It’s touted as the fastest ever production Mini, this John Cooper Works Clubman, said to be capable of cracking 100 in under five seconds and topping 250km/h. While you’re not going to get close to the top whack on NZ roads (well hopefully not), you’ll also struggle to reach the legal limit quite as fast as they say. But while we didn’t match the performance claim, even with the launch control configured, it doesn’t take the gloss off this, the fastest mini ever. It’s a hoot.
To specifics then. The 2.0-litre gains JCW-spec internals, a bigger turbo, the latest gen injectors and an improved cooling system. The result is 450Nm while there’s 225kW of power. They say it’ll crack 100km/h in 4.9sec but we couldn’t coax it below 5.2sec. Ah well, still pretty quick.
And it sounds fast, sporting a new sports exhaust with an ‘emotionally charged acoustic design’. They’ve fitted an eight-speed auto to handle the added torque. Along with on-demand AWD, there’s a mechanical diff lock to help traction up front and minimise torque steer.
The suspension is 10mm lower and stiffened, as are the bushes and there is better geometry on the front end. Dynamics also benefit from body reinforcements, with added struts and bracing, and there are bigger brakes.THIS IS A NIMBLE THING, TURNING SWEETLY AND CHANGING DIRECTION SWIFTLY.
It’s a $21,300 walk up from the Cooper S Clubman, but the JCW is well stocked. And all the Mini styling attributes are present with more flourishes than necessary.
Inside it’s the same, with the overly stylised dials and knobs. Though it’s all a bit flamboyant for our liking, it still manages to be more practical and logical in execution than a DS. There’s even okay storage. The infotainment system is improved with touchscreen functionality, though there is no smart AI voice system here. The seating position is low, which we like, but the seat is quite firm after a while.
The Clubman is the station wagon variant of the Mini range and so there is more rear legroom than you’ll find in the five-door. It’s still pretty cozy although the headroom is good, and the entry easier too. They call the Clubman a six-door thanks to its rear barn doors. Yes, a simple hatch is more user friendly, but these aren’t too bad, and you eventually remember which door you need to open first (it’s the left one, no, hang on, the right one first). Best to just wiggle your foot under the bumper and let them pop open magically thanks to the standard gesture control.
With its wagon-esque roofline and steeply raked doors, there’s 360L of space here, which expands to 1250 with the rear seat folded. This feels pretty lively around town, the boost coming on strong from the 2000rpm mark, even in its ‘Mid’ drive mode, the others being Sport and Green. The latter we forgot to check out and it might have improved the economy as our fuel use averaged at 9.2L/100km, up some on the 7.7 claim.
While this Clubman doesn’t leap off the mark, stalling the auto up helps if you need to boost for a gap. The ride can be a tad lumpy over the nasty stuff, and there’s road noise too, but it’s the JCW, so that’s to be expected. We found it interesting that the cheaper Pure model ($67,990) comes standard with adaptive dampers but are a $900 option here. The Pure also rides on smaller 18s, so should be more refined on the ride front.
The torque convertor auto brings low speed refinement to the powertrain, and while it can be a tad slow with the changes when you’re hurrying, you can whack the stick in Sport mode to sharpen it up. The Clubman could do with bigger mirrors, and BSM is missing, but you get active cruise, with the helpful stop and go traffic jam assist.
Hitting JCW-type roads, the sports suspension feels the edges of the bumps, and this doesn’t ride a series of dips and dives as well as the mechanically similar BMW M135i can, its adaptive dampers surely helping. But otherwise, the Clubman JCW delivers from a driver’s view point.
We clicked the DSC into its Sport mode, allowing the chassis some freedom, and the opportunity to scrub the tyres more thoroughly through the turns. This is a nimble thing, turning sweetly and changing direction swiftly. Yet it’s also stable in the longer curves, gripping up well to hold the intended path. The steering gets it all pointing nicely, and with AWD you can hit the pedal hard just before the exit proper and it’ll spit you out the other side. It doesn’t quite leap off the bends, but it’s quick enough.
The engine pulls best from 2500rpm onwards, and with both the drive mode and trans in Sport the shifts are snappy as the tacho rounds on past 6000rpm. The engine’s rorty note is audible even over the din of the rubber. Brakes are solid performers too.
They round out a good drive experience, one that betters the M135i for $15k less. Though we should temper that by adding the BMW is more refined, with added tech, and looks good without the gimmicky styling.
|Model||Mini John Cooper Works Clubman||Price||$73.200|
|Engine||19980cc, IL4, T/DI, 225kW/450Nm||Drivetrain||8-speed auto , on-demand AWD|
|Fuel Use||7.7L/100km||C02 Output||175g/km|