2011 MINI Cooper Clubman Performance

9.0
Performance

Performance has never been a problem for the Cooper range, and the larger Clubman is no exception. On the other hand automatic's paddle shifters serve adequately for spirited driving, while taking away the hassle of shifting on the morning commute.

For 2011, the Clubman shares in the engine updates, with the base Clubman getting an additional three horsepower for 121 hp total, while the turbocharged Clubman S gains nine horsepower, climbing to 181 hp through enhanced an Valvetronic system.

Base Clubman wagons use a 121-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder, paired either to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. The Clubman S engine upgrades for 2011 yield a 0.2-second improvement to 0-60 mph times over the 2010 model, now down to 6.8 seconds, and just 0.2 seconds slower than the standard Cooper S hatch. Our editors strongly prefers the manual transmission to the automatic, the better to wring out every last ounce of performance from the punchy but small engines. The John Cooper Works Clubman has the same turbo engine with different computer controls that give a bit more power.

The 2011 MINI Cooper Clubman's stretch job slows it down a notch, but smoothes out the ride and sacrifices none of that elusive go-kart feel.

Complaints of significant torque steer in the Clubman S from the 2010 model should be alleviated somewhat, as a new software system minimizes the issue. We like the steering feel, though it's a tad artificial due to the electric power assist, an issue worsened by the Sport mode, which speeds up the ratio.

Fuel economy is good for all models, with the standard Clubman registering 27/36 mpg with the automatic and 27/35 mpg with the manual. The sportier Clubman S hits an identical 27/36 mpg with the auto and 26/34 mpg with the manual.

Ride and handling are excellent on smooth roads, with less noise in the cabin from both wind and road than you'll find in many small cars.  Bumps, potholes, and broken pavement can reverse the equation, however, for the Sport package cars.

Regardless, the MINI's brakes are strong, and it's an eminently tossable car in the tradition of the brand, both old and new.

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