With a 302-hp powertrain, the MINI John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4 has proven me it is quite a spectacular machine at all times, providing sheer fun and an unforgettable driving experience.
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Of course, when driving the MINI JCW Clubman ALL4, one really has to forget about practicality, interior space, variability and reduced fuel consumption. The hot British wagon isn’t about those topics, as it was developed with a specific focus in mind: offering a sensational performance package in a quite affordable package.
Exterior and interior design
As soon as you get your first glimpse of the car, the MINI JCW Clubman ALL4 greets you with an eccentric visual package. The model tested was specced in an eye-catching Racing Green paintwork with Chili Red stripes, exterior mirror caps and roof.
Of course, the hot MINI wagon also features specific aero parts, a revised front bumper with larger air intakes, a generous air vent on the engine hood, a high-gloss black radiator grille with particularly striking mesh pattern, shiny black JCW 18-inch alloys.
There are also lots of John Cooper Works emblems, as well as ALL4 logos on the front doors. The distinctive Union Jack tail lights are a very nice addition and deliver an epic visual effect at night.
On the inside, you get special JCW sport seats that feature a combination of cloth, Alcantara and black leather upholstery, stitched together using contrasting red thread.
The architecture of the dashboard is minimal in the good MINI sense. The build quality is quite impressive and the illuminated trim panels further add to the distinctiveness of the dashboard. Behind the steering wheel you are greeted by analogue gauges for the speedometer and a small digital info display.
At the center of the dashboard stands the popular circular element that comprises the screen for the infotainment system and the controls for the audio system, as well as the handy quick access known from BMW.
The HVAC panel is placed below, with its buttons finished in chrome-like fashion. The spectacular levers for the engine On/Off button, the DSC or the drivetrain modes are installed at the bottom of the center console architecture.
On the central tunnel, there are two storage places for drink cups, followed by the electronic gear shifter and the rotary control knob and buttons for the MINI infotainment system.
The atmosphere inside is typical for the British brand. While it does not feel cramped, if you are accustomed to bigger cars, you’ll feel the cabin is a little bit tiny for your needs. Nonetheless, there’s decent at front if you are not too tall and equally enough space on the back seats.
Even though overall exterior dimensions are likely to fall into the category of small vehicles given the length of 4,266 mm and width of 1,800 mm, the interior is sufficiently practical and versatile, with lots of storage space and a decent cargo space of 360 liters. The access to the boot is further enhanced thanks to the two-door tailgate and its wide opening.
During the weekend in which I tested the car, the MINI JCW Clubman showed me that it can be a correct car in terms of travel comfort. I managed to cover around 600 kilometers and driving the little hot wagon was never a tiring experience.
The front and back seats offer adequate comfort and decent lateral support when it comes to the driver seat especially. I was able to easily install my daughter’s ISOFIX seat on the back seat and move the front passenger’s seat to the maximum point as to offer her enough space and freedom while she was traveling with me in the car.
Although more funny styled, the infotainment system of the MINI JCW Clubman ALL4 is sourced from BMW, so using it is a seamless experience if you are a daily Bimmer driver. Its interface is user-friendly and intuitive, in the tried-and-tested BMW fashion.
What was less satisfactory is a persistent and rather frustrating bug that appears on some BMW models as well. At times, the bluetooth feature would automatically disconnect the phone. Reconnecting would then take place either automatically or manually, in which case I was forced to enter in the Communication menu and try to sort things out.
The car was also equipped with a high-end Harman/Kardon surround sound system, which makes a great companion on long trips due to proper audio quality.
Jumping in the MINI JCW Clubman ALL4 from my daily 6-cylinder 5 Series was quite interesting. The hot wagon is very fun to drive, but it’s important to not forget one thing: it is not a Bimmer and it is not intended to be one.
Yes, the chassis comes from Munich and most of the car is, technically speaking, a BMW in MINI clothes. Or a wolf in sheep clothes, if you want. But, the ride lacks the refinement of a proper Bimmer and the suspension and damping comfort is sometimes marginal on rough surfaces, also due to the 18-inch sport wheels.
Furthermore, you get lots of squeaks and squawks in the cabin, and the noise inside increases dramatically past 80 km/h. Also add in the specific engine sound, especially in the SPORT mode, and you will have to endure quite a loud environment.
But, overall, driving the MINI JCW Clubman ALL4 has been a very exciting and unforgettable experience. Yes, there were shortcomings in terms of chassis comfort and noise insulation, but the epic performance of the 2.0-liter, 306 PS petrol burner engine cancels all the negatives.
The BMW B48 engine that powers the MINI JCW Clubman ALL4 is rated at peak output of 225 kW thanks to TwinPower Turbo technology. The 4-cylinder unit is also able to deliver a maximum torque of 450 Nm (332 lb-ft) starting as early as 1,750 rpm and offering it constantly up until 6,500 rpm.
The 2.0-liter powerplant deploys its full army of horses beginning as high as 5,000 rpm till 6,250 rpm. Combined with the engaging sound, the turbocharged engine wants to provide a thrilling driving performance similar to a high-revving, naturally aspirated powerplant.
If you drive the car in MID (identical to COMFORT mode at BMW) or GREEN (ECO PRO at BMW), you will definitely miss the entire action of the 306 PS (302 hp) output. In SPORT mode, the MINI unleashes all its tough attributes.
The acceleration is fast and sustained and reaching 100 km/h takes under 5.0 seconds. The suspension gets stiffer, the steering is more precise and the overall chassis behavior becomes nimble and predictive.
The all-wheel-drive platform is another plus and, in the SPORT mode, it further adds more spice to the driving game. The JCW Clubman ALL4 proves agile enough to cut corners in high style. Going in and out of sinuous curves on a mountain road just felt normal and piece of cake.
For its vehicle class, this spicy hot Clubman is, simply put, the leader. Having fun in complete safety and pushing for more has never been easier. The car managed to engage my senses and feel really enthusiastic every time I drove it.
There’s also a downside to the downsizing measures also present in the B48 powerplant. I never managed to reduce the fuel consumption below 11.0 liters/100 kilometers. And I did not drive the MINI in SPORT mode as much as I would have liked.
The fuel tank has a feeble capacity of just 48 liters, so you really have to balance yourself sometimes when driving the MINI JCW Clubman ALL4. The gasoline depletes quite fast when looking for the driving pleasure.
But, all in all, the conclusion is straight-forward: if you ever have a chance to drive this high-performance MINI JCW wagon, go for it blind-folded. You will have so much pure driving fun.
Would I buy one?
As peanuts as it may seem, this question is rather difficult to answer. I wouldn’t say a definitive no, but as well I wouldn’t say yes. The MINI JCW Clubman ALL4 has a specific appeal and target audience. Yes, it was thrilling to drive it, but I am not sure how would it handle on a daily use trial.
I see it as an alternative to relax and have fun during weekends, but I am unsure it can cope with a normal, congested traffic performance. If I were to buy a MINI JCW Clubman ALL4, it would certainly stay in the garage most of the time. But it will still receive its well-deserved dose of attention and high praise during unforgettable trips outside the crowded city.