Road Test: 2017 MINI John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4

Having previously conquered the category of small cars with the most thrilling vehicles, MINI brings us another iteration from the John Cooper Works family, this time in Clubman form. In terms of its exterior dimensions and space, the new MINI John Cooper Works Clubman is one of the biggest athletes in the history of the British brand, second to the Countryman.

Exciting driving dynamics, roominess, everyday practicality, and some cargo hauling abilities open new chapters for the Clubman.

Ride and Handling
Our Rebel Green Clubman rides stiff, as any high performance vehicle should. The tight ride lends itself to incredible handling that is tossable and secure, proving that the go-kart handling didn’t disappear just because the Clubman is bigger. All4 all-wheel-drive provides the ultimate grip and secure handling in all conditions.

We love driving this new Clubman and it begs to be driven, rewarding the driver with plenty of steering and road feedback.

18″ JCW “Silver Grip” alloys are standard and look great.

Braking
Brembo brakes stop the Clubman JCW in an instant. They bite early, remain linear and bring the car to a stop incredibly fast.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy
The 2.0L MINI TwinPower turbo four-cylinder engine produces 228 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque, routing it through a standard 6-speed manual or like on our tester, an 8-speed automatic. A new version of the ALL4 all-wheel-drive system is optimized for weight and efficiency with electrohydraulic regulation.

The sport exhaust system sounds delicious and scary at the same time, ready to surprise those inside the Clubman as well as those outside of it. Sport mode causes all sorts of burbles and pops out of the dual exhaust outlets, generating only more smiles. Normal mode tones it down a bit and Green mode takes it down another notch, while also teaching the driver how to apply more conservative throttle inputs to conserve fuel.

This car is FAST and fun, period. The engineering behind the powertrain is impressive, and yet it doesn’t burn through fuel like a performance vehicle. The start/stop system could be smoother but the ability to disable with a switch press and to keep it turned off is appreciated.

During our typical drive week of local and highway mixed driving, fuel economy averages in at 31.5 mpg, quite impressive. The EPA rates the JCW Clubman at 23/31/26 (city/highway/combined).

Noise
Noticeable road noise because of the low-profile run flat tires, but minimal wind noise. Both are barely audible over the engine and exhaust notes when in sport mode. This is not the car for a serene driving experience.

Headlights
Automatic LED low and high beam headlights work beautifully. They’re very bright, with excellent intensity and distance. They allow the driver to scan ahead and see everything from pedestrians to animals in the distance, and react accordingly. Automatic high beams are part of the Driving Assistant package which was not on our vehicle.

Interior Fit and Finish
The JCW Clubman is classic MINI but with a modern twist. Switches and buttons are well-labeled, with good use of symbols and contrast.

Materials feel of quality and solidity, and everything looked like it fit together well.

Seating
The front seats are manually adjustable with adjustable thigh extensions. The seats are firm and extremely supportive, with plenty of side bolstering and lateral support.

Finding the recline lever is a bit tricky at first. The lumbar knob is more challenging to adjust. Headroom is excellent even with the panoramic roof, of which the front portion slides open and over the rear portion.

Rear seat comfort is excellent, with a supportive seat and expansive amount of legroom. The coupe-like styling doesn’t impinge on rear headroom.

Cargo room measures in at 17.5 cubic feet and is easily accessible through the rear barn-doors, and fold-down seats open that space up to nearly 48 cubic feet.

There’s a endless number of storage pockets and a well-sized glove box.

Visibility
Visibility is very good all around thanks thin pillars and the upright roofline.  The standard backup camera makes any parking situation a cinch, especially with the front and rear park assist sensors. Parking Assistant is part of the tech package and parallel parks the Clubman with only driver throttle and brake inputs.

Because of Clubman’s unique greenhouse, Clubman comes with front and side visors, leading to better visibility on sunny days. The cabin feels especially airy thanks to the dual pane panoramic roof.

Power folding, auto-dimming exterior mirrors (driver’s side only) are work well for tight areas and night time driving. A puddle light under the outside mirror displays the MINI logo upon unlocking, very cool.

Gauges and Controls
Crisp, well-lit gauges and controls provide all information at a quick glance.

Knobs and buttons feel extremely high quality and are easy to hold while the Clubman is moving. The infotainment system’s controller is intuitive and logical

Everything is well-organized and group together in a logical way. Comfort access with push-button start is standard.

The auto releasing electronic parking brake is smart and auto up and down on all four windows is helpful.

Excellent LED interior lighting in several locations along with creative graphics in the infotainment system create a whimsical feel; truly MINI.

An illuminated glove box and very bright cargo area illumination are well thought out.

The tech package also includes head up display which projects onto an auto-folding lens that pops out of the dashboard. It works well displaying current speed, speed limit signs, navigation and blind-spot monitoring info.

Infotainment
Second to the MINI JCW Clubman’s phenomenal driving characteristics, MINI Connected 5.0 is one of the best infotainment systems we’ve tested. Nearly identical to their BMW iDrive cousin, the 8.8″ touchscreen with one-handed controller is incredibly fluid and responsive. The display is high-resolution and crisp, with excellent contrasting colors.

Integrated Spotify and Pandora mean all that’s needed is a Bluetooth connection to access playlists and start streaming; no USB cords or special apps to download, even on iPhone. Apple CarPlay will arrive to vehicles built in mid-July 2017 or later.

The optional nav works beautifully, with incredibly fast and smartphone-like voice entry capability. Destinations are just as quick to set in the MINI Connected system as they are in Google or Apple maps. The earth view map is very cool and helpful.

Even without the optional Harman/Kardon system, Clubman’s six-speaker audio system sounds rich. USB, AUX HD and XM radio, and Bluetooth streaming inputs provide endless entertainment.

Qi wireless smartphone charging is also included with the tech package and works well.

The MINI Connected app is excellent.

Crash-Avoidance
Our Clubman wasn’t fitted with the Active Driving Assistant Parking so we couldn’t test adaptive cruise or the auto high beams, but we’re glad to see it as an option. We hope auto emergency braking becomes standard very soon, especially given the price of this JCW Clubman.

Parking sensors in the front and rear are extremely helpful, with unique audible and visual aids that MINI does a great job of making helpful and not annoying.

Crash Test Results
The 2017 MINI Cooper 2-door is rated a Top Safety Pick, so we except the Clubman to do equally as well. NHTSA has not tested the Clubman.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 10
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 10
Noise 8
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 9
Seating 9
Visibility 9
Gauges and Controls 10
Infotainment 10
Crash-Avoidance 7
Total Score 93
Facts
Make: MINI
Model: John Cooper Works Clubman
Trim Level: Standard
Engine: 2.0L Turbo I4
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Options: Rebel Green paint, leather seats, Cold Weather, Tech and Wired packages, auto trans, dynamic damper control, panoramic roof, satellite radio
Base Price: $35,100
As-Tested Price: $45,000

 

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