It’s here. After waiting to the last possible day to order and a long production process, my carefully specced and highly anticipated MINI Clubman JCW is finally in my garage. It’s one of the last produced and potentially the last customer ordered Clubman JCW delivered to the US. But why would I buy a model that’s been on sale for seven years now vs one of the new MINIs about to be released?

Before I answer that question I need to go back in time a bit. While others in the MotoringFile family have personal MINIs, it’s been a long time since I’ve had one. Having a constant stream of press cars has allowed me and others at MotoringFile to sample every MINI model and option over the years. It’s why MotoringFile is so well informed about what MINI sells. But the downside is that it’s kept me from having a MINI of my own I can enjoy, mod and care for. I’ve been so personally focused on driving every car MINI makes that I’ve not had the time to devote to what I want from MINI. Until now.

Why I Chose to Buy a Clubman JCW

Clearly the rest of the world doesn’t have the same mind-set as the Clubman ever hit its sales goals outside of the Japanese market (where there’s clearly good taste). Because of this MINI is culling it from the line-up and adding another crossover in its place. It’s a move that makes sense on paper as the entire world is seemingly moving to the crossover shape. But to me it’s incredibly shortsighted. As crossovers saturate the market globally there will be a growing chorus for something different. In many ways the Clubman (and the wagon shape itself) is the perfect antidote as it takes the best of the crossover in terms of utility and marries it with less weight and more performance. It also looks infinitely better. But that’s clearly subjective.

What isn’t subjective this is the ultimate four door MINI. It’s far closer to the original concept for the brand than the Countryman and is very likely to be the highest performing petrol powered MINI of all time. It officially does 0-60 in 4.6 seconds (which has proven somewhat conservative by independent tests) and can hang with a JCW GP at many tracks. How do we know? We went nose to tail with one a couple of years ago at the Thermal Race Track in California and were shocked and how the Clubman was able to keep pace.

So why not that new Countryman JCW I just tested? The new U25 Countryman JCW is much more compelling now that I’ve driven it. It’s truly impressive and definitely pushes the game onward for the brand. But I’m personally not that excited by yet another crossover. What I love is functionally driven design. Something that combines utility with high performance capabilities. And there’s no shape that blends that better than a classic wagon.

Taking delivery of My Clubman JCW

The Chicago weather had been incredible for early March right up until two hours before I went to pick-up my Clubman. But even a torrential downpour wasn’t going to keep me from a fantastic experience. MINI of Glencoe was the typical red carpet rolled out and the car stationed in its delivery bay ready to go. But I wanted no part in seeing the car ahead of time. It’s great having complete trust in a salesperson and my Motoring Advisor Evan Williams was amazing throughout the ordering and buying process.

Pro-tip on that subject. Get as much as you can done before you walk in to formally buy your car. Sign off on final price and virtually sign as much paperwork as you can or feel comfortable with. Doing that allowed the actual process of buying the car to take place over minutes rather hours. The result is that you’re focused on what you’re there for. The car you ordered and have been waiting on for months.

Once the final piece of paper was signed I wanted to do something a bit different and bring the MotroringFile audience with me. So I grabbed my GoPro and did a one-take walk-around which you can see in the video above. As you can tell I was thrilled with the combination of colors, materials and trim that I had chosen. With the connections I had, there was an opportunity to do something even more unique. But in the end I settled on what anyone could have ordered and was thrilled with the result.

Rebel Green is hands-down my favorite MINI color of all time. Harkening back to the very rare WC50 R56 JCW, Rebel Green is one of those colors that changes dramatically depending on its surroundings. Black in dark light and a beautiful British Racing green in others, its has an elegance and vintage feel that connects MINI’s heritage while feeling modern. Adding to that is the multi-tone roof finished in white, Melting Silver and black. Similar that combination brings that vintage vibe with the classic white roof while visually redoing the length of the car as it fades to black. But its the Melting Silver that really is striking in person with is warm tone subtly connecting with the interior.

And that interior. I’ve written for years about the low quality of MINI’s leather (except for the Lounge Leather mind you) and have often said you’re better off with cloth or the JCW Dynamica. But none of that matters when you have such a rich color like Malt Brown. The Chesterfield Malt Brown seats add to that vintage vibe and tie the MINI heritage with modern design sensibilities. I’ll gladly get over mediocre leather quality for the amazing look of these seats.

The First Drive

After a long and immensely enjoyable walk through of the car with Evan, I finally opened the doors to the rain and ventured out into the world as a new Clubman JCW owner. From there I immediately headed to Sheridan Rd. along the lake on the North Shore of Chicago. What I felt is a car that had a sharper turn-in, was more eager and felt immediately quicker than the U25 Countryman JCW I had just driven in Portugal. Granted this now older generation of MINI is not as refined as that car. The ride is less forgiving and even the road noise is a bit higher. But for my needs this car hits the sweet spot between performance, utility and comfort perfectly.

The Clubman JCW may be old in automotive terms, but it’s more immediately engaging, quick and let’s be honest, more interesting than the new or old Countryman. Now that I own one, yes I am officially biased. But above all this car hits my problem statement straight on. It’s the perfect MINI at blurring the line between performance and utility.

Now onto the modifications. By the time you read this I will have lowered the car, pushed the tires and wheels outward, added structural rigidity and entirely replaced the plastic shift paddles with beautifully crafted metal ones.

Next up will be talking about what modifications I’ve chosen, the installation process and how they’ve actually effected the car and the way it drives.

Now let’s get this thing lowered asap.