Let’s set some expectations here. This one camera, one take, one run with a case of beer sliding around in the back and edited on a phone. In other words this video review is for the hardcore fans who want to hear my quick take on the new 306 HP 2020 JCW Clubman on one of the best roads in the world.
The 2020 JCW Clubman is a Huge Upgrade
Let’s start with a bit of background. In the span of three weeks we had the opportunity to drive the 2020 JCW Clubman on two racetracks as well as the Tail of the Dragon. In the dry on the track it felt tenacious at both high-speed sweepers and exiting tight corners. While it’s not as buttoned down as a full-on M car, the Clubman exhibited incredible grip and great balance for a front-wheel drive based all-wheel drive car. While you’ll ultimately reach understeer, the Clubman is admirably neutral until then. In fact this is the most neutral car MINI has ever made (and by my math, I’ve tracked them all).
We also had a chance to drive previous JCW Clubman back to back at the south track and the Thermal Race Club. Yes there’s an obvious power gap, but that’s but one difference. The updated car exhibited better, more direct feedback, quicker shifts, and an All4 system that feels more predictive. Both on the road and the track, what MINI has done is sharpen the JCW Clubman’s responses and evolve it to be more driver focused.
Braking was also where there was a clear difference. The 14” rotors and larger calipers simply stop the car better and with less fade. Lap after lap we hit the braking point on the back stretch with more speed until we felt completely dialed in. Never once did we feel any degradation or inconsistencies.
On the famed Tail of the Dragon in the driving rain (where the limit was a bit lower due to the tires) the all-wheel drive system still felt almost unflappable. But even here we continued to be impressed by the suspension and chassis improvements. The single-joint spring-strut-type axle for the front wheel and the multi-joint rear axle are now tailored for JCW with more rigidity and less weight than before. Adding to this are the revised swivel bearings that allow for improved camber values on the front wheels. In total this has improved the transmission of lateral forces in corners through the car and to the driver. In other words, MINI worked hard to bring increased feedback to the driver along with greater levels of performance.
For $48,100, you’d expect the JCW Clubman to be pretty good. But from what we’ve experienced, MINI has taken a very good car and transformed it into an exceptional one.