At first sight, it looks understated, but sporty enough. A short wheelbase, stellar weight distribution, and a potent four-cylinder turbomotor might be features that first grab the general reader’s attention. However, when delving deeper into the makeup of the two new John Cooper Works Minis, several appealing items should paint the new Clubman and Countryman as genuine track day weapons to the discerning HPDE junkie.
Among those greasy, unpolished parts that make the on-track experience worlds better are a pair oradiators for cooling during hard lapping, a stiffer, more sporty chassis, and a new limited-slip differential to administer all of the 306 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque efficiently (the latter figure generated between 1,750 and 4,500 rpm).
When sent through the new eight-speed Steptronic sports transmission, the new MINI John Cooper Works Clubman turns in an acceleration of 0 to 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, with the new MINI John Cooper Works Countryman achieving the same in 5.1 seconds – 1.4 and 1.5 seconds faster than in the respective previous models.
Some of that respectable bump in performance comes down to some major changes in the turbocharger and fueling systems. Despite the compression dropping from 10.2 to 9.5 and using a bigger turbocharger than the previous generation, the new motor enjoys a new exhaust manifold with an integrated turbocharger to minimize runner length and improve low-end torque. That means immediate and seamless power. Additionally, the direct fuel injection, fully-variable valve control, and variable camshaft control on the intake and exhaust sides mean seamless power across a broad powerband.
Dual Radiator Cooling
All of that power and performance is even more exploitable for two reasons. First: the cooling system has been enhanced. Two external radiators, a model-specific expansion tank with an increased volume, an independent cooling module mounting, an electric ventilator with increased output, and a third cooling level due to a condenser ensures the turbocharged motor never overheats during a lengthy track day at on a sweltering Sunday afternoon at a BMWCCA event at Road Atlanta.
Second: the chassis has been stiffened to better make use of that thrust. Model-specific versions of the single-joint spring-strut-type axle for the front wheels and the multi-joint rear axle were made more rigid, made lighter, and made more effective kinematically. New swivel bearings allow for better camber values at the front axle, and improved kinematics in the rear improve lateral weight transfer. Chassis stiffening throughout and stiffer engine and transmission mounts improve feelings of connection between the car and driver.
8-Speed Steptronic Transmission
Of course, deploying that power effectively comes down to a strong drivetrain. The 8-speed Steptronic sports transmission sends power to the rears when some front-wheel slip is registered, but it’s a clever differential controlling the front axle which makes these two new JCW offerings so capable in corners. Under load, the front differential can lock up to 39% and transfer torque to the other wheel if slip is detected; retaining propulsion without altering line. Similarly, the differential lock supports the vehicle’s agility when changing direction quickly or accelerating dynamically out of a bend, by applying targeted shifting of the drive torque.
Brakes That Match The Power Output
Of course, no track toy would be complete without resilient and powerful brakes. The redesigned sport brake system now uses 4-piston, fixed-caliper brakes at both axles offer endurance and outright stopping power. The large brake discs of 360 × 30 mm at the front and 330 × 20 mm at the rear, combined with coolant duct geometry, play a large part in preventing a mushy pedal after repeated attempts at threshold braking.
These aspects of the new JCW Minis make them much more than the people carriers they’re often wrongly characterized as. In fact, the longer wheelbase on the Clubman and Countryman not only provides better case and more cargo room, it will make it less twitchy on the track versus a two-door model. With enough power to impress, it’s a staggering street car. But, more importantly, the handling, cooling, and braking that grueling sessions on the circuit require make these two new Minis suited to the track.