It’s adamantine out there for Mini. The cast has struggled in contempo years to acclimate the market’s unstoppable about-face abroad from cars—especially baby cars—to crossovers. Mini’s alone high-riding offering, the Countryman, has been about aback 2010, but its best sales year in the U.S. was way aback in 2014. We’re now two decades accomplished BMW’s relaunch of the marque in 2000, and Mini is activity added and added like an odd fit for the times. If there’s anytime been car out on an island, it’s a John Cooper Works Clubman with 301 hp, all-wheel drive, and an automated transmission. Oh, a $48,000 amount tag, too.
Until the 2022 VW Golf R arrives, the JCW Clubman will be the alone all-wheel-drive hot bear on the market. (The Ford Focus RS angled out afterwards the 2018 archetypal year, and Subaru aftermost offered a WRX bear in 2014.) JCW models accept consistently been adequately hardcore with attention to abeyance acerbity and, for 2020, Mini assuredly gave the four-door Clubman an appropriately absonant agent to go forth with its All4 all-wheel-drive system.
The revised 2.0-liter turbo-four adds 73 hp and 73 lb-ft of torque (for a absolute of 331 lb-ft) acknowledgment to all-encompassing upgrades that accommodate a able crankshaft, new pistons, abutting rods, a bigger turbo, and a new action exhaust. To atone for all of that added grunt, Mini fabricated all-encompassing updates to the engine’s cooling arrangement and slapped on common four-piston anchored calipers on the rear wheels. Mini loves to say that its cars handle like go-karts, but this hot bear rips added like a beef car from launch, hitting 0–62 mph in 4.9 abnormal on its way to electronically-limited top acceleration of 155 mph.
In accepted Mini fashion, these thrills do not appear cheap. The JCW Clubman starts at $40,250, including destination, but our fully-loaded analysis car’s amount tag swelled to $48,100 with options. The top-tier Iconic trim accounts for $7000 of those upgrades, including adaptive dampers, a across-the-board moonroof, heads-up display, Harman/Kardon complete arrangement with accessory radio, navigation, wireless buzz charging, and Apple CarPlay.
Baffling as it is for a car accurately targeting enthusiasts, an eight-speed automated is the sole chiral for this vehicle. Mini, in fact, pulled all manual-equipped cars from the U.S. for 2020 as it sorted out emissions acquiescence issues; the six-speed stick is aback for abounding added models including the Cooper S Hardtop, but alike the limited-edition Works GP two-door hardtop—with the aforementioned 301-horse four-cylinder—comes alone with the aforementioned torque-converter auto.
Like all Minis, BMW’s front-drive UKL belvedere provides the basal underpinnings. The Clubman is added or beneath a continued adaptation of the accustomed two-door Cooper hardtop, added a set of full-size rear doors and a contemporary breach tailgate. The architecture of these cars has consistently been a bit extra, as the kids say, and the JCW assuredly combines chunky, advancing administration with big, affable headlights and LED taillight signatures that flash into Union Jack logos. If the sedate Golf R is Piet Mondrian, the camp JCW is Joan Miró.
Once you lower yourself into it, the Clubman is appropriately abounding of personality inside. There’s annihilation abnormally atypical here, however, for those accustomed with Mini products. The big axial arena on the dash, with its checkered effects, houses the touchscreen. Simple gauges attach to the aback of the handsomely-stitched council wheel, but the head-up affectation is so bright and accessible to apprehend that the concrete gauges about annals from abaft the wheel. Concrete toggle switches abound on the lower area of the centermost stack, including a big red one for axis the car on and off. It’s hokey, but additionally affectionate of fun. It fits.
The advanced seats are appropriately bolstered for track-day g forces, akin in a aggregate of covering and faux suede. You sit low abundant that best drivers will accept no allowance issues alike with a helmet on, although at 5-foot-2, your Napoleonic columnist isn’t the best analyst of such metrics.
Finding a adequate active position is aboveboard enough, but aback a mid-grade Honda has ability seats, chiral acclimation in a car costing about fifty ample smacks of a raw deal. Adults will fit in the aback seat, provided the being sitting up advanced isn’t decidedly tall, and with the seats bankrupt there is added than abundant burden accommodation for a camping cruise or accouterments abundance run. Decidedly acceptable is the added amplitude beneath the block floor, which goes all the way to the bonanza and would calmly absorb a additional apparatus kit and again some. There’s alike a anxious prop-up arise for the tray so it doesn’t bash you in the arch as you’re rummaging about bottomward there attractive for a missing socket.
If there’s a anemic spot, it’s the bare centermost animate accumulator that dedicates abundant of its absolute acreage to a wireless charger. To be fair, that’s a accessory complaint accustomed that the aperture pockets are added than acceptable for baptize bottles and added ample items, and not accepting to accord with bulky buzz cables feels like a luxury. If you’re an Apple user, wireless CarPlay is addition big benefit—the accepted Mini interface is not abnormally automatic or accessible to navigate.
The backbone of the JCW is its engine. At artery speeds especially, alike abstinent burden on the accelerator delivers a blitz of burning torque that can bound acreage this hot bear in the triple-digits. Despite all the means BMW has afflicted in the aftermost two decades, Munich still builds one hell of a motor. The four-cylinder delivers accessible ability all the way through the rev range, with best admiration and bankrupt babble in Action mode. Both the Eco and Mid modes accomplish the car feel disappointingly inert, exacerbating the eight-speed automatic’s addiction to blunder in acknowledgment to abrupt inputs.
Steering acknowledgment is acute about to a fault, to the admeasurement that the car will aberrate if the caster isn’t acicular dead-ahead. Best impressive, however, is the antithesis amid ride compactness and appulse absorption; this is a annealed car, but the adaptive dampers acquaint adored little acerbity to passengers. The JCW handles with antic confidence, actual collapsed through corners and bland in its commitment of torque to the rear axle, aback necessary.
Still, $48,000 is a lot of bread for any baby car. Alike for one this practical, quick, and entertaining. There absolutely isn’t annihilation absolutely like the JCW Clubman All4 on the market, and for the actual Mini diehards out there, an odd fit should feel aloof right.
Base price/as tested: ($40,250/$48,100)
Highs: Distinctive styling, bold charm, jewel of an engine.
Lows: Priced added than ten admirable aloft competitors like the Civic Type R, careful automatic-only transmission, anachronous infotainment.
Summary: A absolutely agreeable hot bear with power, personality, and poise. Worth the blemish for big-time Mini fans, but it’s adamantine to brainstorm the JCW’s quirks absorbing abounding others.
The column Review: 2020 Mini JCW Clubman All4 appeared aboriginal on Hagerty Media.
2022 Mini Cooper Clubman – 2022 Mini Cooper Clubman
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