When BMW relaunched the Mini marque back in 2002, it put the storied English nameplate on a high-dosage prescription of “more”—more models, more performance, and more quirky charm. Mini’s John Cooper Works (JCW) performance division takes the standard versions and infuses those Minis with even more spice. Inspired by the original hot-rod Coopers from England, Mini has developed JCW variants of the Cooper Hardtop coupe, the Cooper convertible, the Countryman All4 crossover, and, finally, the Clubman All4 station wagon—the focus of this review. JCW buttresses the Clubman Cooper S All4 with more power, a lowered suspension, and subtle exterior revisions. But more isn’t always better, especially when it comes with the accompanying high prices that Mini charges. Indeed, buyer beware: The Clubman JCW is more proof that a Mini’s price is the least mini thing about it.
What’s New for 2018?
The 2087 Clubman JCW is the first Mini to pair the new generation of its all-wheel-drive system—known as All4—as standard with the line’s hottest engine, a 228-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. With a special JCW body package, revised suspension, a lower ride height, bigger wheels and brakes, and a more raucous exhaust system, the car looks the part of a hotted-up Cooper.
Trims and Options We’d Choose
Interest in a Mini product indicates a desire to drive something with a unique aesthetic, and a JCW version separates the more serious drivers from the crowd even further—but it comes at a price. Read: about $5000 more than the S All4, which is one step down in the Clubman lineup. We’d be betraying ourselves if we did not get the JCW with the six-speed manual transmission, and any paint that is not red or white costs either $500 or $1000, so add that to the ticket. The $750 Cold Weather package brings heated front seats, a must for anybody with a temp-sensitive tush. We’d also add the $1800 Premium package for better sound, a sunroof, LED headlights, and 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats. Thus equipped, our Clubman includes:
• All4 all-wheel drive
• Heated front seats
• Rear parking sensors
A $2250 Technology package that brings an 8.8-inch touchscreen with navigation might also be a consideration, but only for those whose eyes don’t continuously dart to the climbing sticker price. Without that, the final price with a $500 paint job comes in at $39,000.
On paper, the JCW upgrade from the S is nothing to scoff at. The S has a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that makes 189 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 207 lb-ft of torque at 1250 rpm. The JCW is a beefier cut, with 228 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque starting at 1450 rpm. Unfortunately, the real-world performance improvement versus the Cooper S All4 is modest.
The standard turbo four in the Clubman JCW sounds throaty and feels zesty enough, but it’s working against a surprisingly hefty curb weight. The last Clubman JCW we tested—with requisite All4 all-wheel drive—tipped the scales at an un-Mini-like 3430 pounds. The manual gearbox’s clutch is a bit springy, and the throws of the shifter are long, so be ready to work when stirring a Clubman into action. If owning the quickest Clubman variant is important to you, know this: a Clubman S with front-wheel drive and the optional eight-speed automatic transmission beat the JCW version from zero to 60 mph by 0.1 second in our testing.