I really liked driving the MINI Cooper S Clubman back in 2020. Subsequently, when I returned another press car at the dealership’s basement where they would tuck the MINIs away for the night, I saw the flagship Clubman lurking in the corner, teasing me with its badges and go-faster red stripes.
Although there were a few unforeseen delays, the day finally came for my turn in the facelifted MINI John Cooper Works Clubman last weekend. Knowing this is the fastest-accelerating MINI for sale in Singapore, capable of breaching the 100 km/h mark from a standstill in 4.9 seconds, I was unusually patient when turning out from the MINI Habitat at Leng Kee Road.
As expected, I would arrive at my destination in good time thanks to the 302 hp and 450 Nm of torque from the highly potent four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged unit. The standard eight-speed Steptronic sports transmission delivered seamless gear changes, although it had a tiny but noticeable delay in registering my heavy-footed moments on the throttle; the engine revs would then build in a hurried crescendo as the JCW Clubman dropped a few gears and pinned me into the body-hugging sports seats. The exhaust, particularly in Sport mode, rises in volume as if readying itself for a grand occasion, but in some ways felt more matter-of-fact than dramatic or playful. It would have been nice if there were pops and bangs on the overruns, although I’m sure a bit of tuning will sort that out.
But even before I had the chance to experience the JCW Clubman’s impressive acceleration, I’d already decided I had little use for the head-up display – since the information I needed was available in the five-inch multifunctional instrument display behind the steering wheel, it seemed a bit of a redundant addition for my needs. A few prods on the digital menu via the central 8.8-inch touch display quickly recessed the panel, providing an unobstructed view of the road ahead.
Despite the JCW Clubman’s aggressive power delivery, it always felt controlled and sure-footed. Its front-biased ALL4 all-wheel drive system ensures the car turns very similarly to how I remember a MINI would, even with the added mass at the rear thanks to the Clubman’s longer dimensions. More torque gets redirected to the rear axle if the Dynamic Stability Control’s system detects slippage on the front wheels. It was practically impossible to break traction for the front wheels on public roads though, particularly with the grippy 235/35R19 Bridgestone Potenza S005 tyres, unless I was fully committed to driving like an idiot. The low-profile rubber, together with the JCW Clubman’s sports suspension, did mean the car suffered from a relatively stiff ride even by MINI’s standards – comparable to my daily driver, the Hyundai i30 N, in all but its full-blooded N mode.
On the occasions I needed to drop anchor, the sports brake system would reliably—and very quickly—bring the car’s 1.6-tonne mass to a stop. For bragging rights and in case the badges around the car weren’t enough, the front brake calipers are painted in red and bear the John Cooper Works logo.
When not subjecting myself to unforgiving road surfaces or eyebrow-raising driving enthusiasm, I appreciated the JCW Clubman’s creature comforts and really enjoyed my time inside the cabin. Being able to easily pair my iPhone and use Apple CarPlay wirelessly may not be a standout feature anymore, but playing music from Spotify through the 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system offered an enjoyable listenable experience.
The JCW sports seats kept my frame snugly in place without threatening my blood circulation, although the back of my upper arms would find themselves bumping against the side bolsters when I made large turns of the steering wheel. One cabin feature that really pleased me, though, is the redesigned centre armrest between the front passenger seats – where my left arm would often knock into the armrest of other modern MINIs when turning the car left because the armrest was too high, that is no longer the case as it’s now lower and well clear of a swinging elbow.
In the back, all but the tallest of passengers will find themselves with very acceptable legroom. There are also two USB-C ports they can use to juice up their mobile devices. And if the rear seats are knocked down to make space for transporting bulky items (it’s a Clubman, after all), the boot capacity can be expanded from a modest 360 litres to a respectable 1,250 litres.
I’m usually not attracted to estates and wagons, but there’s something special about the Clubman’s form factor that is pleasing to my eye. With the unique, albeit sometimes impractical barn doors in the rear, the Clubman still oozes the charming quirkiness that is typical of MINIs. Yet, as the brand’s cars continue to be refined for the modern demands of comfort and regulations, models like the JCW Clubman that can still excite owners may soon by symbols of nostalgia instead. If this is among the last models with internal combustion engines before the brand transitions into a fully-electric lineup by 2030, this wouldn’t be a bad way to drive off into the sunset.
Special thanks to Eurokars Habitat for this opportunity.
The original version of this article can be read at Eat.Fly.Drive.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The fastest-accelerating production MINI on our shores offers practicality and comfort in a nicely sorted package.
Handling - 9/10
Performance - 9/10
Design - 9/10
Comfort - 6/10
Practicality - 8/10
Value - 7/10