Tom Crosby: Mini Cooper adds John Cooper Works Clubman

Tom Crosby

With its iconic looks that make it instantly recognizable, the Mini Cooper has launched a new, more powerful version for 2017 – the Mini John Cooper Works Clubman ALL4 hatchback.

With nice acceleration off the line and a wheelbase that makes it nimble and fun to drive, it is one of six models in the Mini line-up, which is owned by German automaker BMW and lends its engineering expertise to the brand.

Mini Cooper has grown since BMW acquired it in 1994 and today our John Cooper Works Clubman looks like an earlier Mini on steroids – longer, wider, heavier and more powerful with the company’s top 228 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-charged engine with 258 foot-pounds of torque.

With a sports suspension and red-painted Brembo brakes – operated in sports mode with the new ALL4 wheel drive – handling becomes more inspired and confident with stronger grip in turns and on rain-slicked roads.

There is also a normal driving mode and green mode to save fuel. A stop/start function provides jerky starts after full stops.

The ride provides decent road feedback sitting in bolstered sport seats and road noise becomes intrusive under acceleration (which also contributes acoustically) and at higher speeds.

The JCW Clubman rides on black-painted 18-inch run-flat performance tires, which eliminated the need for a spare tire, creating room for a hidden storage bin underneath the cargo mat.

While the wheelbase increased several inches, the JCW Clubman still squeezes easily into tight parking spaces.

Egress and access for occupants has improved, and rear-seating space can now accommodate rear-sitting adults for short trips. Rear seats fold to add hauling space behind the barn-like cargo doors.

Inside, the rich-looking interior shows a three-quarters halo around the circular dashboard 6.5-inch touchscreen, which can also be manipulated by a center console knob, just like a BMW. Below are five toggle switches reminiscent of a plane cockpit and a pop-up heads-up display in front of the steering wheel shows the speed limit. There are two overhead sunroofs.

Fit and finish is BMW quality and there are plenty of small reminders it is a Mini Cooper, one of the most easily recognized cars on the road, popularized in the 2003 hit movie “The Italian Job.”

Options included improved automatic transmission, technology, heated front seats, SiriusXM radio and other features that push the price tag higher than performance hatchbacks of most competitors.

LIKES: Looks, handling, mileage, cabin design, power

DISLIKES: Rough stop/start, road noise, price

BOTTOM LINE: For those who love small, peppy and iconic

MINI JOHN COOPER WORKS CLUBMAN ALL4

Base price w/destination fee: $35,950 ($45,000 as tested).

Vehicle weight: 3,450 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.2 inches.

Length: 168.3 inches.

Width: 70.9 inches.

Engine: 2.0 liter, in-line 4 cylinder, turbo.

Horsepower: 228 horsepower at 5,000 rpm.

Torque: 258 ft.-lbs. at 1,450 rpm.

Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual paddles.

EPA rating: 23 mpg city/31 mpg HWY.

Range: 13.2 -gallon tank, premium recommended.

Performance: 0-60 in about 6 seconds.

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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