How does 306bhp sound for a start? Using BMW’s TwinPower turbocharger technology, already applied to several models in its broader range, the throttle response is no less than electric. Of course, the much-revised 2.0-litre petrol unit is not an EV but with power increased by 75bhp over the previous iteration, which could scarcely be described as ‘sluggish’, the new versions can scorch from 0-60mph in a mere 4.6s, before reaching an electronically limited maximum of 155mph.
In Clubman hatchback form, the engine emits around 161g/km CO2 but still returns up to 39.8mpg, despite driving through an 8-speed fully-automatic gearbox, complete with steering-wheel paddles for manual shifts. According to BMW, the larger Countryman’s figures are only a few tenths off that of the Clubman model. Intriguingly, despite the ‘hair trigger’ throttle, the new car is significantly smoother and more progressive to drive even than the regular Cooper S versions. The JCW models benefit from a new exhaust system that can still crackle and pop on the over-run but not with as much eagerness as before.
The in-built electronic differential lock can be felt working on the front axles, although the standard ALL4 4WD system provides masterly control of the overall drivetrain, with its management of stability, grip and power apportioning capabilities. Biased towards front-wheel drive, if slip is detected an electro-hydraulic pump brings in the stabilising effects of the rear axles. Fitted with the optional twin-mode damper control, either sport, or comfort settings can be switched into play, along with a 10mm lowering facility for even more focused handling.
Featuring bright red callipers, larger diameter brake discs are now fitted all-round, with four-pots on both front and rear rotors. The arresting power is prodigious. A new design of 18.0-inch diameter alloy wheels is fitted as standard, with larger options available. The amount of mechanical grip that results is eye-poppingly excellent. I was surprised by the fluency of the chassis, which feels markedly more compliant than in other Minis. However, you need not worry, given a typical British back lane, the car still scurries like a frightened rabbit having lost none of its signature damper reactions.
The cramped cabin has been retrimmed with natty-looking JCW sports seats and a new crosshatched pattern. Fortunately, despite favouring occupants with narrower beams, they provide snug comfort and hip-hugging support. The soft-touch dashboard is the same as usual, with the large centre dial containing the touch-screen sat-nav and other connectivity options. As the top models in the line-up, the JCWs benefit from a packed specification, which is reflected in their respective list prices of £34,250 (Clubman) and £35,550 (Countryman), when the models go on sale in July. Needless to say, there is also an extensive options list, with which to personalise the cars even more.