MF Review: Is the JCW Clubman Better with an Automatic? We Find Out.

After two weeks and 1,000 miles we’re forming some opinions about our new 2017 MINI JCW Clubman.

Lets get right to it. We’re not automatic people. But this new 8 speed Aisin transmission is the best auto MINI has ever offered and has the opportunity to change perceptions of how sporting a paddle shifting MINI can be. But this isn’t a DCT (that’s coming next year) and as it turns out, it isn’t as slick as a modern BMW automatic either.

The JCW Clubman automatic is quick but it never feels outright fast. With over 3,400 lbs and the All4 system to motivate, we’re not entirely sure this is the fault of the auto. But the fact is that the auto is better at being invisible while cruising than it is being pushed in sport mode.

Our previous Clubman Cooper S felt almost as quick in many respects despite 0-60 numbers being off by a solid second. We attribute this to the manual effect. There’s no question that the JCW Clubman automatic is the fastest version of the car. But based on experience a manual version will feel faster and more engaging.

That said we expect most who want an auto will thoroughly enjoy what MINI has accomplished with this new Aisin unit. Shift times are the best to date for a MINI automatic once the car is fully warmed up. Likewise the the JCW Clubman auto delivers convenience and comfort in spades (for a MINI). You can put the gear lever in “D” and zone out entirely on the highway. Cruising at 80 mph the engine is well below 2,500 RPMs making this the quietest and most relaxing MINI we’ve ever had.

No we wouldn’t have chosen the auto. And no, a 1,000 miles hasn’t changed our minds. But this new 8 speed automatic is unquestionably MINI’s best auto to date. It provides a duality (from performance to comfort) that gives the car the well-rounded personality most are looking for in a daily driver.

  • Mark Lee

    I drove a loaner Clubman S ALL4 with the automatic. Didn’t like it at all as it was not smooth at low speeds and it didn’t feel as fast as the 6 speed I normally drive.

  • Tom Kennedy

    “But based on experience a manual version will feel faster and more engaging.” Pretty much every manual vs. automatic argument. It’s why I like a manual.

  • Nick Dawson

    Let’s be honest here, there is only one MINI JCW worth buying, and that’s the F56. The extra cost and discomfort, with minimal increased performance, doesn’t pass muster on the F54 and F60, at least not without a more powerful engine to make the most of the All4 wheel drive.

    https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/mini/john-cooper-works/first-drives/2015-mini-john-cooper-works-manual-review

    https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/mini/john-cooper-works/first-drives/2016-mini-clubman-john-cooper-works-review

    https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-review/mini/john-cooper-works/first-drives/mini-countryman-john-cooper-works-2017-review

    • Having lived with both I would disagree. BTW that Autocar piece is pretty sloppy in its conclusions. The way they grade the JCW F54 is with a very limited view of what a JCW product should be. The 3,400 LBS JCW Clubman cannot and probably should not perform like a substantially lighter and smaller F56 JCW.

      • Nick Dawson

        At 3,400Ibs you have hit the nail on the head. To be remotely competitive in a global market, the Clubman JCW needs more than 228hp. The Golf R, aka the ‘Giant Slayer’ now has 300hp with a 0-60MPH time of 4.5secs and an artificially limited top speed of 155MPH – all that wrapped up with superb neutral handling and a serene ride.

        • And yet doesn’t ever feel as immediate as the JCW Clubman in my experience. I love the amount of power it has but it’s a different type of product. Also we don’t care about the ride here in the US 🙂

        • Nick Dawson

          While you have the F54 JCW in your care, how about borrowing the very latest Golf R for a few days, to drive back-to-back over a variety of roads, swapping drivers regularly from one car to the other. It’s the only way to really compare the two 🙂

        • I drove one in the fall so it’s relatively fresh in my mind. But I would welcome that back to back drive. First up though is one that is even more apples and oranges – the Focus RS.

        • Nick Dawson

          Great idea, a triple car comparison test. The only snag is that the Clubman would come third!

        • I’ve owned the JCW Clubman for a few days now and I’d tested it extensively alongside the Golf R and Focus RS and it is a very different product for a very different buyer. If I had to slap a label on it, the JCW Clubman is more of a gentleman’s whip, while the other two are so boy racer in the way that they are equipped and how they behave on B roads that it’s laughable.

          The Clubman rides lower than both and you sit lower and you just don’t feel like you’re getting tossed about by a car that’s shouting “isn’t this fun!?!” the way you do in the Golf and the Focus. The gearbox and clutch are a dream to operate and the Clubman can creep in gear without stalling. This seams to have been carried over from the BMW side and I am so glad that they did because it is an absolute blessing in traffic.

          I’ve already talked to a local tuner that specializes in BMW and they already have the B48 engine putting out 300 hp and 325 torque on 91 with just a $900 tune, no hardware.

          And if you don’t like the trim that the R come with; tough, your only option is choice of colour and transmission. And just when I thought only the Germans could be this impersonal Ford proved me wrong. Canadian RS are dealer ordered only and the only two colours are blue or black…

        • Nick Dawson

          Good to hear that you are very happy with your new Clubman JCW. Ultimately that’s all that matters. Enjoy!

          BTW, Henry Ford (1863-1947) speaking in 1909, said that “A customer can have a car in any color so long as it is black”. At least today your can choose an RS in either Black or Blue 🙂

  • mike

    I dont care how good an automatic is, its still missing a pedal. Quicker does not mean better? Can you heal-to-toe a paddle shifter? Can you rev-match a DCT? I didn’t think so.