Mighty Mouse is back!
Well, the Mighty Mini . . .
Last year, Mini – which is really BMW, which designs and makes them now, not the Brits – redesigned the Clubman. Which is a stretch-job version of the standard model Mini. The Clubman has roomier back seats and more room for cargo. Plus a pair of mini-saloon-style outward opening rear doors, too.
But it didn’t have the John Cooper Works hot-roddy enhancements when Mini (er, BMW) redesigned the Clubman last year.
Now it does – plus you can buy “ALL4” all-wheel drive, too.
And in the regular Clubman as well as the hot-roddy JCW version.
WHAT IT IS
The Clubman is the Mini for those who need more interior room than the original Mini’s got . . . but still want a Mini.
Unlike the original, it has four adult-usable seats – not just four doors. There’s enough legroom in the second row (34.3 inches) for a six-foot tall adult to sit back there comfortably – and 17.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seats (vs. 13.1 in the regular four-door Mini).
And though it’s gained some weight to make that happen, the Clubman’s also gained some horsepower – so it’s actually quicker than it used to be.
But the real trick is it doesn’t use more gas.
Fuel economy’s excellent – 40-plus on the highway is possible with the turbo three. Even the snorty Works version does a fair imitation of an economy car . . if you drive it like one.
Good luck with that!
Prices start at $24,100 for the base trim with three-cylinder turbo engine, manual transmission and front-wheel-drive. Opting for the same trim with the new ALL4 AWD systems bumps that up to $25,900.
The high-performance S trim’s price starts at $27,650 – $29,450 with AWD.
A John Cooper Works Clubman stickers for $35,100. This version comes only with the All4 AWD system.
But hey, it’s back!
And you can get it with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.
None of this automatic-only nonsense with the strongest version of the thing.
All-wheel-drive is now offered with base, S and high-performance JCW Works versions.
The LCD is now a touchscreen LCD.
Bigger – but still smaller than most cars.
More interesting than most cars.
Both the standard and optional engine are stronger than previously.
Clubman’s longer wheelbase smooths out the ride; it feels less mini on the highway.
Very well-equipped as it sits. The chief difference between the base trim and the S trim is the engine – not the amenities.
AWD is available in all trims.
A bit less nimble than the original.
Turning circle’s about a foot wider than it used to be.
Even the base engine requires higher-cost premium fuel.
JCW version is AWD only. It’d be more fun to have all that hp going through two wheels instead of four.
UNDER THE HOOD
The Clubman’s standard engine is a 1.5 liter three that’s smaller than the previously standard 1.6 liter four – but the three makes more power: 134 hp – and much more relevant, seat-of-the-pants-wise, 162 ft.-lbs. of torque – vs. 121 hp and a puny 114 ft.-lbs. of torque . . . because the 1.5 liter engine is turbocharged.
The retired 1.6 liter four wasn’t.
So even though the ’17 Clubman weighs about 300 pounds more than the old model (3,015 lbs. vs. 2,712 lbs .) it’s noticeably quicker: Zero to 60 in 8.9 seconds with either the standard six speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic.
Impressively, gas mileage is about the same as before: 25 city, 35 highway with the manual and 25 city, 34 highway with the automatic – vs. 27 city, 35 highway (automatic) and 28 city, 35 highway (manual) previously.
As mentioned earlier, you can go with AWD with the 1.5 liter three – a testament to its more-than-adequate horsepower (and torque). So kitted, the Clubman’s mileage is still very good: 22 city, 32 highway (manual). With the optional automatic, it does slightly better.
The high-performance Clubman S comes with a larger 2.0 liter four, also turbocharged, that makes 189 hp and 207 ft.-lbs. of torque – vs. the previous Clubman’s S’s 181 hp and 177 ft.-lbs. of torque. This engine can also be paired with a six speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic – equipped with manual mode and launch control.
And FWD or AWD.
Despite having more engine (and more weight) the ’17 Clubman S also delivers about the same gas mileage as the old model: 24 city, 34 highway with the automatic and 22 city, 32 highway with the manual – vs. 26 city, 35 highway previously.
Minis are rightly known for their excellent fuel economy.
But there’s a catch:
Both of these Clubman engines require premium fuel to deliver on their MPG and HP numbers.
You won’t hurt anything mechanical by feeding them regular, but expect a noticeable reduction in both mileage and performance as the engine’s computer adjusts parameters (such as ignition timing) to compensate for the lower-octane fuel.
While the ALL4 system gives the Clubman snow day legs, the JCW Works package ups the underhood ante to 228 hp – gives the Clubman some balls.
Unfortunately, you haver to accept the All4 system, which means no axle-hopping burnouts. Which is probably exactly why Mini only sells the JCW version with the All4 system. The warranty dudes no doubt raised a stink about the prospect of FWD – and 228 hp – JCW Clubmans returning to the dealership . . . on flatbeds.
Their transaxles accompanying in buckets of loose pieces.
They sent me a JCW Works All4 Clubman to test drive the day before the Snowpocalypse of 2017 arrived.
Not much ground clearance – and sport tires.
Netflix and chill time, right?
A rear-drive car is light in the tail. Its drive wheels tend to ride up on the snow, where they spin and slide.
The Clubman’s not really a snow car – but it is a car you can drive in the snow.
The standard model – which doesn’t sit quite as low (and has more reasonable, everyday-driving tires on 16 inch wheels vs. the 17s the JCW rides on) is even more tractable.
The standard Clubman also has enough engine now.
The turbo 1.5 liter three makes almost 50 ft.-lbs. more torque than the 1.6 liter four did – and that torque peaks at 1,250 RPM vs. 4,250 RPM previously.
Why is this such a big deal?
It’s torque that gets you going (horsepower gets you going fast). It’s the force that overcomes the inertia of 3,015 lbs. of steel and plastic and glass plus you just sitting there at the light. The heavier the car, the more important torque is.
This is the big perk of turbocharged engines. The press kit talks up the fuel economy benefits and that’s true – assuming you keep your foot out of it (in which case, it’s not).
That the thing moves when you need it to.
Now, it does.
Before, it didn’t.
The S moves out even more so.
And the Works . . . ? Well, you should see the pic of the speedometer I snapped with my sail fawn and almost posted to Facebook but had the smarts not to.
The JCW Clubman also has outstanding brakes and a boomy exhaust.
Minis are ideal for maneuvering through the cattle-like queue of traffic – without angering the “cows.”
I test drive everything and have discovered that people will do their best to block you in if they see you driving a Porsche or something comparable. But almost everyone likes the Mini. It is a disarming, happy little car.
Or, they just don’t see it in time to thwart your Moves.
Which brings up what may be a downside for some: It sits really low – just 56.7 inches off the pavement – and when surrounded by towering SUVs and Peterbuilts, you sometimes feel like a ring-necked snake probably does out on the patio, surrounded by high heels and boots.
Mini is relative.
Relative to the Mini hatchback, especially the two-door version, the Mini Clubman is a much larger car.
Especially on the inside.
It has about twice the cargo capacity – and several inches more backseat room.
But relative to most other cars, the Clubman is still a very small car.
On the outside.
So it still fits in places they can’t.
And it’s not a Corolla.
The Clubman is the ticket for someone drawn to the original Mini’s iconic mini-ness.
Just a little more so.
Unless you park the Clubman next to a regular four-door Mini, the size difference is not immediately apparent. The chief obvious-to-the-eye difference is out back. The Clubman’s outward opening saloon doors vs. the regular Mini’s conventional liftgate. The saloon doors have several advantages over the liftgate – chiefly that there are two of them and you can open one or both as needed. They are smaller and lighter, too. It’s easier to open them than it is to heave a liftgate up and down.
Plus, they’re just cool.
The big difference between the Clubman and the regular Mini, though, is to be found in the second row – where you’ll find 34.3 inches of legroom up from 32.3 inches previously and 52.8 inches of shoulder room vs. 45.9 inches before.
It’s the difference between cramped – and cozy.
Behind the second row, there’s 17.5 cubic feet of cargo space vs. 9.2 previously. Fold the second row and the space available expands to 47.9 cubic feet (vs. 32.8 previously).
The real estate enhancement is the result of the Clubman’s longer 105.1 inch wheelbase (vs. 100.3 inches previously) and an increase in the car’s width from 66.3 inches to 70.9 inches. The previous Clubman was literally just an extended version of the regular Mini.
The new Clubman is a separate model in its own right.
But it still looks like a Mini – and that’s critical to the car’s appeal. A contrary example is the Fiat 500L – the upsized version of the 500 micro-car. Unlike the 500, the 500L is not cute. It looks like a guy with a beer gut in a too-tight T shirt.
The Clubman doesn’t.
Which probably explains why the Mini sells . . . while the Fiat doesn’t.
Inside, you’ll find the same layout as in the regular Mini – including the trademark toggles for secondary controls and the LED ringed central LCD display, which has been upgraded to touchscreen status. There is also a BMW-style mouse-type interface mounted behind the gear selector on the center console.
Few cars do Retro better than Mini.
But it’s function, not just form. The old-school toggle switches (banked in rows on the headliner and then again on the bottom of the center stack) not only look great, they work great. There is much to be said for controls you can operate by feel – and which also feel good.
The big center LCD display is fully up-to-date technology but brilliantly echoes the design theme of the original ’60s Minis, plus it’s big (8.8 inches) and bright (LED backlit, too) and so easy to read.
Lots of detail stuff like that.
You can also order accessory gauges, a heads-up display, rear-seat DVD monitors… .
Yes, the price is significantly upticked vs. what the Clubman listed for before – but you don’t feel ripped off.
Plus, there’s nothing else quite like a Mini – Clubman or otherwise.
The center console storage space is still very mini.
It will take an iPod or smartphone – just barely.
And not much else.
However, this is made up for to some extent by generous storage cubbies in the door panels – which also make up for the too-small (and awkwardly located) cupholders mounted ahead of the gear selector and way too close to the center stack. With drinks in those cupholders, you also lose access to the little storage shelf located in front of the cupholders.
German cars are notorious for their grudging beverage accommodations – including British cars made by Germans. You’re supposed to motor, after all.
Not sip coffee.
Other than that?
THE BOTTOM LINE
Even the name is snarky. No alpha-numeric homogeneity. I own a Mini Clubman, John Cooper Works version.
It’s almost as much fun to say it as it is to drive it!
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