Despite the 'new' Mini having been around for the best part of 20 years, and despite this new JCW launching only in the chubbiest variants initially, there's still something fairly extraordinary about the notion of a 300hp Mini. Three hundred horsepower. In a Mini.
Of course that sort of power hasn't been thrown at a tiny tin-top racer - though expectations for the upcoming GP are now raised - instead it's the dumpier Clubman and Countryman models that get the higher output first. Mini says the two deliver "extreme driving fun" and a "challenging performance experience", the pair clearly aimed at rivals like the Cupra Ateca and the upcoming Mercedes-AMG A35 Shooting Brake. Mini was hardly going to leave niches unoccupied now, was it?
The engine here is patently of most interest; an evolution of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo found in all Cooper S variants of this Mini generation, it now produces 306hp and 332lb ft - sufficient for 0-62mph sprints in these ALL4-only models of 4.9 seconds (Clubman) and 5.1 seconds for the Countryman. The engine benefits from 'the latest generation of Mini TwinPower Turbo technology' as well as a stronger crank, unique pistons, bespoke rods and new injectors. The increase in boost has meant a reduction in compression ratio, too, from 10.2 to 9.5. There's uprated cooling, a new exhaust system - to make the engine "more intensively felt than ever before" and a further reworked eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. This is not just a remap, put it that way.
Both Countryman and Clubman get a diff lock on the front axle, permitting a lock-up of up to 39 per cent to boost traction - handy both for what limited off-roading they may do, and "when taking bends with a sporty driving style." Super. In normal driving, as with other ALL4 Minis, the cars are front-wheel drive, sending power back when slip is detected via a hang on clutch and electrohydraulic pump. Interestingly though even this has been overhauled for the new JCWs, the ALL4 system getting a reinforced gear set, specific rear drive shafts and a large propeller shaft disc to handle the extra power.
Chassis mods are equally extensive. Suspension components are said to be lighter and stronger, with tweaked kinematics for "a thrilling racing sensation". Redesigned swivel bearings increase negative camber on the front, springs and dampers are changed (with adaptive items optional), the electric steering has been reworked and the body has been reinforced to lend extra credence to these cars being "two top athletes" - let's hope so.
Naturally, these two being sporty Mini models of the 21st century, both Clubman and Countryman JCW have been jazzed up inside and out to signify that fact. Each gets a bodykit reserved only for JCWs, plus - we kid you not - a"aerodynamically optimised mirror caps" - JCW logos, some natty sports seats and 18-inch wheels - a variety of others being on the predictably extensive options list.
While there will be no little cynicism around the ability of a Mini Countryman and Clubman being able to "attain a completely new dimension of performance", the level of re-engineering wrought looks encouragingly. And who would bet against them finding a glut of customers for Mini? We'll reserve genuine excitement for when this powertrain is (hopefully) dropped into the Mini hatch, though don't be surprised to see plenty of these JCWs around when sales kick off later this year.
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