John Cooper Works has got its hands on the Clubman and Countryman, and hotted them up into the most powerful Minis ever to roll out of a showroom. You can now get yourself a 306-hp oversized go-kart of a thing with AWD, big brakes and a rowdy exhaust.
When we tested the 2016-edition JCW Clubman, we found it "feels a bit sluggish getting up to speed," but "a practical little car that won't disappoint fans of the brand too much." Damning with faint praise, perhaps, but it seems John Cooper Works has given the 2020 model a hefty kick in the backside.
Well, the frontside, really, where a new BMW-derived 306-hp, 4-cylinder turbo engine now lurks, ready to give you 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.9 seconds for the Clubman and 5.1 s for the Countryman, which is around a second and a half faster than the previous model. There's a blow-off valve in the exhaust manifold, variable valve and camshaft control, wider intake ducts and a new high-pressure multi-hole fuel injection system.
That peak horsepower figure is a fair 75-hp jump from the old model's 231 horses, and fair horsepower jumps are always welcome, even if they come with a slight efficiency penalty to what was already a pretty thirsty little fella. Mini is quoting between 6.9-7.4 l/100km (32-34 mpg), but our (possibly quite enthusiastic) test drive found us using a fair bit more gas than that.
A new exhaust system helps these things sound intimidating even if old ladies are still going to look at them and say "awwww, cute!", and there's a new eight-speed Steptronic paddle-shift auto transmission to keep things stirring just the way you like them, with a built in diff lock between the front two wheels that can generate a locking effect up to 39 percent.
Power is fed to all four wheels through Mini's ALL4 AWD system, which works with stability control to distribute power between the front and rear wheels, biasing toward front-wheel drive unless things are getting sketchy.
The suspension and steering have been re-tuned for sporty, agile driving and precision, and you can beef either car up with electronic damping control if you want to dip into the options catalog. The brakes are big 360 x 30mm discs at the front end with 330 x 20 discs at the rear, and crucially for any performance vehicle, the calipers are painted red.
There are visual differences to let the public know you've paid extra – most of the red bits and logos, for example, and a honeycomb pattern over the grille, among other things. The interior is likewise anointed with very nice looking JCW sport seats, a stitchy, buttony steering wheel and a few other little plates and trinkets around the place to special it up a bit.
No pricing or availability information is public yet, but the previous JCW Clubman was a fairly pricey bit of kit at somewhere between US$37-40,000 and we'd expect the new models' potent performance pop will pump the price proportionally. We suspect our next test drive may be a lot more fun.
Jump into the gallery, but be aware that Mini has only provided photos of the Clubman. There's also a video below, that somehow makes us feel very excited about sitting at red lights.
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