DT Garage: Can the Mini Clubman JCW cope with snow? Will it drift?
If you hadn't guessed, it recently snowed in the UK. Brits are a bit funny when it comes to snow. We go through a phase of childlike craving, staring at heavy skies wondering when we'll be blessed with a white blanket of serenity and the opportunity to stick carrots into giant anthropomorphised balls of cold water.
Then two minutes later our hands are cold and we want it all to disappear back into the heavens so the country can start running correctly again. But at least it makes for good Instagram fodder.
Not my road…
Our Mini Clubman JCW, it turns out, is pretty good in the snow. I live up a tight and twisty road on a slight incline. It's like an ice rink as soon as the mercury drops below zero, so on Monday I left the Mini parked up for a day and suffered the horrors of doing 'childcare' while also trying to work.
After a working day of having my ruminations on the new Bentley Flying Spur (it's very good) interrupted by my toddler constantly asserting that 'Daddy did a poo' (I hadn't), it was time to tackle my road and deliver my daughter to an understanding mother-in-law for the day.
Our Mini rides on Bridgestone Turanza run-flats, and despite having a an EU label grade A for wet grip, I've never been that impressed by their grip… in the wet. But getting in and out of my icy lane they performed brilliantly. To be honest, I struggled to walk up our road without slipping, and the Clubman didn't so much as flash a traction-control light in my face.
Getting out of town necessitated climbing another small icy hill that hadn't been gritted, and the Mini pulled itself up with zero drama. How much of this is down to the tyres and how much is down to the ALL4 part-time four-wheel-drive system I don't know, but it's another tick in the Clubman JCW's family friendly box of joyous dependability.
Obviously I'm a complete manchild, so once my daughter was dropped off I accidentally found myself in a giant empty snowy car park with the stability control in sport mode.
With a generous stab of accelerator the Clubman will kick its tail out and hold quite a nice four-wheel slide. A few snowy access roads showed that you could turn it in on the brakes and kick the back out on the power.
It's surprisingly fun, and behaves in a far lairier way than I expected. Years ago I spent a weekend skidding Haldex-equipped Skodas around an icy lake and the only way you could really get them sideways was through weight transfer before holding a slide with the steering wheel held dead straight as the Haldex system artificially kept the slide going.
It feels as if the Mini/BMW system is far keener to get the Clubman out of front-drive mode and into four-wheel drive. The JCW has a beefed-up power take-off for the back wheels as well as chunkier drive shafts compared to the same system in the Clubman. Cooper S. Who knew?
Clearly the BMW genes in the Clubman's powertrain are still there, lurking with fun in mind.