ENGINE 1998cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v, turbo / POWER 170kW @ 6000rpm / TORQUE 350Nm @ 1450-4800rpm / WEIGHT 1475kg (manual) / 0-100KM/H 6.3sec (claimed) / PRICE $53,900 WONDER is pervasive when weíre young, but life seems to chip away at our unabated curiosity. We can still catch a glimpse of our inquisitive, childlike nature, though, when zeroing in on the Melting Silver Mini. Or should we say its supersized and racy sibling, the JCW Clubman. Itís a sign of just how much this iconic, reimagined design remains a silhouette of intrigue.
The second-gen Clubman, now sans quirky rear doors, gains the John Cooper Works treatment and all-wheel drive (All4 in Mini-speak) for the first time. The $53,900 six-door wagon is powered by a linear 2.0-litre, twinscroll turbo four-cylinder (thanks, BMW) with 170kW and 350Nm. Thatís the most Newtons yet to endow a petrol Mini, and considering itís 1475kg heft, itís needed. Still, it reaches 100km/h in 6.3 seconds with either the eight-speed auto or the no-cost option (NCO) six-speed manual tested here.
Sitting behind the wheel in the ĎCross Punchí leather-clad seat requires a different mindset before flicking the starter switch. This isnít the twitchy three-door Mini JCW with its overzealous front end. Instead, the longer wheelbase of the Clubman inspires confidence while still retaining positive turn-in and impressive agility, especially with changes of direction.
Attaining this dynamic prowess is all about selecting the right extras and playing with the buttons correctly. Yes, the 19-inch alloys (with 10mm lowered suspension) add visual appeal, but the optional 18-inch hoops fitted here are superior. Thatís because you donít get run-flats; instead, grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber features. The JCW feels so glued and tied down that the bum doesnít wiggle on corner entry and you can tighten your line post apex thanks to the All4 system curbing understeer as it distributes power between the front and rear axles. In fact, it could use more oomph on corner exit given the immense traction.
Selecting the NCO Dynamic Damper Control is a must. Also, being able to dissect Sport modeís parameters to keep the sharpened throttle response Ė including the hilarious overrun histrionics and rev matching on down shifts Ė while disbanding the over assisted steering and harsher damper setting, proves invaluable. With the right set-up the JCWís dynamic abilities have a maturity that seems to have outgrown its polarising retro design.
At first the Clubman JCWís personality seems somewhat confused. Yes, itís packed with kit, but at $59,000 as tested, it isnít cheap.
Plus, the manual íbox has a long throw, the brake pedal is numb and the cabin remains confusingly kitsch.
However, as a Mini, the chameleon Clubman manages to endear itself and makes the most sense. Itís the grown-up, pragmatic pick with a perky performance persona. The JCW is for the young at heart who still like to see the world with wonder when life affords the chance. M
Dynamic ability; traction; best Mini?
Need to stomp on Brembos; price; not so Mini anymore