By Asian Journal Auto Editor

Launched last year, the John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 is the largest MINI ever, making it a proper four door, four seater CUV with plenty of rear passenger space. Based on platform that also underpins the BMW X1 CUV, the JCW Countryman is the hot rod, performance version of the Countryman. Not only does the JCW receive the MINI’s All4 all-wheel-drive system and adaptive steering, there is an electronic locking differential, optional adaptive dampers, and a brake-based torque vectoring system called Performance Control. Other performance upgrades include big Brembo brakes, torque vectoring, an aero kit, active dampers, and stiffer suspension. Three driving modes (Sport, Mid, and Green) that adjust throttle parameters and also tune the exhaust note are also included.

The heart of the beast is a 2.0-liter direct-injected, turbocharged four cylinder engine, that in the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman ALL4 develops a blistering 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard fare with “active engine speed adaptation” which rev-matches on downshifting while an eight-speed automatic transmission features paddle shifters and a launch control function.

We tested the new Midnight Black Edition trim, a fully loaded model with all the features of the Classic and Premier+, model, plus carbon-fibre mirror caps, gloss black accents around the headlights, grille, and taillights, and black finished 19-inch wheels with performance tires. Equipment from the Classic add a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, and tilt-adjustable rear seats, while the Premier+  offers piano black interior trim, head-up display, extended navigation functions, Harman Kardon audio upgrade, and satellite radio. The John Cooper Works Countryman starts at $38,500 – the $7,200 Midnight Black Edition package – bumps the price up to up to $46,990. With its dark tinted windows- the Midnight Edition looks suitably menacing!

The JCW Countryman ALL4 is well appointed Besides the JCW sport seats inside, you also get a JCW-specific steering wheel and shift lever. Vehicle customization possibilities are many, which is common these days but nevertheless very welcome.  with as standard equipment such as LED headlights, panorama moonroof, parking sensors, and Comfort Access keyless entry. Optional features include: navigation, premium sound head-up display, and driver assistance technology such as forward collision avoidance, active cruise control, and automatic parking assist.  There is cool trademark circular dash display with an optional 8.8-inch touchscreen. The exterior bezel color of the dial changes and there are all sorts of cool graphics and wonderful details in and around the dash and cabin that have you smiling.  Uniformly, there is great feeling of quality and refinement in the JCW Countryman. Good materials, a nice tactile feel to the controls and surfaces and a premium look to everything is a hallmark. The reclining rear seats offer plenty of versatility, and can fold in 40:20:40 split, and also move forward or backward up to 13 centimeters   The Countryman offers 450 L of trunk space and 1,390 L maximum, and 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats give it maximum flexibility within its small confines

On the road, the JCW Countryman is all business, being a complete blast to drive with the 2.0-liter turbo engine offering a turbine smooth, operation. This contrasts sweetly with a growly exhaust system note that uses special baffles to change decibel level depending on if you are in Sport, Mid or Green mode. The three modes also can also adjust the optional adaptive dampers as well making for a stiffer, more nuanced sport tuned ride in Sport mode and a more comfortable, less harsh ride in mid and Green mode. Gear shifting is fast courtesy of the eight-speed auto gearbox on our tester. You can also use the paddle shifters if you want the feel of a manual. . Upshifts come quickly from the excellent automatic, holding the gears until much higher in the rev range.  The All4 system by the way offer superb traction especially in winter conditions. Driving dynamics are wonderful, the quick spooling of the turbo unit provides excellent acceleration at highway speeds, and the exhaust note and quick shifts add addictive high notes to the driving experience. Note, fuel economy is rated at (L/100 km): 10.6 city, 7.8 hwy, 9.3 combined. To sum up, the JCW version of the MINI Countryman is faultlessly executed with BMW quality and attention to detail. The powertrain is just superb.  Downsides are few. A highly refined, joy to own and drive premium sports CUV that will make you smile every day.

2018 MINI Countryman JCW ALL4 Midnight Edition. Base priced from $46,990.