The BMW Group is the parent corporation over BMW, MINI, and Rolls-Royce. No, they did not send me a Rolls-Royce to test drive this past week but they did deliver the “Rolls-Royce” of small cars in the form of the 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman. This new second-generation model is the new maxi-MINI.
Think of the 2016 Clubman model as the MINI Cooper station wagon – four full doors and center-split cargo doors at the rear. Like Rolls-Royce, MINI originates from England and is still built there today. Described as the brand’s flagship, the new Clubman builds on the previous generation model and is the longest MINI in the current fleet. It is more than a foot longer than the first-gen Clubman and cargo space is nearly double. In fact, Gen II Clubman has grown in nearly every single category over the vehicle it replaces and is the largest MINI ever produced.
Carrying over to the new model is styling and content the new MINI brand has become known for while still offering big things in small packages. Four adults and a host of cargo can ride in near luxury smoothly, quietly, and comfortably. And MINI has also managed to keep some of the fun in the bigger car as well by offering Sport driving modes and a choice of peppy little motors.
Our tester MINI Cooper Clubman arrived with a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine under the bonnet that generates 134hp and 162 lb. ft. of torque. It was mated to the optional six-speed Steptronic automatic transmission (six-speed Getrag manual gearbox standard). The combination would not win any rally events but it did provide ample power in all driving situations.
MINI boasts “go-kart” handling in the Clubman but we found that boast to come up a bit short as the front end tended to plow quite a bit in harder corners and turns, even with the added damping from Sport mode. Another unique feature with the automatic gearbox is that this car draws on navigation data of the road ahead to preset gear and shift point selections. There is also a fuel-efficient Green mode for drivers that will lull most to sleep and includes auto start/stop function that is defeated with the flip of a switch in the center stack.
I mentioned earlier the Clubman will seat four adults in comfort but in reality there are five seating positions inside. Our tester arrived with the cool Chesterfield Leather Indigo interior in double-stitched diamond pattern. The seats are very comfortable and once settled inside the new MINI offers decent room without the claustrophobia. A small set of instrument gauges sit just ahead of the steering wheel while most of the vehicle infotainment is contained inside the large “wall clock” at the top of the center stack – complete with a mood ringlight surround.
The 2016 Clubman introduces a few features to the MINI brand including electric seat adjustment, electric parking brake, and backlit door bezels as well as remote electric opening of one of the split rear doors. Other features offered in Clubman include Head-Up Display, Parking Assistant with rear view camera, and park distance control. Our tester arrived with the Premium, Sport, and Technology and Wired packages that added keyless entry, panoramic sunroof (but I did not like the mesh sun blocker panels that don’t fully block the sun), Dynamic Damper Control for the suspension, 18-inch star spoke alloy wheels with sport tires, sport seats, navigation, enhanced USB and Bluetooth, and premium harman/kardon audio system.
Truth be told, the new Clubman is not the first extended-length model produced in Oxford. Classic Mini released a pair of family trucksters some 55 years ago in the form of the Morris Mini Traveller and Austin Seven Countryman and this is not truly the second-generation Clubman as that moniker first appeared in 1969 as the Mini Clubman Estate, replacing the aforementioned Traveller and Countryman. The first Clubman Estate remained in production until 1982 and nearly 200,000 units were produced.
Fast-forward to 2007 and the now German-owned MINI brand releases the new-generation Clubman in response to demands for a MINI Cooper that is, well, not so mini. That car (dubbed R55) featured a unique third door for easier access to the rear passenger compartment. The 2016 Clubman (F54) doubles the cargo volume behind the front seat over the R55 and overall length increases 12.4 inches. The new model is also wider and slightly taller with a longer wheelbase and wider front and rear tracks for better overall balance and ride.
Pricing for the 2016 MINI Cooper Clubman begins at $24,100 with our recent tester arriving loaded at $35,450. Fuel economy figures are 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway and for the first three years or 36,000 miles all regular maintenance is free. Clubman is offered in standard and more powerful S variants and can be ordered in front- or ALL4 all-wheel drive.
MINI calls the new Clubman “motoring grown up.” Funny, because most of the MINI owners I have met want to be anything but that, and I mean that in a very fond way. Every time I climb behind the wheel of a MINI I feel as though I am back in my youth at the go-kart track and strapping in to have the time of my life (until my lap tickets run out). Now I don’t have to go run around and get back in line I just merely pump a little more fuel into the tank and away I go. Let’s Motor!