Don't let its size and cute looks fool you. The bug-eyed, bulldog-faced MINI Clubman S has sports on its mind -- and good driving chops to boot.
Since its debut in Britain in 1959, the little MINI Cooper has attracted a big following and become a bit of a cultural phenomenon around the world. The second-generation MINI Cooper Clubman -- introduced this year -- rolls into 2017 with available ALL4 (all-wheel drive), starting at about $25,900 for the standard model and $27,650 for the uplevel "S" trim, plus an additional $850 for destination and handling. Front-wheel drive models start at $24,100.
The second-generation Clubman has been revised to be lighter and more compact than previous all-wheel-drive MINI Coopers, with better handling, improved fuel efficiency, and upgraded interior space. The long-roofed four-door Clubman boasts characteristic split doors at the rear, with room for five passengers and cargo storage of 17.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats.
Standard equipment includes sports seats for driver and front passenger, black checkered dash surfaces, dual-zone automatic climate control, MINI Connected infotainment and support for third-party app integration, Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming, electric parking brake, and individual tire pressure monitoring.
All models get the MINI Excitement Package that brings LED interior and ambient lighting, plus the nifty lighting feature that projects the MINI logo onto the ground from the exterior mirror on the driver's side, when opening and closing the car doors. MINI Yours customization and John Cooper Works packages are also available. The Cooper Clubman ALL4 comes with 16-inch light alloy wheels, while the Cooper S Clubman ALL4 features 17-inch light alloy wheels.
Options include a head-up display that projects driving information onto the windshield from above the steering column to improve concentration on the road, cruise control with brake function, parking assistant, and rear view camera. An optional Driving Assistant system includes a camera-based active cruise control offering collision and pedestrian warning with initial brake function, high beam assistant, and speed limit sign detection.
Under the hood, the standard Clubman is powered by a 134-horsepower, 1.5-liter TwinPower turbocharged three-cylinder with 162 lb.-ft. of torque, while the Cooper S Clubman ALL4 is powered by a 189-hp, 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 207 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and an eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission is optional. Fuel economy with the auto transmission is rated at 21 mpg city and 31 highway; the manual transmission improves city and highway economy by one mile per gallon.
MINI's ALL4 is engineered to provide grip on all types of terrain, combining the traction, directional stability, and driving advantages of an AWD system with MINI's iconic go-kart handling. Though it operates in front-wheel-drive under normal motoring, the system can shift power from the front to the rear wheels in just a fraction of a second, when needed for greater traction and driving stability, especially for inclement weather and poor road conditions.
Acceleration from 0-to-60 mph in the standard Clubman with three-cylinder engine is 9.2 seconds. The Cooper S Clubman four-cylinder accelerates in 6.7 seconds from zero to 60 mph, with the standard six-speed manual transmission, while the optional eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission achieves 60 mph a second faster.
For motoring performance enthusiasts, displays show engine power and torque in use, as well as the longitudinal and transverse acceleration on the central instrument panel, when using the Sports Instruments and Force Meter applications.
We drove the Cooper S Clubman on a 400-mile-long drive on Texas highways and byways. We love the iconic and funky styling cues, and particularly liked the good-sized center infotainment display screen ensconced by an illuminated mood ring and the pod-style instrumentation that sits on the top of the steering column. Playful and unusual are the center console's large knob surrounded by small buttons control infotainment and the airplane-styled toggles that control other functions.
The Clubman gave us ample, well-modulated power, good brakes and we enjoyed the response of the manual transmission and crisp handling on smaller, twisty roads. Of note, we found the Clubman's short wheelbase and low-slung design takes more care to drive on high-speed highways with crosswinds. While stowage is good considering its size, it is decidedly not a road car for five on long trips.
The Cooper lineup is especially popular because its models can be customized in a variety of interior finish options, such as premium leather, luxurious woods, and carbon fiber; contrasting roof and mirror colors (and even hood stripes and Union Jack roof graphics); specially designed wheels; and high-performance "John Cooper Works" powertrains.
The enthusiastic MINI Cooper lifestyle is celebrated by Motoring clubs across the United States and around the world, and by grand events like "MINI Takes the States," which celebrated its 10th tour in 2016 by visiting 18 states over a 4,397 mile-long journey to raise awareness, money, food, and more than a million meals for Feeding America's network of food banks.
Copyright © 2016 Motor Matters
|Base price||$27,650 (as tested: $36,600)|
|Curb weight||3,362 lbs.|
|Engine type||twin-turbocharged 3-cylinder w/DI|
|Epa mileage rating||25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway|
|Fuel capacity||13.2 gal.|
|Horsepower (net)||134 at 4400 rpm|
|Overall length||168.3 in.|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||162 at 1250 rpm|
|Vehicle type||5-passenger AWD subcompact CUV|
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