The Mini Countryman John Cooper Works has been spotted testing again ahead of its expected launch early next year.
The latest spy pictures show a few more details of the hot Countryman, including the redesigned front bumper and grille and side windows, although we've already seen the standard Countryman at its LA motor show reveal.
The JCW Countryman will top the range and is expected to use the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the regular JCW Mini hatchback, which produces 228bhp. It'll also get Mini's All4 all-wheel drive system, like the JCW Clubman.
Also like the Clubman JCW, the Countryman JCW is expected to get the same upgrades to its suspension, cooling, braking and exhaust systems, in addition to more aggressive bodywork. The Clubman JCW reaches 62mph from a standstill in 6.3sec, so expect a slightly slower time for the Countryman.
Mini couldn't confirm any details on when we might see the JCW, but the advanced stage of testing it's at, and the fact we've seen the standard car, suggests we won't have to wait long to see the JCW range-topper. When it arrives, a price of around £32,000 seems likely; the next-highest spec version is the SD All4, which costs £29,565.
The standard Countryman is based on the same UKL1 architecture as the recently launched Clubman, which is said to be a huge step forward not only in terms of refinement, but also in terms of the range of powertrains it can accommodate.
The new Countryman is set to be considerably larger and more spacious than the current car. A stretch of around 150mm takes the Countryman's overall length to just over 4.25m, meaning available boot space grows from the current 450 to 470 litres. It's also almost 80mm wider and the wheelbase has grown by at least 100mm, but the really big difference is the height - the new Countryman is considerably taller than the Clubman, with a more upright seating position and more spacious interior.
Variable damper control will enable the chassis settings to be adjusted, and a raised ride height should enable moderate off-roading, although we suspect it'll still be too low to be classed as a proper off-roader.
Engine and transmission
Codenamed F60, the new Countryman will also be offered with the same electronically-controlled four-wheel drive system as the BMW X1, although front-wheel drive will be the standard layout.
A plug-in hybrid will join the Countryman's engine line-up next year, using an electric motor mounted within the independent Z-axle to drive the rear wheels. Autocar understands a range of 25 miles will be possible on pure-electric power. A 0-62mph time of 6.9sec is claimed for this variant.
Design and interior
Sources say the new Countryman’s overall styling is much more harmonious and better resolved than that of the original, which suffered proportionally because it was based on the same platform as the original Clubman, itself a stretched version of the three-door hatch.
Like the Clubman, it'll be much more upmarket than its predecessor, with a wider range of luxury options, including a plusher interior with optional leather sports seats and a head-up display.
Prices for the new Countryman start at £22,465 for the 1.5-litre petrol model and rise to £29,565 for the Cooper SD All4. The Clubman JCW starts at £29,345, so the Countryman, which takes a premium of around £2000 over the Clubman, should start at around £32,000.