MINI John Cooper Works Clubman

To quote the legendary Sam Cooke completely out of context it’s been a long, a long time coming… But finally, the MINI John Cooper Works Clubman, complete with John Cooper Works Aerodynamic kit, has come.

Early in 2008 we were first officially informed of the forthcoming Clubman version of the MINI John Cooper Works. However, for those of us in the UK the Clubman version of the hottest factory produced MINI includes the John Cooper Works Aerodynamic kit as standard. This bit of kit has taken what feels like an age to make it to market. But finally, the package has all come together, and we’ve been driving the new hot, long wheel base MINI around the track at Bedford Autodrome.

The MINI Clubman, it must be said, divides opinion even among hardcore MINI enthusiasts. It’s asymmetric design and challenging angles, not to mention sheer size, caused a great deal of controversy when it was first unveiled, and to this day some people really just don’t find it appealing. Us? We like it. MINIs should be a couple of thing in our opinion. Interesting to look at, and fun to drive. If they serve another purpose, like offering a bit more space in the rear, perhaps even room for a full compliment of passengers, that’s fine and dandy too.

Ignoring the MINI John Cooper Works World Championship 50 for a while, the MINI Clubman is the mid range John Cooper Works model. The on the road price starts at £22,230, which is around £1,000 more than the hatchback, and about £1,000 less than the Convertible. The top speed of the Clubman matches the hatch and tops the convertible by a miserly 2 mph, coming in at 148 mph, and the Clubman falls between the Convertible and Hatch in terms of 0-62 mph (6.8 seconds) fuel consumption (40.4 mpg combined) and CO2 emissions (16 g/km). The insurance rating is 17E, which is the same as the hatch, but one group down from the Convertible. All the MINI John Cooper Works models have a peak power rating of 211 hp and maximum torque figure of 260 Nm.

But as with most fast small and medium sized cars these days the performance figures are often there or there about. There’s usually so little to chose between the on-paper performance of competing modern cars that the force of a bug hitting your screen or a muscle twitch would even out any difference. What really matters, unless you’re a drag strip demon, is what the car feels like to drive, how fast, and more specifically how fun it is. This is where the MINI John Cooper Works Clubman comes up trumps for us. It is, without a doubt in our minds, THE most enjoyable MINI currently being assembled at the Oxford production facility.

Our test drive took place on a race track, much like our earlier experience with the MINI John Cooper Works Convertible, and our previous encounters with the hatch and soft top Works models meant we could devote more time to the Clubman variant. And we’re very glad of the chance to become properly acquainted.

In a back to back drive with the other MINI John Cooper Works cars it was the Clubman that impressed the most. It didn’t feel noticably slower to go or to stop, but in terms of handling it somehow felt a little more poised, better balanced perhaps, than even the hatchback. The Works Convertible was a real pleasure and looked fantastic with the roof peeled back, the Works hatch was a total hoot to throw around the track, yet somehow it was the Clubman, in both looks and driving experience, that truly captured our hearts.

Spending over £23,000 on a MINI “estate” may seem a perverse thing to even consider. But in all honesty, once you take into account the more usable boot, the outlandish looks, the noise from the oversized split twin exhausts, the little bit of extra space in the back, and the fact this car is every bit as fun, perhaps a tiny fraction more so, than the MINI hatchback; that £1,000 premium seems very much worth spending. Seriously, if you’re in the market for a MINI John Cooper Works, consider the Clubman, take one for a drive if you can, then perhaps you’ll fall for it’s unearthly charms as much as we did on that fateful overcast and damp British summer’s day in Bedfordshire.