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.