Mini Clubman John Cooper Works Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Saturday 25th March


What is it like to drive?

Even though power and torque are up by more or less a third, Mini hasn’t done masses to the Clubman’s chassis and suspension setup. Didn’t need to, apparently - with the exception of the bigger brakes, it’s all the same hardware, just with a few tweaks here and there to address known issues. 

Issues like the ride, which was quite firm. It still is, but the dampers have been tuned to deliver an even firmer initial response, but a generally softer ride, especially over smaller bumps and ridges. 

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Two-mode adaptive dampers are an option, but our test car didn’t have them. The standard setup is firm - because fast Mini - but not annoyingly so, unless you routinely drive on really rough roads. Or cobbles. The adaptive dampers’ “Mid” mode is supposed to be a bit more comfy, and its “Sport” mode even firmer, so maybe that’s worth going for if your commute is especially bumpy. 

Meanwhile the steering takes a bit of getting used to. Off-centre response is quick, and can make it tricky to pour the Clubman into a bend smoothly. You get used to it, though, as indeed you do the vast reserves of grip. Thank standard all-wheel drive and sticky Michelins. Mini has also really worked on its DSC to make it less intrusive - you certainly won’t trouble the Clubman’s at British B-road speeds. 

The overall handling balance is very neutral - no sideways heroics here. Not un-fun, but safe and mature. Which is as much a bad thing as it is a good thing. Shouldn’t a JCW be a bit of a hooligan? 

As for the engine - make no mistake, this is a quick car now. Properly rapid, and happy to sit on its 155mph limiter all day long (where legal, naturally). Sounds OK too - and yes, some of the noise is augmented through the speakers - though it’s pretty loud all the time. The exhaust itself is new. 

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There’s no real point in revving the JCW all the way out to the redline, though, because you’ve already had the best of its performance by that point. And anyway, the eight-speed automatic (the six-speed manual isn’t available any longer) will change up for you even in manual mode. 

Speaking of manual mode - full-throttle upshifts are delivered with a jolt, no doubt engineered in for maximum schportiness, like in an M3. Not entirely pleasant. In auto it shifts smoothly and sensibly.

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