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Those who thought they were getting the biggest Mini when they bought a Clubman didn’t get to enjoy that distinction for long. The new Countryman was released shortly after, and it offered everything the Clubman had plus a higher ride height and a more conventional liftgate. Should Clubman owners feel buyer’s remorse? After driving both, I don’t think so.
The Countryman rides on the same 105.1-inch wheelbase as the Clubman, but it’s 1.5 inches longer, 4.6 inches taller, and just under an inch wider. Those increased dimensions benefit rear-seat space the most. Rear legroom in the Countryman is 3.3 inches greater than in the Clubman. However, front legroom sacrifices 1 inch. But cargo volume, surprisingly, is about the same in both vehicles. That’s the general impression you get when you step inside the interior, too. You don’t really notice the difference in space going from one to the other.
You will notice the Countryman’s slightly less agile handling, however. The crossover’s higher center of gravity means more body roll, though not a lot more. It’s still fun to toss the Countryman around a curvy freeway on-ramp, especially when equipped with All4 all-wheel drive. With virtually identical specs, the Countryman S All4 and Clubman S All4 perform very similarly. The heavier Countryman took 0.2 second longer (7.2 seconds) to get to 60 mph and needed an additional 19 feet (126 feet) to stop from 60 mph. The Countryman went around the figure eight in 26.8 seconds versus 26.5 in the Clubman.
Although the two cars look close on paper, the experience behind the wheel can be much different. The Countryman has a higher seating position, so you lose the low, planted feeling you have in the Clubman. Visibility is better in the Countryman because you have an unobstructed rear view, thanks to a traditional liftgate. That rear opening will be more convenient more often, but I’ve found the Clubman’s barn doors to be handy when I just want to quickly throw something in the back.
Choosing between the Clubman and the Countryman comes down to preference—would you rather feel like you’re driving a crossover or a wagon? But would a Clubman owner feel left out choosing the S instead of the range-topping John Cooper Works model? There would be some performance envy, but not as much as you might think. The Clubman JCW (shown below in black with red accents) is powered by the same 2.0-liter turbo as the S, but it’s tuned to 228 hp and 258 lb-ft—up 39 hp and 51 lb-ft from the S model. That equates to a 0.6-second drop in its 0–60 and quarter-mile times. The JCW only comes in all-wheel drive and gets a unique sport suspension or an optional adaptive damper system. Combined, the JCW’s performance goodies result in a 25.8-second figure-eight lap—0.7 second quicker than the Clubman S All4.
The JCW is tremendously fun to drive, especially when equipped with the slick-shifting six-speed manual like our tester, but you get about 80 percent of that same experience driving the Clubman S. I do wish our long-termer got the newest version of the Mini Connected infotainment system available on later-build 2017 models. The display features sharper graphics and Mini’s first touchscreen, which makes inputting addresses much easier. Starting in July, newly built Clubman models offer Apple CarPlay compatibility.
By picking the Clubman S All4, you’ll miss out on the few extra thrills of the Clubman JCW and the more crossoverlike driving experience of the Countryman, but it won’t be enough to make you want to trade it in for a different Mini.
More on the Mini Clubman Cooper S ALL4 here: