The JCW Clubman isn't perfect, but it's tons of fun.
We recently had the chance to drive the 2020 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman, which received a significant refresh for the new model year. Along with some cosmetic exterior changes, the biggest change for the JCW Clubman is the addition of an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine under the hood. This new four-pot delivers 301 horsepower and 331 ft-lb, a massive leap from last year's model with 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
The Clubman sits in the middle of the JCW lineup between the smaller Cooper and the larger (and equally powerful) Countryman SUV. After driving the updated car, we've come up with a shortlist of our three favorite features on the car as well as three minor changes we'd like to see in the future.
Like a Jeep Wrangler or Mercedes G-Class, Mini's styling is a bit of an acquired taste. Not everyone loves the "cutesy" design and overtly British accenting but we happen to think the Clubman's exterior is lovely, especially in JCW guise. The 2020 JCW Clubman can be spotted via its updated LED headlights, revised front fascia, new grille, and Union Jack LED taillights. As with all Mini models, the JCW Clubman is highly customizable so no two examples are likely to look 100 percent identical. Few automakers offer this level of customization at this price, which is one reason why we love the Clubman so much.
Unlike any other Mini model, the Clubman features two barn doors in the back instead of a conventional hatchback. We like how this unique element makes the Clubman feel special but it does carry a significant drawback. When you look out the rearview mirror in the Clubman, there is a massive black bar in the middle, making it difficult to see what's behind you without moving your head. Rather than eliminate one of the Clubman's most unique features, we have an easy solution. Mini should equip the Clubman with a rearview camera mirror like the one used in several GM cars. This would eliminate the black bar you see in the mirror and give better rear visibility.
As with the exterior, Mini offers nearly endless amounts of customization on the interior. On the JCW Clubman alone, Mini offers five different interior material options including cloth, leather, or Dinamica (Alcantara) and all three options feel more premium than other hot hatchbacks like the Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai Veloster N. Mini's cabins still feel quirky but it's easy to feel the BMW influence on the material quality. We love the old school toggle switches beneath the climate control and the JCW-specific seats hug you through the corners.
Mini cabins feel more premium than the competition but it comes at a price. The base JCW Clubman starts at $39,400, making it more expensive than its rivals. We feel the quality of the interior is worth the price premium (for a base model) but the options add up quickly. The Clubman we tested was the Iconic trim, which added $7,000 to the base price for a total of $46,400. With the destination fee and a few options, the total cost was $48,100. Just under $40,000 seems fair for a premium hatchback with over 300 hp but having to spend $7,000 to get basic features like navigation, a moonroof, and wireless charging pushes the price beyond what we'd be willing to spend on a Mini.
The new engine is the biggest change for the 2020 JCW Clubman. This potent engine is borrowed from the BMW X2 and is also shared with the JCW Clubman and JCW Cooper GP. Going from 228 hp to 301 hp has a significant impact on performance, dropping the 0-60 mph time from 6.2 seconds to under five seconds. There is some turbo lag off the line, which is to be expected, but once you get going the engine delivers astonishing power and some excellent turbo noises. We've driven this engine in a few BMW models but Mini's tuning of it seems to delivery better response and better sound from the exhaust.
In the transition from 228 hp to 301 hp, Mini had to make a major sacrifice - the manual transmission. Mini will no longer offer a manual option on the JCW Clubman, Countryman, and Cooper GP models, though it will still be offered elsewhere in the lineup. The Aisin-sourced transmission does an adequate job handling the power and it is pretty fun to shift yourself with the paddles - but nowhere near the fun of Mini's manual in the JCW models.
On the plus side, the extra power does make the Clubman feel much faster than before, so we think Mini made the right choice opting for power instead of keeping the horsepower the same. Besides, the take rates for manuals were lower on the Clubman and Countryman and the JCW Cooper is still available with a manual and the 228 hp tune.