Wonder is pervasive when we’re young, but life seems to chip away at our unabated curiosity.
We can still catch a glimpse of our inquisitive, childlike nature though, when zeroing in on the Melting Silver Mini. Or should we say its supersized and racy sibling, the Mini Clubman JCW. It’s a sign of just how much this iconic, reimagined design remains a silhouette of intrigue.
The second-gen Clubman, now sans quirky rear doors, gains the John Cooper Works treatment and all-wheel drive (All4 in Mini speak) for the first time. The $53,900 six-door wagon is powered by a linear 2.0-litre, twin-scroll turbo four-cylinder engine (thanks BMW) with 170kW and 350Nm.
That’s the most Newtons yet to endow a petrol Mini, and considering its 1475kg heft, it’s needed. Still, it reaches 100km/h in 6.3 seconds with either the eight-speed auto or the no-cost option six-speed manual tested.
Sitting behind the wheel in the ‘Cross Punch’ leather-clad seat requires a different mindset before flicking the starter switch. This isn’t the twitchy three-door Mini JCW with its overzealous front end.
Instead, the longer wheelbase of the Clubman inspires confidence while still retaining positive turn-in and impressive agility, especially with changes of direction.
However, attaining this dynamic prowess is all about selecting the right extras and playing with the buttons correctly. Yes, the 19-inch alloys (with 10mm lowered suspension) might add visual appeal, but the optional 18-inch hoops are superior. That’s because you don’t get run-flats; instead, grippy Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber features.
The JCW feels so glued and tied down that the bum doesn’t wiggle on corner entry and you can tighten your line post apex thanks to the All4 system curbing understeer as it distributes power between the front and rear axles. In fact, it could use more oomph on corner exit given the immense traction.
Selecting the no-cost-option Dynamic Damper Control is a must. Also, being able to dissect Sport mode’s parameters to keep the sharpened throttle response – including the hilarious overrun histrionics and throttle blipping on down shifts – while disbanding the over assisted steering and harsher damper setting, proves invaluable.
With the right set-up the JCW’s dynamic abilities have a maturity that seems to have outgrown its polarising retro design.
At first the Clubman JCW’s personality seems somewhat confused. Yes it’s packed with kit, but at $59,000 as tested, it isn’t cheap. Plus, the manual ’box has a long throw, the brake pedal is numb and the cabin remains confusingly kitsch.
However, as a Mini, the chameleon Clubman manages to endear itself and makes the most sense. It’s the grown-up, pragmatic pick with a perky performance persona. The JCW is for the young at heart who still like to see the world with wonder when life affords the chance.