazon on foot or in a Toyota Land Cruiser.
But who cares. You get top-end accoutrements befitting a flag-bearing JCW, including the customised 410watt, six-speaker Harman Kardon hi-fi and Dinamica Leather upholstery in Carbon Black and Red Stripes.
Step into the Countryman and give it an exuberant nudge; that’s when you realise an all-wheel drive system (called “ALL4”) exists. It steps in when you’re headed for a hedgerow and the Whatsapp fail gallery of fame. Aided and abetted by BMW’S Dynamic Stability Control, the Countryman does it ALL4 you: I know because BMW’S strict instructions to leave DSC in “on” mode ensured RM348,888 stayed on the track, not the gravel trap.
So, should you get one? Or both? It depends. Mini buyers are an eclectic bunch. They could be the sort you see at MRT stations reading The Times of London and clutching a brolly under a trench-coated arm, or Gen Xers (like me) who grew up besotted with John Cooper’s genius or Sir Alec Issigonis’ design nous.
It also doesn’t hurt that the likes of George Harrison, Steve Mcqueen, Enzo Ferrari and Mick Jagger all owned Minis in the ’60s, which turned these simple little cars into fashion statements. So, yeah. I’m betting you’re sold on the legend.
Above John Cooper Works Countryman.