Quick First Drive: 2012 Mini Cooper Countryman JCW All4 Prototype

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Mini has a pretty predictable formula when it come to its lineup: each of the body styles ranges from the base Cooper, to the sportier Cooper S, and the John Cooper Works model is the ultimate expression of each product. However, the Countryman only went up to the S model with Mini's All4 all-wheel drive... until now. Behold, the JCW Countryman All4.

Mini's engineers would not tell us what exactly is powering the JCW Countryman, other than that it would be more powerful than the other JCW models. Those use a tweaked version of a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-four good for 208 hp. It's not too surprising that the JCW Countryman gets a power boost, as it will also be the first all-wheel drive JCW model and quite a bit heavier than other JCW models. From our very unofficial seat-of-the-pants meter, we're guessing an additional 10 hp or so.

The extra power is most evident right off the line. The turbo has little lag and the car just pulls instantly. The biggest upgrade to the car is the suspension -- a firmer setup than other with thicker front and rear anti-roll bars, the JCW feels planted and turns in crisply thanks to well-weighted steering. Despite the 17-inch wheels, it rides smoothly over most surfaces and was never jarring during our brief drive in the snow.

Exterior modifications are minor, with the additon of a minor aero kit, similar to other JCW models; interior upgrades are limited to sport seats, dark gray gauges, and red contrasting trim.

The Mini JCW Countryman will go on sale in Europe in the first half of 2012, with U.S. sales beginning in the second half of the year. It will officially debut in March at the Geneva Motor Show.

Check back later today for a more in-depth review of the 2012 Mini JCW Countryman All4 Prototype.

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