The yellow sign on the curve says 25 miles per hour, but the head-up display in the 2017 Mini Cooper Clubman, in John Cooper Works trim (JCW), shows 50 mph, and I feel there’s room to push it further.
I can’t feel this JCW Clubman’s all-wheel-drive kick in, but through successive turns the tires squeal delightfully, and the car doesn’t punish me for trying out trail braking and other handling strategies. This is fun.
However, I’m reminded that this new Clubman is much bigger than the generation introduced in 2007, a whole foot longer overall. While that means a cargo area that can carry more than a single roller bag, it also means a less agile car. As with the, Mini unrepentantly brags about its new bigness.
Mini launched this new generation Clubman for the 2016 model year, offering the option of all-wheel-drive. Now, the Mini’s John Cooper Works performance division got a crack at it, releasing the 2017 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman. Mini All4 all-wheel-drive system comes standard, as does the turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder engine, tuned to 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
Mini makes a six speed manual transmission standard, and charges an extra $1,750 for an eight-speed automatic transmission. I had the latter, and frankly didn’t regret it.
That can’t really be said for the $2,250 Technology package, as I grew to hate the navigation system’s route guidance.
The Technology package wraps in navigation, traffic data, wireless phone charging, a head-up display and ultrasonic parking distance sensors. There is a lot I like about this technology package. The head-up display does a good job of showing speed and route guidance. The infotainment system shows up on a bright, 8.8-inch display, which works through touch or a console-mounted indirect controller.
In this latest version of Mini’s infotainment system, the company simplified the main menu to just six items, making it easier to use. The destination entry screen includes a quick search feature, so I didn’t have to dig through points-of-interest categories or tediously enter a street address one part at a time. Sadly, the example I drove did not have Apple CarPlay, a feature coming out in the 2018 model year cars. And tough luck Android users, Mini follows its parent company BMW in not offering Android Auto support.
What ended up infuriating me about the JCW Clubman was its route planning. For example, I asked it to get me from Sausalito to San Francisco. Instead of the quick, 11 mile route across the Golden Gate Bridge, it plotted a 35 mile route through Berkeley. When I forced it to go the way I wanted, the traffic wasn’t bad, and I could see no reason why it wanted the longer, less scenic route. A few other instances of weird route planning had me fuming, and I was glad I knew the area, as this navigation would be a nightmare in unfamiliar terrain.