Like those MINI WRC cars? Here’s the closest one can get to the Prodrive rally machine, the MINI Countryman John Cooper Works. The JCW becomes the new range topper, sitting above the 184 hp/240 Nm Cooper S ALL4 that was around since launch.

The Countryman JCW’s 1.6 litre twin-scroll turbo engine develops 218 hp and 280 Nm between 1,900 and 5,000 rpm, but the latter can be increased to 300 Nm for short and sharp bursts of acceleration between 2,100 and 4,500 rpm using the overboost function. “A fitting soundtrack” is provided by the sports exhaust system with its slanting tailpipe embellishers.

The Valvetronic-equipped direct-injection engine gets reinforced pistons and intake valves, and further optimisation of the cooling, air supply and exhaust gas discharge system. The turbocharger is also matched to a larger intercooler.

As an alternative to the standard six-speed manual gearbox, customers can order a six-speed auto with shift paddles. Tweaks have been made to both transmissions and the clutch for the manual variant to take into account the extra engine power. Pressing the Sport button alters the engine’s response and acoustic profile, steering power assistance and speeds up gearchanges in D – the latter for the auto variant only.

The Countryman JCW needs just seven seconds flat to dash from 0 to 100 km/h with either gearbox. Top speed is 225 km/h for the manual and 223 km/h for the auto. Average fuel consumption in the EU test cycle stands at 7.4 litres per 100 km (7.9 litres for the auto).

The fastest maxi MINI gets Brake Energy Regeneration, Auto Start-Stop for the manual and Gear Shift Indicator to coach efficient driving. Other energy saving parts include Electric Power Steering, a map-controlled oil pump and an on-demand coolant pump.

This Countryman is the first JCW car to put power on all four wheels, via the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system. In normal driving situations, ALL4 diverts 50% of drive to the rear wheels, rising to as much as 100% in extreme conditions, such as on ice. The control electronics of ALL4 are integrated directly into the DSC. This can be fun, as we found out driving the Countryman Cooper S ALL4.

More upgrades come in the form of bigger brakes (307 mm front disc, 296 mm rear), standard sports suspension with “extremely firm tuning for the springs and dampers”, strengthened anti-roll bars and a 10 mm drop in ride height. 18-inch twin-spoke light alloys with 225/45 R18 tyres are standard, but 19-inch items are available as an option.

Inside, sports seats in Diagonal Track JCW Carbon Black cloth trim with red contrast stitching can be found, along with piano black trim strips, JCW door sills, sports steering with red stitching and JCW logo, the dark 260 km/h speedo and anthracite roof liner. Chili Red trim is optional.

Read our MINI Countryman test drive report here. Mega hi-res gallery after the jump.