The most frequent association used to describe the MINI Cooper is "go-kart-like," a trait that can be attributed in large part to the small frame and wheels-at-the-corners design of the base Cooper hardtop. Unfortunately, the quick responses of the pint-sized Cooper come at the expense of ride quality, which is among the harshest of any vehicle in the class. The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman offers a nice compromise, as the extended wheelbase smoothes out the ride but takes some of the bite out of the Cooper's handling prowess.
Each of the three trim levels of the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman features its own engine, all of which are some variant of a 1.6-liter four-cylinder. MyRide.com reports that the "base engine makes 118 horsepower and can move the Clubman from 0 to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds," which is far from enviable, but the pair of turbocharged engines on the upper-level models provide significantly more thrills. The 2009 MINI Cooper S Clubman features a "172-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four-cylinder with 177 pounds-feet of torque," according to Cars.com, while the "John Cooper Works Clubman [is]...powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that, according to MINI, can briefly raise boost pressure to achieve 207-pounds-feet when accelerating." The MINI John Cooper Works Clubman also puts out 208 hp, which Motor Trend says is enough to power it from "0-to-60 in 5.7 seconds." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com rave about the performance of the John Cooper Works edition, with Autoblog calling the JCW engine "one sweet little powerplant" that "never wants for thrust." Car and Driver agrees, but they point out, compared to the base MINI Cooper variants, there is "no extra power from either engine to offset [the] added heft" of the MINI Cooper Clubman.
In addition to high praise for its upgraded JCW engine, the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman earns high marks for its transmission options. MINI Cooper Clubman drivers get to choose between either a six-speed manual, which comes standard, or the optional six-speed automatic that features paddle shifters for manual control. The 2009 MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Clubman comes exclusively with the manual. Jalopnik reviewers are particularly impressed with the automatic, declaring that "an intelligent autobox is where the MINI Clubman really earned its stars," offering "quick and properly timed shifts." MyRide.com agrees that "both engines work well with the automatic transmission," but they recommend "the manual for the low-powered base model," as it "makes the driving experience more fun." Speaking of the manual, Car and Driver simply calls it "a delight to use," and many of the reviews read by TheCarConnection.com make similar claims.
Few cars can blend sportiness with fuel economy like the MINI Cooper, and the MINI Cooper Clubman matches the standard Cooper almost stride for stride. According to the official EPA estimates, the base 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman should return 28 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with the manual and 25/34 mpg with the automatic. The MINI Cooper S Clubman pays a small price for its performance gains, returning 26/34 mpg with the manual and 23/32 with the auto. The MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Clubman with its six-speed manual and 208 hp also manages to get 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, an incredible set of numbers considering its performance potential.
The 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman can't quite hang with the standard Cooper on twisting roads, but drivers and passengers alike will definitely appreciate the improved ride quality. Jalopnik reviewers appreciate that the "added wheelbase and extra heft provided a very smooth and controlled ride for such a tiny car," while MyRide.com notices that "the added length helps the Clubman iron out bumps better." The increased livability leads ConsumerGuide to call the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman the "near-ideal blend of everyday practicality and sporting driving fun." However, the MINI Cooper Clubman isn't without its performance flaws. Autoblog contends that "the ride quality of the JCW is noticeably harsher than lesser models," and Motor Trend reports that, when it comes to torque steer, "the JCW Clubman has it to the max." Compared to the base MINI Cooper models, the MINI Cooper Clubman is "slower, chubbier and more flexible," which hurts its handling dynamics and causes it to "lose a bit of its composure at the limit," according to Jalopnik. Fortunately, the 2009 MINI Cooper Clubman still features that "hallmark trait of the MINI brand," which Jalopnik says is "retro-thruster-like braking prowess" that "brings you to a halt pronto."