Mini’s Clubman, a vehicle the B&B won’t stop talking about, could undergo significant changes for its next iteration — not just in terms of style, but perhaps in terms of size. If word out of Britain is anything to go on, the Clubman wagon could morph into something larger and more palatable to American audiences.
It could become a crossover.
Mini needs a fifth core model that stays true to the brand’s heritage while drawing in more customers, but the man in charge of the brand doesn’t like sedans.
Unless a previously unknown model crawls out of Mini’s history, one side of the dilemma will have to give up ground.
Ralph Mahler, Mini’s vice-president of product development, sparked sedan rumors earlier this month when he said a conventional four-door makes good business sense, especially in the U.S. and Asia. His boss doesn’t disagree, but hates the idea.
This past Sunday night, I wandered over to my local movie theater to catch Black Mass. Although I’m suffering from a bit of Joel-Edgerton-related-ennui lately and I never really got over the idea of Hey, that’s Johnny Depp in makeup, I had to admit that overall, it was a tightly plotted and thoroughly entertaining film. More importantly, it had an absolutely killer lineup of Malaise-era automobiles, including an utterly stunning ’78 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight with a white leather interior. In fact, until the moment that a 1980 Citation makes an unexpected and rather violent appearance on the scene, it’s nothing but wall-to-wall Seventies sedans. Just the way I like it.
I remember that as a child my grandparents complained about the squared-off, generic appearance of pretty much everything for sale in the post-Nixon era. I can sympathize a bit because although every car sold in the Fifties also looked just like every other car for sale, the general template of the Bel Air/Fairlane/et al was appealing and colorful and optimistic. But even if you don’t care for the ’74 Malibu Classic or the ’79 Granada, at least they had proportions that emphasized width over height. The worst of them had a certain dignity.
Not so with today’s rolling toaster ovens. We’re rapidly approaching the era where every single car for sale will be some variant on the almighty CR-V. The latest sales data from Porsche and MINI simply hammer that home, with a uniquely depressing twist.
Mini unveiled its newest Clubman this week and the car, which is one foot longer and nearly 5 inches wider than the outgoing model, is now longer than a Jeep Wrangler.
The 14-foot-long four door will be four-inches shorter than a Mazda CX-3 and will sport the Hardtop’s duo of engines for Clubman and Clubman S models. The turbocharged I-3 will produce 134 horsepower in the Clubman, while the turbo four will bump up to 189 horsepower for the Clubman S. According to Mini, the Clubman S will sprint up to 60 mph in 7 seconds.
The Clubman is 10.9 inches longer than the 5-door Hardtop, with a 4-inch longer wheelbase and is nearly 3 inches wider. Rear passengers in the Clubman will get 2 more inches of legroom over the five-door Mini (34.3 vs. 32.3).
(And the five-door Hardtop exists, why?)
You could make a case for Mini’s Clubman being an ideal small-business/delivery vehicle. It’s large enough to carry bulky office items, small enough to park, stylish enough to be seen in, and gets decent fuel economy. One of the biggest criticisms of the Clubman, though, has nothing to do with its practicality- it’s that the bigger Mini doesn’t quite live up to the brand’s hard-earned performance heritage. That’s going to change, however, with the launch of the 2015 Mini Hybrid Clubman.
MINI’s new six-model lineup gets an early preview, as the Cooper, Convertible, Clubman, Countryman, Coupe and Roadster meet up outside MINI’s plant in Oxford, England. The Countryman SUV won’t arrive in the states until February 2011, with the Coupe and Roadster following by six and 12 months respectively.