The Mini Clubman has grown up since it was introduced in 2007. As often happens, it gets bigger and heavier with age. The big news now is that the Clubman is available with all-wheel drive and the John Cooper Works package, which makes it expensive, but fun. M-ore on that later. The Clubman accounts for almost 25 percent of all Mini sales in the US, with more than 12,000 units sold in 2016, so it is an important model for Mini.

“The new Clubman strikes a perfect balance between Mini’s heritage and future,” said David Duncan, Vice President MINI of the Americas. “As our flagship, the Clubman represents everything Mini does best while showing off a more mature and refined side. Its premium styling and functional design will play a critical role as we reposition the brand over the next few years.”

Longer and wider than any other Mini, the new Clubman offers versatility that has been lacking in other Minis. The rear seats offer more room than in previous Minis, but you should remember that this is still no Suburban and space is still tight. There are three seat belts in the back but three adults are a tight fit in the back seat. The Clubman’s split-rear doors remain and are spring loaded to open with ease. The cargo area is small, but fold the seats down and it is actually quite large, for a Mini. Our car had the optional foot-activated sensor that allows you to open the rear doors when your hands are full.

The interior is classic Mini, although the huge center speedometer is now gone and is replaced with the infotainment screen. The interior material is quite good and the driving position could not be better. But the ergonomics are still a mess with lots of buttons spread around all over the place seemingly without much thought. Many are hard to see or read, so it is confusing, but with time the owner will get used to where everything is.

With extensive testing on the Nürburgring, the Clubman JCW is a car you would want to drive on the track. The 2.0-liter engine in the JCW Clubman offers 228 horsepower which is 39 more than the Cooper S Clubman. It is available with a six-speed manual transmission or a new eight-speed automatic. With four-wheel drive traction, the Clubman bolts to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds with either transmission and on to a top speed of 147 mph. Our test car had the eight-speed automatic, which deserves some praise. Nothing beats the fun and the control of a real manual transmission, but if you have to go with an automatic, this one is one of the best in any car. The eight-speed Steptronic shifts smoothly when you are cruising around, but select Sport mode and it becomes aggressive. Alternatively, you can put it in manual mode and, unlike most cars out there, it actually listens to the driver. Put it in second gear and floor it and the car will stay on the rev limiter until you upshift. Floor it in eighth gear at 60 mph and it will not downshift until you order a shift or until you are about to go too slowly for that gear. Shifts happen quickly and the response is superb.

The Clubman is also one of the best riding Minis in recent memory. The suspension is stiff but never too stiff, and is definitely comfortable for everyday driving. When the road becomes twisty, watch out because this Clubman has cat-like reflexes and can hunt apexes with the best of them. On a twisty track, you can easily catch up to bigger and faster cars. When the track opens up, they will obviously be faster, but on an autocross course or a tight road course, the JCW Clubman is hard to beat.

Minis in general are intended to be personalized, which is a good thing because it will be less likely to see another car just like yours. You can get the Clubman in all different varieties depending on your taste. The Clubman starts at $24,800. Go for the Cooper S Clubman with the added power and you will have to write a check for $28,400. Our car was the top of the line John Cooper Works with even more power and all-wheel drive, which brought the base price to $35,900 and with the various options, we were up to $45,000. That just shows you should buy only what you need and no more, which will end with a fantastic car in your garage.

Specifications

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC Inline Four
Horsepower: 228 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 258 @ 1,450  rpm
Front suspension: McPherson strut with aluminum swivel bearing and anti-dive control
Rear suspension: Multilink axle with weight-optimized trailing arms
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Axle ratio: 3.20:1
Curb Weight: 3,445 lbs.
Base MSRP: $24,800
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Image courtesy of Mini USA