Calling the JCW Clubman a Mini is right on the tipping point of taking the piss. It’s huge.
In fact, it has more footprint than a standard Mini (itself no tiddler) and not where the original Mini had two doors, the Clubman, not even content with five, gets six. (Okay, the fifth and sixth amount to the vertically split rear doors, but you get the idea.) The charming little 1.6-litre engine of the reborn Mini has also burst its banks to arrive at two litres and 170kW and the goddam thing now drives all four wheels.
Of course, when you melt that down, it becomes apparent that you’re getting lots of metal for the bucks which, in a BFYB sense, can’t hurt – can it? So we’re off to a galloping start, but that changes a bit when you put the Mini against the stopwatch.
Despite its new capacity embiggenment and the promise of all-paw launching, it’s never that quick in a straight line to 100km/h. Neither is 14.9 across the quarter anything to shout about, and it’s not like you can ignore the figures and point to superb in-gear flexibility, because that really isn’t there either and the Clubman was the slowest getting from 80 to 120.
It feels to us as if the engine is actually a bit strangled; as if it lacks the real top-end rush that would turn the Mini into something altogether racier. That’s backed up by a lap time that is rear of the Over-50K grid, too. That theory also holds water when you look at the corner speeds, which are as good as the straight-line results were ordinary.
In fact, the Mini is swift through both fast and slow corners, so presumably it’s the engine that’s letting the side down in the pursuit of lap speed. The Clubman still steers like a Mini, too, which is to say quickly. That said, it’s not quite as pointy as the previous model, but in a good way.
A little less nervous is how we’d put it when you’re at the extremes of things on track. Maybe it’s that bigger footprint (which is all wheelbase) that has taken the spiciness out of the Mini’s side-step, but whatever it is, it’ll be a more relaxing car to hustle around.
Meanwhile, that typical Mini interior remains which is bound to polarise opinion. Some reckon the fact that it’s different is enough, other reckon a dog’s breakfast is a dog’s breakfast whether it’s different or not.
Certainly, it represents an ergonomic challenge on first acquaintances but, hey, nobody ever accused the Mini of being a conformist.
Engine: 1998cc inline-4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 170kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1450-4800rpm
0-100km/h: 7.13sec (8th)
0-400m: 14.91sec @ 152.65km/h (8th)
Lap Time: 1:43.3sec (6th)
Bang Index: 50.4
Bucks Index: 125.6
BFYB Index: 80.5
Warren Luff says
“It punches out the laptime and it actually does it really easy, but again, it’s one of those cars, from a driver’s perspective, that doesn’t give you enough feedback and enough feel as to what’s going on. You’d like to have a bit more driver input to get the car doing a little bit more.
It’s very nimble and does everything that you’d want, it’s good on the brakes and has plenty of turn with reasonable power and great drive off the corner, but there’s nothing that gives it x-factor.”
David Morley - 7th: “Where will the whole Mini thing end? Couldn’t live with the interior”
Dylan Campbell - 8th: “I worry JCW is no longer a brand targeting people like you and me”
Louis Cordony - 8th: “Promising package let down by lack of grunt”
Tim Robson - 5th: “Where has the Mini gone? It should have been a lot more fun than this”
Want more? Check out the rest of 2017 Bang For Your Bucks