WELCOME TO THE CLUB
The new MINI Cooper Clubman
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sat, Oct 22, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Doug Stokes
Pictures by Harvey Schwartz and Doug Stokes
My first impression of the Mini Cooper Clubman was “Inspector Gadget, your car is ready for you sir.” Jam-crammed with tech stuff, like cool glow-in-the-dark switches, and featuring a rather compact cabin, the thought was that we were going to have one of those weeks with an odd-ball car.
And, as it sometimes happens, a too-short week later we found ourselves reluctantly surrendered the keys to my new and stalwart friend we’ll call Mister Cooper (a fairly expensive friend, but a friend none the less).
Of all the Mini models, this Clubman seems to my eye the sleekest and most centered of the whole line. The low, slightly sloping roof line gives this one a sporting aire, a proper English “shooting brake” style, if you will, that fits nicely with the performance-aggressive Cooper S performance package that motivates this one in fine fashion.
And motivation is the watchword here. This is the full-boat, or as the old sports car jargon would have it: a fully “breathed-on” John Cooper engine package, a 2-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder, twin-cam mill that plays even bigger than the listed 189 horsepower and 207 pounds-feet of torque. (Remember Stokes’ first law of motion: “torque gets you there, horsepower keeps you there.”) When you see that second figure outweighing the first one, you rightfully know that you have a motor that will serve and satisfy and without you ever having to wring its neck to get any sort of performance-type fun rolling.
To fully complete the sporty nature of this six-door unit, there is an excellent 6-speed manual transmission, sourced from the very best in the business, Getrag. Selecting one’s own gears in some cars is sometimes something of a chore; here it was great good fun and ultimately satisfying as well. I have a rather recalcitrant left knee that almost always does not very much like cars with stick shifts, but it got along with this transmission pretty darn well. Of course it did not hurt that applying my right foot to the throttle at any rpm north of 2,501 in any of the six gears available delivered all but instant (and very earnest) thrust forward. Throughout the week of our drive, we took (just about) every opportunity to be shoved back in the nicely-tailored conductor’s seat by 200+ pounds-foot of turbocharged torque.
Readers will find an attached sidebar that talks about the first (Austin) Mini-Coopers, and what quick, light, fun, nickel rockets they were. And here they’ll learn that the “S” John Cooper Works one that we drove was just about as much fun with the added benefits of a surfeit of creature comforts and a solid chassis that’s as stout and sturdy as they come. There’s a British brand name in play here, but the design is inextricably German.
What’s another word for “loaded”? No, I don’t mean drunk. How about if we just compare the first and last numbers on the window sticker...
OK, we’ve got $27,500.00 at the top and an even $37,000.00 at the other end. Deduct the $850 “destination charge” and you have $8650.00 in upgrades like special “melting silver” paint ($500), Premium Package (includes sunroof and “panoramic” moonroof ($1800), burgundy leather ($1,500), technology-navigation package ($1,750), JCW-IDed interior package ($400), heated front seats ($500), LED headlights ($1000), heads-up display (750.00), and a one-year satellite radio subscription $300.
Yeah, like yours, my eyebrows might have jacked skyward as well on a couple of the above quotes. A grand for the trick headlights is a bit rich for me (personally, I think that they’re annoying, not cool), and 5 bills for special paint (albeit with a very cool name “Melting Silver Metallic”) seems kind of excessive. That’s why they are extras. Like “would you like fries with that ‘burger?” they are optional so I won’t gripe further.
Included in the first number is a very strong package of solid performance and safety features like the brilliant engine and fun manual gearbox, great disc brakes all around, and handling that Mini calls “Go-kart”-like. (As a person who served as the executive director of the International Kart Federation for 5 and half years, I’d say (“yes, but”) like a very BIG go-kart). Let’s just say that you CAN hurry this one along with no complaints from this package.
Our tester was fitted (instead of “equipped” ... far more in keeping) with a rather nice set of 17” alloy wheels that nicely replicate the famous Minilite wheels that were about the only thing that any self-respecting Mini (or many other sports car owners) would use to attach their Dunlop R-5’s from the road to the car … and they look every bit as cool today as they did in the Go-Go seventies and early eighties.
And you are right, this guy was not aimed at me (maybe twenty-five or so years ago) but this one’s mini-Evoque roofline asks for a bit of flexibility on the part of its crew. But then again the car’s name is rather self-explanatory ... Had been called a MAXI I might be a little more justified about having to bend a bit to get in and out.
We kidded a bit earlier about the interior’s eccentricities; best guess is that it’s sort of an attempt by BMW (you DO know that they own the MINI brand, right?) to conjure a Teutonic version of the original Minis.
There are lots of round (and rounded-off) objects like the dials, the (tiny) ovoid rear view mirror, and the round side mirrors. There’s also a round BMW-style “wobble wheel” on the center console that runs a lot of what everyone now calls the “infotainment” side of driving that insists on maintaining one’s tight grasp on the world beyond the confines of the automobile that one is driving and the place that your are operating it.
And, BMW’s (once signature) red lighting for night dash illumination is there too. Said to be reminiscent of their earlier work in the aircraft industry where cockpit instruments were usually rendered in red so that a pilot’s eyes would not have to re-correct each time that they looked out and then back at the gauges during night flight, it works well and looks, well, BMW-like, I guess.
The six-door aspect of this one is also a nice feature (even if looking out through the “split” window frame of the rear “barn doors” of the cargo area in the rear view mirror takes a little getting used to). Needless to say, his one is bolt easy to load and unload. We even got a bit of an old-school open Brit-sport car feel by driving with all four (door) windows down and the front sunroof wide open. The best part of that exercise was the nice engine sounds that this Cooper S model makes that were (nothing crass or obtrusive) briskly Brit, sounding enthusiastic and damn proud to be making the statement (even if it’s translated from the German).
Handily, and just in case one might forget what brand of car they were driving the word MINI is inscribed multiple times on many aspects of this one’s exterior and interior. Of course depending on how one parked the wheels read: MINI or INIW. And one other cool thing (for the people who just want to slide behind the wheel of your new Clubman for a feel of the car) ... a 160 MILE PER HOUR speedometer ... no, not even downhill off a cliff, but it sure looks zoom!
The window sticker (as called out above as somewhat steep) nicely includes a “Boot to Bonnet” (that Brit-wit showing through its German birth parents again) no cost maintenance deal* that runs 3/36 (3 years or 36,000 miles) and that covers a lot. To wit: oil changes, drive belts, wiper blades, brake discs (!), pads and fluid. The full warranty is 4 years/50,000 miles and there’s a 4-year unlimited roadside assistance program along as well.
Oh yeah, the sticker says to expect 22 city/32 highway. (We shall have to trust these figure please ... as I was having far too much fun to check.) The 2016 MINI Cooper S Clubman turned out to be a fun car to drive and one that I could learn to bend a little better to get in and out of if I were somehow gifted with one. (OUTRIGHT HINT)
As you absolutely-positively SHOULD come to expect when signing on for a $37,000 (even) motorcar ... the F&F (fit and finish) is top-rate here. Everything fits and is fitted, the details are all fussed over and the result is worthy.
This is not your (or my) brother’s Mini:
My brother Scot had an original 1975 Austin Mini-Cooper (with the traditional red body and black roof paint job), it was a really tiny English compact car, built by British Motors Corporation that started out life with a seriously malnourished 850cc engine and ended up with 1275ccs and 78 strapping British war horses all flowing through upgraded suspension and a set of fat little of 10-inch tall front tires. The total transformation and permanent personality transplant at the courtesy of a trip though the Cooper racing shop in the early sixties.
There was a real pipe-smoking John Cooper, successful race car constructor, Formula One team owner and MINI project cheerleader. The car was light almost to a fault … something of a tin can. In truth, it was a typical compact car of the times with no heavy door beams or crush zones (unless you counted the passengers). And Cooper goes ahead nearly trebling the horsepower … the results were instant status symbols, football heroes, movie stars and sex-crazed members of parliament drove ‘em.
The feisty little Mini-Coopers quickly became the nose-thumbing bad boys of motorsports, winning revered European rallyes like the Monte Carlo and generally kicking butt on the sports car circuits where they were tossed into turns ahead of many higher-rated sports machines and generally came out ahead. More than any other car brand, these cars championed front wheel drive as a handling advantage rather than just a utilitarian way to make a more “compact” compact car.
Cool car guys like racing legend Stirling Moss (who could own any car that he cared to) drove (and occasionally got into trouble with the Bobbies) a Mini Cooper. Yeah, right … he’s a knight of the realm now, “Sir Stirling” and all that) but back then he was mostly “Mossy”. And, in all candor the first Mini-Coopers were pretty much half-megaton bombs thinly disguised as cute little party poppers.
The 1959 Mini was the first of the truly modern era front wheel drive machines. Engineering genius Alec Issigonis first turned the (relatively) long 4-cylinder inline motor sideways and then combined engine, transmission, and final drive into one super-compact front drive unit, and with that little “packaging” tour de force, changed the automotive world.
Asked once about his (now indelible) contribution to the automotive world, Issigonis was quoted as saying simply: “I feel very, very proud that so many people have copied me,” just letting it go at that.
Nearly 60 years later they still are following his lead. - DS
... Here’s the “About Us” from the modern day Cooper Car Company, although they no longer re-fit complete cars as they once did, they still manufacture and sell many very cool (and quite authentic) parts and pieces for Minis, new and old:
“The Cooper Car Company was founded in 1946 by Charles Cooper and his son John Cooper. They began by building racing cars in Charles' small garage in Surbiton, Surrey, England in 1946. Through the 1950s and early 1960s, they reached auto racing's highest levels as their rear-engined, single-seat cars altered the face of Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and their Mini Cooper dominated Rally racing.
The small company took the big guns on and in 1959 won the coveted Formula 1 World Championship, Jack Brabham becoming Champion and the Cooper T51 taking the honours. Success followed in 1960 with (now Sir) Jack Brabham winning the title and Cooper's the manufacturers title.
Thanks in part to Cooper's legacy, Britain remains the home of a thriving racing industry, and the Cooper name lives on with BMW in the MINI Cooper, MINI Cooper S and MINI John Cooper Works.”
* These no-cost maintenance plans are becoming more and more common for many manufacturers. They serve a number of purposes key among them getting the customer accustomed to having their car serviced at the dealership.
Even at “FREE” (sorry ... “no cost”) which, by the way, the dealer is reimbursed 100% for the work by the vehicle’s manufacturer ... there’s a strong upside for them that starts with customer loyalty. Hey, they’re getting something “for free” right at the dealership which always allows the possibility of customers buying additional items to upgrade and personalize their car as well as the intangible of just returning to the dealership such as their seeing the newest models of “their” brand each time that they bring their car is in for service over the years.
I’ve not ever seen any numbers on it, but I’ll wager that a car owner who’s been dealing with friendly dealer who takes good care of them and their car, will continue to take their car nowhere but to that dealership for service, even well after their 3-year free pass is used up.
For more information about MINI products, go to miniusa.com.
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: MINI Cooper Clubman Price: $24,100 (base) $27,650 (S model) $35,100 (S John Cooper Works, as tested) EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 28 city/34 highway (base manual) 28 city/33 highway (base automatic) 25 city/31 highway (S manual) 27 city/33 highway (S automatic) TBD (John Cooper Works) Engine: 1.5 Liter, 3-Cylinder MINI TwinPower Turbo Engine, with Direct Injection, VALVETRONIC, Dual VANOS (base) 2.0 Liter, 4-Cylinder MINI TwinPower Turbo Engine, with Direct Injection, VALVETRONIC, Dual VANOS (S) 2.0 Liter, 4-Cylinder MINI TwinPower Turbo Engine, with Direct Injection, VALVETRONIC, Dual VANOS (JCW) Horsepower: 134/4400 hp/rpm (base) 189/4700 hp/rpm (S) 228/5200 hp/rpm (JCW) Torque: 162/1250 ft-lbs/rpm 207/1250 ft-lbs/rpm 258/1450 ft-lbs/rpm Transmission: 6-speed manual (standard) 6-speed automatic (base optional) 8-speed automatic (S) 8-speed Sport automatic (JCW optional) EPA size designation: Midsize car For more specifications, click here. HARVEY SCHWARTZ'S PHOTO GALLERY ON THE MINI COOPER CLUBMAN