If you asked my colleagues here at Automobile to describe the vehicles they consider to be the most fun, you’d hear a litany of specs of the German, Italian, and Japanese variety: high horsepower, lots of torque, low weight, quick 0 to 60 mph. They would regale you with tales of wedge shapes, air scoops, and other aerodynamic novelties—and say things like “stonking,” “savage,” and “Drift Mode.”
But there’s are other ways to have vehicular fun. Take the 2017 Mini Clubman John Cooper Works All4, which is one big, bubbly, colorful jukebox of fun for you and a few friends. This racier version comes with a twin-turbocharged inline-four good for 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, as well as a sport-tuned suspension and (runflat) performance tires. All of this adds up to a quick, playful “hot hatch” experience on even the most boring roads.
The All4 designation denotes all-wheel drive, and this particular model sent its power to all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission. It can be had with an eight-speed automatic, but if your brand of fun includes quick shifts through the turns, you want the stick. For an extra $500 you can get Dynamic Damper Control, which smoothes the suspension for regular road driving. This option is key to turning down the rough road feel you get from many small sporty cars. There’s still a considerable amount of bumps and jolts that make it to your seat in the Clubman, but we’re thankful for the extra comfort Dynamic Damper Control affords.
Just in time for my first drive of the JCW Clubman, SiriusXM launched an all-Beatles channel. There is no better soundtrack for this zippy Mini than “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” by the boys from Liverpool, and I kept it cranked up the entire weekend.
The soundtrack went well with the circus of circle shapes throughout the cabin—the oversized instrument gauges, the round infotainment center, even the chrome circles in the door that hold semi-circle door handles. And the colors. Oh, the colors. Pink and purple, orange, yellow, and green accent lights surround you from the instrument panel, doors, and ceiling. They even wash your legs in the footwells in psychedelic light. The John Cooper Works sports seats are thankfully understated in Carbon Black with a racy check pattern. The steering wheel is also a JCW special, a sportier, leather-wrapped piece with plenty of buttons to play with.
As you may have guessed, the rear seats don’t offer a ton of legroom, but we fit two average-sized adults pretty comfortably. Just for “research purposes,” I asked another friend to crawl into the cargo space behind the 60-40-split folding seats. My slim friend opened the split rear doors and climbed in, barely able to squeeze in. Funnily enough, once your buddy convinces you to “test out” the space meant for groceries and shuts the doors, you’re stuck. There are no handles on the inside to reopen the doors. Unlike sedans that must include an emergency pull to escape the trunk, if you end up in the back of this wagon and there are passengers in the second row, you’re trapped. (Don’t worry, I let him out before panic set in.)
The round theme continues to the outside of the car, with an expressive front end with big, googly eyes, and curvy body style. Our model came in a pretty premium color, White Silver Metallic with a black top, for an extra $500. There doesn’t seem to be a single 90-degree sharp edge anywhere on its body, just adding to the jolly character of the Clubman. When using the fob to unlock the doors at night, the door handles illuminate, as do the pink and purple interior lights. There’s also an impressive splash light for both driver and passenger that lights up the concrete with a giant Mini badge when you open the doors.
All in all, I enjoyed my time with this Mini. Sure, we drive cars to move from Point A to Point B and carry new things from store to home. But driving is also a source of entertainment, and the 2017 John Cooper Works Clubman All4 proves you don’t need a supercar to have fun on four wheels.
2017 Mini John Coopers Works Clubman All4 Specifications
|PRICE||$35,950/$40,250 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/228 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,450-4,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger AWD wagon|
|EPA MILEAGE||24/31 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||167.4 x 70.9 x 56.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.0 sec|
|TOP SPEED||148 mph|