The Clubman JCW is here and ready to dethrone the Golf R!
The Golf is a good 'standard' point of excellence, a mix of price and performance with luxury in whichever segment. The Golf R was once king of kings.
I love the Golf R (actually, I love all Golf variants, I think it's a brilliant platform), over the past few years it has firmly placed itself in the top spot for many wanting an affordable hyper (ish) hatch which offered loads of daily essentials too. It was also an incredibly safe and easy to drive car - which made it even more appealing to those who like to drive fast with little consideration.
Up until now, Mini haven't had anything to compete with it. I've been saying for ages they just needed to push 300bhp through the 2.0 JCW block and stick a AWD system in for good measure. It wasn't happening, well... until now. Mini have taken their gloves off and now they're in the ring with the rest of the big boys ready to battle for the top spot.
Aesthetically cute with a sense of warrior...
Mini design language is distinctive, regardless of model you can easily spot the brand from a mile away. It has been this way since the original Mini and is something the brand have kept post the BMW takeover - ps, there are now called Bini's.
The front end is round yet not bulbous, the new diamond design language from BMW is also showing itself in the grill. The plastic arch covers give a side profile which is unquestionably Mini - even though it's a lot longer than it 'should' be. If anything, the side profile is sleek, whilst not packed with lines it's a simple and easy to appreciate design.
The rear is where the Clubman JCW is winning it all for me, a brilliant piece of design. What few lines are down the side are cut short and run in to a brilliantly spaced rear end - a nicely sized spoiler and the new Union Jack lights finish it off. Twin exhausts let the uninformed know it's got more poke than a normal one. The only issue I have with it is the fact you can accidentally open one of the rear doors in the carpark with the remote key - it springs open quite abruptly.
The performance is better than the competition!
Never before has a JCW been this powerful, Mini have REALLY upped their game here. 306HP / 450Nm (that's 50Nm more than a Golf R) through a 8 speed auto box and their 'ALL4' system. The gearbox is brisk to respond, much more than the DSG in the Golf R. The immediate acceleration can catch you out - with a slightly RWD bias when you floor it.
Handling wise it is composed and nimble, offering 4WD safety but equally giving some of the Mini charm too. The torque steer fun can be had, however when you really get down to it the Clubman JCW really holds its own through the corners. The steering feel is beautifully weighted, with pedal feel rewarding the harder driver.
0-62mph happens in 4.9 seconds and it's limited to 155mph - a first for any Mini. Economy wise it's relatively good, Mini claim 38mpg which is achievable on longer runs. Expect 32mpg around town. Overall the Clubman JCW excels in performance, giving you not only a different driving experience but a genuinely lovely one too.
Inside is now a quality place to be...
Like I mentioned in my Cooper JCW review, Mini aren't making tired and bad quality interiors anymore. The Clubman JCW gets a luxurious feeling interior matched with brilliant comfort and obvious tech (everywhere). Anything not at your fingertips is easily within reach, however I would advise going for the higher interior tech specification so you get a bigger infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay etc.
The seats are beautifully holding, front or back. In the back you'll notice passengers getting reasonable leg room - oh and the boot is also a great size too. Easily matching a Golf R, if not exceeding it a little to. Visibility is good, interior noise is quiet (unless you're in sport mode) and it's comfortable for longer journeys. This is an interior Mini have truly nailed.
"It won't be better than a Golf R though!"
Well, that all depends on what you want really. For me, I like an engaged drive which also gives me the ability to have fun without all the safety aids coming in. A Golf R will generally try and stop you doing anything too silly with the traction control on, whereas the Clubman JCW actually has a tolerance to allow you that fun. It's also a totally different driving feel and gives a much lower seating position - which I really like.
Alongside that, it's an alternative. Currently for the price, the Golf R seems good value for money. This JCW is even better, costing £3k less in base specifications. My test model had a fair few options and was still £500 cheaper than a base Golf R. The Clubman JCW gives you a different aesthetic, a different drive and a different price. If you love a Golf R, you'll definitely still get one because they're a great car. If you're not sold and you like to have something different to everyone else - the Clubman JCW is an absolute no-brainer to consider.