The bigger MINI Clubman may not be as much fun as its smaller siblings, but it’s an all-round sporty four-door with room, utility and a bit of Brit cheekiness,
blogs Dan Scanlan.
The first Mini in 1959 started out as a tiny and economical family car, until people found out how much fun it was to play with. Then racecar maker John Cooper saw the potential and juiced the little car’s suspension and engine. But they were still tiny coupes until a ten-inch-longer Clubman Estate arrived atop a four-inch-longer wheelbase.
Now as the new MINI (reborn in 2001) enters its third generation, the past becomes the present as the BMW-owned company offers a genuine four-door MINI that’s longer than the already five-inch-longer ‘16 MINI two-door. And it’s called – you guessed it - the Clubman.
The MINI Clubman was offered in the second (2007-2013) generation with a third half-door and side-hinged rear barn doors. The longer Gen-3 Clubman keeps the barn doors in back, and gains two rear side doors plus two new turbocharged engines – a 134-horsepower 1.5-liter/3-cylinder and our Cooper Clubman S’s 2-liter, 189-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
Tap the eight-speed automatic into its Sport mode and the MINI Clubman offered its turbo boost almost immediately, the exhaust snarling as we hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds with a hint of torque steer and turbo wastegate chirruping. The exhaust popped as we backed off. Sport mode saw the automatic shift quicker in the power range. We had launch control.
So is a longer MINI less fun? Not really – maybe a bit more mature? Our Clubman had a one-link drive strut front and central pivot rear axle with more rigid steel wishbones. With a longer wheelbase, the ride was supple yet just firm enough. Sure, it’s lost some of the go kart-like ability of the first MINI Cooper S of 2000, but it had a level of fun that loved to be driven hard, tightly controlled over bumps, yet not harsh on rebound.
The MINI Clubman still offered some serious fun on winding roads, if just not as precise as a three-door. It would lean a bit in a turn, then take a set and carve its way through. We had some progressive understeer in turns, tunable by throttle but always there when pushed. The electromechanical power steering was very direct with great feel. The disc brakes also offered precise pedal travel and bite and stopped us very well with no sign of fade after repeated hard stops from 60-mph.
The black front and rear wheel arches frame 10-spoke silver alloy wheels wearing 17-inch Bridgestone Turanza rubber. While the MINI Clubman looks like a regular 2-door from the front, walk around and the added length is apparent, if well designed. The wheel arch black trim continues as a wide lower sill accent. The black roofline still looks low thanks to a high beltline, with four gloss black window pillars instead of three. Our MINI Clubman’s subtle gray metallic made it look almost Q-Ship. And while it looked balanced from the front three-quarter view, it didn’t look as svelte from the rear angle.
Inside, form-fitting and nicely bolstered black cloth bucket seats with neat double checkered striping and dual stitching greet the folks in front, facing a redesigned dashboard with a padded gray dashtop flowing down the front into two glossy trim strips. The center screen that pays homage to the 1960’s Mini’s big central speedometer remains, multi-function and ringed in chrome with an LED light ring. The screen shows the AM-FM-SiriusXM sound system, media, phone, Bluetooth, vehicle info (owner’s manual, trip computer and vehicle status) and settings.
A base MINI Cooper Hardtop two-door starts at $20,700, while it’s $24,100 for the Cooper model. The new four-door MINI starts at $21,700, while its Cooper S mate is $25,100. Then comes the bigger four-door Clubman, which starts at $24,100, while our Cooper S variant starts at $27,650.
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