2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman First Impressions: More than a stretched Cooper

Monday October 27th, 2008 at 11:1010 AM
Posted by: Francois

2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman rear cargo area

Strengths:

  • Interior is beautiful. Options are endless
  • Adjustable suspension is one of the best available. It is way more comfortable than previous Coopers and the Sport mode is noticeably sportier
  • Top end power is excellent
  • Mileage is amazing

Weaknesses:

  • Styling, specially the rear is not attractive – two-tone paint in the back does not flow together at all.
  • Rear window visibility is blocked by the big door bar going down the middle.
  • Turbo Lag, lack of low end grunt and responsiveness, Engine growl is absent.
  • Torque steer – When the turbo kicks in, the steering on this can be a handful. This is most pronounced while turning on rough roads. But even on smooth roads, torque steer is much more noticeable than the previous Mini Coopers
  • There’s just not enough additional room. Opting for the Clubman over the Mini Cooper may not be worthwhile.
  • Extra door is present only on one side? This could be a major inconvenience with kids as the driver has to go to the other side of the car to open and close the door for them.
  • So many interior quirks

1. Radio volume knob is way out of place. And it is very loose.
2. No steering wheel controls, cruise control, ipod at $30k
3. Signal light lever is electronic like BMW but does not stay on for 4 seconds for change lane when tapped
4. Center gauge is just huge
5. Passenger window has no auto-up even though driver side has it
6. Moonroof has no auto open or close
7. Several buttons that seem present but don’t do anything
8. Trip computer controls/resets have to be accessed from the radio

Noticeably, my ‘weaknesses’ list is a bit longer than my ‘strengths’. The good news is the major factors like performance, handling, mileage are in the high points of this car. This is one of the most powerful and economical cars that I have tried. When cruising at 70 mph, I averaged 41mpg on the freeway. At 80 mph, I got 36 mpg. On the performance side, the 0-60 acceleration figure of 6.7 is excellent. Finally, the adjustable suspension really works. The standard mode offers comfort during those freeway commutes and long drives. The Sport mode improves handling, turn-in and decreases body roll.

The downsides of this car are numerous but only a few of them are showstoppers. A lot of the quirks of this car come with the package and the enthusiastic Clubman fan will be able to overlook them. The key issue is space. If the whole issue of buying the Clubman is for increased space over the Mini, does it achieve that goal? We don’t think so. There is little extra room for rear passengers and entry exit for them is hardly improved. Is there more room for cargo? Hardly.

The other issues for us are styling, torque steer, and bad rear visibility. The appeal of the Mini Cooper is that it looks good. This one does not. It is certainly unique. But the designers managed to detract from the nice lines of the beloved Mini Cooper. Torque steer is very noticeable as well under spirited driving. We feel that steering is the strongest suit of the Mini Cooper but one cannot overlook constant pull and kickback of the steering while driving aggressively on mountain roads. Finally, the rear window of this car is small and it is blocked by big door bars going right down the middle. Classic maybe, but certainly not functional.

2008 MINI Cooper S Clubman

This is a really stylish and eclectic car. It’s different and it stands out and the ideal buyer values the style and lifestyle of the Mini Clubman. The car benefits from the power, handling and mileage of the new Mini Cooper line. But there are many weaknesses outlined above. We believe the key decision is the space. Given the compromises, does the Clubman deliver enough room to justify it’s quirks. For us, it doesn’t add up. We like the standard Cooper S just fine and if we want a little more room, there are many better options out there. But for the individual who likes Cooper line and wants to stand out from the rest and have a little extra room, this can be a unique solution.

Build Interior Performance Handling Styling Value Overall
Rating 4.75 4.75 4.5 4.5 3.25 4.0 4.2/B+

MINI USAThe official MINI of North America website – www.miniusa.com

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