2009 Mini Clubman S


Three point two. That’’s how many inches they added to the standard Mini’’s wheelbase to create the Clubman. Doesn’’t sound like much.


But it’’s huge.


For starters, a real live person can fit in the back seat now. With me up front and comfy, Zak the Intern sat in back without complaining about loss of feeling in his extremities. The trunk goes from able to hold a measly ½ body to now about ¾ of one. Put the seats down, and they actually make a flat section instead of a ramp like in the regular Cooper. Plenty of space for a dog, a tent, and enough supplies to spend a week in the woods.


We even saw a young family test drive one before us. The child seat fit in the Clubman; not so much in the standard Cooper.


Now let me give you two more numbers: six point two, and one eight seven. That is 6.2 inches extra hanging off beyond the rear wheels, and 187 extra pounds to lug around.

I’’ve read a few articles where the tester said they couldn’’t discern any difference in handling between the two models. They lied. Drive them back-to-back, and the Clubman feels less nimble in the twisty bits. More ponderous. Less likely to slot that gap up ahead.


Then there’’s the S version we tested. On paper, the turbo adds 54 horses and 63 pound-feet of torque. That’’s an increase of 45% and 55% respectively over the base model. That’’s not an insignificant sum. Give your current car a 50% boost in power and try not to shout for joy.


And yet it felt slower off the line. I know, I know; the numbers say otherwise. But the seat of the pants is where my joy buzzer lives, and it didn’’t get the same spanking I got in the non-turbo model.


Mini says the twin-scroll turbocharger they use eliminates the dreaded turbo lag. Sure. I grew up driving my mom’’s 1985 Volvo 240 Turbo. My current ride is also a turbocharged Volvo. I know lag when I see it. The Mini Cooper Clubman S lags like a champ. Once it’s spooled up, it feels much more sprightly than the unboosted model, but off the line or below 3000 RPM— where most people drive, —the non-S variant just feels quicker.


If you need back seats, the Clubman is a good car. It’’s still more fun to drive than 99% of the cars out there, and can hold all your crap. But if you don’’t schlep people or anything bigger than a few bags of groceries, then stick with the standard Mini.


S or non-S is a tougher call. The John Cooper Works model would be best, but we weren’’t allowed to test that one. And with a decent amount of options it creeps up toward thirty-five large, it sits squarely in BMW 1-series and Subaru STI territory.

In the end, the numbers don’t lie. 3.2, 6.2, 187.


Nor does this one:




We walked from the hotel to the used Mini dealership. In England, their certified used program is called “Mini Cherished.” Or programme. Damn Brits and their funny spellings. We’’d already done a road test of the Clubman back in the U.S., but I’’d made a promise to the Generalissimo that we’’d at least ask about trying one on this side of the pond.


“”No. Never,”” the salesman said.


“”Well, we tried,”” I said.


The Generalissimo ignored me. He got into the nearest shit-brown Clubman S. The chocolate leather with white piping (actually called Hot Chocolate on the British version) was nice if not excessive. Mini’’s leather interiors are soft, but look loose, like they didn’’t properly batten down the hatches over in the stitching department.


I leaned into the open window on the passenger side. Seemed a little odd, as I was where the driver’’s seat would be back home. I’’d been told the British started driving on the left back when they used horses, that way a rider would be able to draw his sword and counter an attack. Seemed like a stupid tradition to continue with, but there you go. Welcome to England.


“”Sir,”” I said. “”They aren’’t going to—”–“


“”Does the radio work?!”” the Generalissimo yelled without looking up from the wheel.


“”Um, I believe so.”” The salesman walked off to ask.


“”Quickly, young Thurman! Get in!””


I got in. He bobbed his eyebrows, then dangled the key fob between his fingers.


“”You didn’’t,”” I said.


“”I did!”” He jammed the fob into the slot and pressed the Start button.


“”Ah, crap.””


The salesman came running out at the sound, but he was too late. With an excessive amount of wheel spin, the Clubman S launched through the plate glass window. We bounced off the sidewalk and onto the pavement.


“”Wrong lane!”” I yelped.




A double-decker bus swerved to miss us. The Generalissimo stayed where he was.


“”Not the bus!”” I screamed. “”We’re in the wrong lane!””


He sapped his forehead. “”My bad!””


He swerved. I looked back. Our “escort” from Scotland Yard was still there, only they’’d picked up the pace and set their blues and twos to “disco inferno


“”You stole a car,”” I said.




“”In front of the gentlemen from the local constabulary who think we’re terrorists.””






“”You said we could!””


“I did not!””


“”Did too!””


“”Did not!””




“”Did not—–red light!””


He ignored me and slotted us through an impossibly small gap in three lanes of traffic. I put my seatbelt on and made the sign of the cross. I’’m not Catholic, so it’’s entirely possible I did it wrong.


The Generalissimo took us on a rambling tour of London. By the time we reached Trafalgar Square, our cop escort had grown from one angry car to seven.


“”I’’m not gonna do well in prison,”” I said.


““You’’ll do fine! Just don’’t drop the soap!””


“”That’’s you’re advice? Don’t drop the soap?! Are you insane?””


“”Four out of five dentists say yes!””


We cut around the top of the square, up by the entrance to the National Gallery. The cops must have done this a time or two before, because they’’d split up and were about to pin us in.


“”Time for the suspension test!””


“”Oh…God…”” I tucked into the fetal position.


He spun the wheel and yanked up the parking brake. We slid sideways. The Vauxhaul Astras coming our way slammed on their brakes. We stopped; they stopped. The Generalissimo rolled down his window.


“”We are playing follow the leader!”” he yelled at them. “”See if you can keep up!”” He saluted, then spun the wheels and shot us down the steps toward Nelson’’s Column.


“”Good suspension!”” he cried over the sound of us bounding down the stairs.

Glad he thought so. My teeth disagreed. I looked out the rear window. The cops chose not to follow us down, but were having a hard time getting turned around.


““I like this car!””


“”Brakes!”” I yelled.


“”Yes! We have brakes!””


He ignored the tourists out sunning themselves on the steps who fled as we tried very hard to use them as bowling pins. Soon it was over. We hit Whitehall and blasted off to points unknown.




“”We should dump the car, then—”–” I started to say about ten minutes later.


“”Never! Not until we have completed our mission!””


“”The test drive? Are you nuts? Don’’t answer that.””


“”No, my young friend. Our time spent at Scotland Yard was no accident. My dear friend Elizabeth contacted me with an urgent request, one I was only too glad to accept.””


I hated it when he stopped screaming. It meant I was about to get shot at. Again.


“”What was the request?”” Yeah, I’’d pretty much resigned myself to an imminent demise.


“”Her prized Corgi has been taken. We must retrieve it.””


“”And do you know where it is?””


““Absolutely! I think!””




“”A pet store? Really?””


“”She won’t know the difference!””


“”I’’m thinking she will.””


“”That’’s why we got the spray paint!””


I didn’’t bother getting back into the car. I made a left, hopped on a bus with my Oyster card, went back to the hotel and, with a little luck, incarceration at one of the finer British institutions.


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