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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
Raving about the six-speed automatic transmission
Additional heft sacrificed little if any of the MINI’s legendary handling prowess
Gains more in practicality than it loses in performance
Road & Track
The basic rules of car performance state that as a car gets bigger and heavier, its performance should suffer. Apparently the basic rules don't apply to the fugitives from physics who engineered the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman, because its performance is only minimally different from that of the smaller and lighter Cooper.
MINI offers two engines in the Clubman, and they mirror those from the MINI Cooper. The Cooper S Clubman’s standard powerplant is a normally aspirated, 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 120 hp and 118 pound-feet of torque. It's paired either to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. The "S" version gets the turbocharged version of the same engine, which in U.S. trim blows out 175 hp and 177 pound-feet of torque. This power propels the longer Clubman to 60 mph in less than 7.6 seconds, and to a top speed of 139 mph.
In road tests with the new MINI Cooper S Clubman, reviewers were pleased by the car's responsive handling and agility. Despite the increase in size, Motor Trend finds that "whipping around with the additional length and 177 extra pounds is not a problem." MINI's trademark go-kart-like handling is still present in the Clubman, but the car's extra weight does show in the magazine’s acceleration numbers.
Available on the 2008 Cooper S Clubman is MINI's semi-automatic six-speed transmission with paddle shifters, a welcome feature for those whose commutes involve lots of time in traffic. The new transmission received mixed reviews, as ConsumerGuide laments the way that "shifts made with the paddles are only temporary; if the transmission detects that the lower gear is no longer necessary, it will automatically upshift." Motor Trend likes the automatic transmission as well, calling it "good, but not without flaw." A manual six-speed is available on the 2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman, and it comes with an indicator that unobtrusively recommends the most fuel-efficient gear for the current driving conditions, a welcome feature when gas approaches $4 per gallon. Car and Driver drove the manual car: “Shifting was smooth with the six-speed manual transmission…but we recommend a stronger spring for reverse, as it is too easy to slip into it when seeking first gear.”
More than anything else, MINIs have been fun to drive, and that tradition continues in the MINI Cooper S Clubman. When compared to a Cooper MINI, Road & Track notes that the Clubman's "ride is still firm, but there is a slight delay in steering response and increased understeer." They also find that the 2008 Cooper S Clubman does gain "more in practicality than it loses in performance." However, these differences are minimal and would likely only be noticed in back-to-back test drives of the two. Popular Mechanics loves the car's handling on the open road and claims that "if the extra body apertures in the Clubman have hurt the MINI’s structural rigidity, it [isn't] immediately evident on the road."
Ride comfort has been improved over the standard MINI Cooper S, thanks in large part to the increased weight of the car. During road tests, Popular Mechanics found that "the cars rode quietly and solidly throughout." Automobile also notes that the extra length of the Clubman helps to "smooth the ride out a bit and the car does feel fractionally more stable at high speed."
Excellent handling and capable acceleration make the 2008 MINI Cooper Clubman a rewarding drive.