The launch of the Clubman and Countryman John Cooper Works models were the first and last for Mini South Africa in 2019.
Unveiled to local motoring media in the Lowveld, the two newcomers boast the highest power outputs of any Mini in the automaker’s 60-year history.
In both models, 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, with 225kW (50KW more) and 450Nm (100Nm more) is linked to a new 8-speed automatic sports transmission, including the mechanical differential lock on the front axle.
Mini has given the performance duo drive to all four wheels, a bespoke engineered chassis and reinforced the body structure, engine connection, and chassis fastenings.
Visual updates to the Clubman include two new colours, new headlights, piano black mirrors, and Union Jack-designed taillights. Inside, there’s a new gear lever and an updated version of Mini Connected Drive.
What’s it like to drive?
Let me be clear, the Clubman hasn't lost its fun-factor driving ability. I'm not a fan of the thicker sport's steering wheels offered in BMW Group cars and had to get used to the helm in the JCW.
Our test route consisted of Mpumalanga's beautiful, winding passes with majestic views. But my concentration was firmly focused on the task at hand: put the Clubman through its paces on the mountain passes and revel in the power of the JCW's 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (also found in the X2 M35i).
I changed between Green (eco), Mid and Sport modes to feel the difference and it is tangible. In the latter mode, there's a lovely weightiness to the steering that induces a Faf De Klerk-like grin.
The car does suffer from torque steer when pulling away but that's part of the charm of the car, it certainly isn't unruly in that manner.
It pulls strongly from low down the rev range and I shifted at around 4500 r/min to taste the full 450Nm.
The engine works well in this package, it is mated to an 8-speed auto and gears can be changed via the paddle shifts. Mini quotes a 4.9 second 0-100km/h sprint time and top speed is limited to 250km/h, oh and there's launch control too.
Mini says in normal driving conditions with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) activated, the four-wheel-drive system transmits the drive torque in a Mini-esque way to the front wheels. This allows the engine power to be converted into forward propulsion with maximum efficiency.
If there is any slip detected on the front wheels, Mini reckons within a fraction of a second, the hang-on clutch will transfer the drive torque to the rear wheels with the aid of an electrohydraulic pump.
The car's set up has seen changes to the front camber, suspension and damping systems, DSC and steering to create the sporty flagship. The downsides are a harsh ride, admittedly the Lowveld's patchy roads compounded it.
Image:Mini / Rob Till
While the 4.3-metre long Clubman might look ungainly to some, I prefer its squat, long profile compared to the compact SUV stance of the Countryman.
Inside, the updates include a 16cm infotainment circular touchscreen with newly designed graphics. Other standard equipment includes LED headlamps, keyless entry and start, and the trio of driving modes to choose from.
The JCW also adds a more distinctive exhaust note courtesy of a modified exhaust note. It sounds more 'Beast' Mtawarira than England's Billy Vunipola.
The Clubman JCW is a mini-performance wagon, albeit with six doors (two at the rear). And it's bloody good fun to drive.
Clubman Cooper - R433 000
Clubman John Cooper Works R642 000
Countryman John Cooper Works - R715 590
Image:Mini / Rob Till