The Mini John Cooper Works Clubman has a long name to go along with its long body. Compared to normal wagons like the Volvo V60, it's actually small, as you'd expect from a Mini, but fairly large if you compare it to the regular Cooper Hardtop. Not that this matters too much in the JCW, as those three letters indicate that this is the hottest available version. Thanks to a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder shared with the top-spec BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, it's a pretty sprightly machine, generating 301 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. To prevent the front wheels from shredding their tires unnecessarily, the eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels. It's an unusual car, being a performance-enhanced family car that is too small to be truly practical and too big to be ideal on the track, so is it worth considering at all?
Little is changing for the 2022 model year. However, all models now get the larger 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, as well as SiriusXM with a one-year subscription and lane-departure warning. Top speed has been increased to 155 mph. The available paint colors have also been revised. Other than these changes, the latest model is mostly as per last year's.
See trim levels and configurations:
|John Cooper Works ALL4||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The steering in the JCW Clubman may be electrically assisted but it's nicely weighted, with progressive resistance that makes it easy to accurately judge. It's also sharp and direct as you'd expect in a Mini, but it lacks feel. Determining what's going on with the front wheels is a guessing game, and with no more than half of the power ever going to the rear wheels, you can't coax a slide out of this car - at least not unless you're willing to risk a costly entanglement with some Armco. Fortunately, the grippy tires (that could be a touch stickier), taut suspension, and clever gearbox combine to make this station wagon one of the most enjoyable to drive in any case. Yes, there is some understeer apparent at the limit, but it's still a lot of fun to fling this car around. This is one of those cars that shows that you don't need to produce supercar levels of power to have a good time on the track or on the road.
However, these benefits on a twisty road do create a negative review of the car's long-distance drivability, since the stiff suspension is slightly jarring and will be noticeable over corrugated or pockmarked pavement. It's not so bad that you can't do a long drive without cursing the engineer who set up the suspension, but it's nowhere near as comfortable as your average family car either.
As with pretty much all of Mini's product offerings, the John Cooper Works Clubman is expensive, fun, and a little bit niche. It's a car that you would never buy rationally, because on paper, it falls behind many competitors in terms of standard equipment, cargo volume, and asking price. But where some rivals can be a little tepid, the JCW Clubman is a properly fun family car that handles brilliantly. Furthermore, the badge just carries a weight of premium style, and you never assume poverty of the owner of any Mini. For these reasons, many people will overlook its flaws and still find it attractive. Sure, you have to pay more than its already lofty asking price to have a car that is reasonably equipped, but once you do, you will have an unrivaled driving experience in a uniquely retro package. It doesn't make any sense, but we can't bring ourselves to convince you not to buy this car.
Although not exactly in the same category, one of the JCW Clubman's most similar rivals is the Volkswagen Golf R. Both come with AWD and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Unfortunately, we still have to wait a while before the 2022 Golf R arrives with its 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. We also don't yet know exactly what it'll cost, but we can tell you that it will have a bigger and better infotainment display, a more conventional design, and blistering acceleration. In addition, the Golf R will be offered with a drift mode and even a manual gearbox, attributes that should endear it to performance enthusiasts. And based on every Golf ever, it should be a great daily driver too. If you can wait, the Volkswagen's better performance and more impressive tech will be worth it.
If you don't need all-out performance from your Mini, the more affordable Cooper S Clubman is a highly attractive proposition. It is offered in both FWD and AWD configurations, but even the more expensive version that sends power to all four wheels is still almost seven grand cheaper than the cheapest JCW Clubman. The same sort of engine and gearbox propel this model from A to B, albeit with just 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. Inside, the same sort of finishings and design elements are seen, so you don't feel like you've opted for a lesser model. However, you do lose out on some standard features. For a fun family car at a relatively affordable price, and with a more compliant suspension setup, we can't fault the Cooper S though, and considering how much fun it is for the price, it's definitely our pick.