ThunderBeast our Gen 1 GP went into MINI for a service and some new shocks and bushes and while it was in the garage MINI lent us a MINI Clubman Diesel to try.
It came in pepper white with black roof and no packages on it, which allowed us to weigh up what you got if you didn’t go mad on the options tick list. A basic but perfectly useable sat nav is standard and again the radio is perfectly useable but basic in sound. The cloth non sport seats were comfortable enough and the steering wheel was adjustable for height and reach. The Diminutive Lady P was perfectly comfortable behind the wheel and it was also clear that the 6 footers of this world would have plenty of room too. Luggage space and room in the back was fine too. The option list was miles long and you could make this a luxury compact cruiser very easily.
It’s handsome. It’s elegant.
This was a big surprise. The diesel is faster than our SD Paceman coming with 150 hp and 300nm and it was a very nippy and forgiving engine. Our Paceman punishes you if you are in the wrong gear, while this one is much more forgiving and therefore flattering to an average driver. It is also refined lacking the industrial feeling of the R55 basic Diesel and the R55 SD. If /when the SD comes along I would expect something rather special having sampled this one.
Neither of us are F1 drivers or track trained drivers so we know nothing. But the car felt tidy to us. Very nippy, nice gear changes, smooth braking. The most grown up MINI we have ever driven.
As owners of a Coupe and a Paceman, we have had to listen to a lot of nonsense along the lines of, “ yeah but it’s not a MINI is it.” Well the Clubman I think has finally cracked this bugbear. By a countryman mile this is so not a MINI, so completely unlike any other MINI, so different in sophistication than anything before it. Yet this seems to be getting accepted. I hope it does it deserves to. As soon as you see it you know it’s a MINI (this is also true of Paceman’s Countryman’s and Coupe’s) yet it adds a level of sophistication to the driving and ride not seen before.
Would I have one? You bet I would. I’d stop short of the JCW. I’d have an SD or an S. I would tick all the options, including automatic gearbox and create a luxury compact cruiser. It would cost about £35k, which is why the order has to wait for the lottery win before it is placed, but place it I would.
ThunderBeast is our first generation MINI GP. He has just returned from the garage where he has had a full service, two new front bushes, two new front shocks, a couple of oil leaks fixed and a perishing petrol cap replaced. It was good having him back. This is a car that makes you want to write about something as simple as just driving him…
I clocked out of work early, I had suffered enough pain from the cancer in my back. I wanted to rest. First though I was relishing the drive home in ThunderBeast – Our MINI GP1. As I crossed the work car park I clicked the remote and heard a faint click as the remote control opened. My heart matched the click. My mind had been conjuring with a catch phrase for the car. Mini has the “blow the bloody doors off” and Glennister has made “Fire up the Quattro” a modern classic.
I slid into the full leather Recaro seat. “Gun up the GP Ade” I said to myself, at the same time putting the heated seat on to comfort my aching back. The revs as it started hinted at the symphony the car promised to play to me. I reversed out of my parking space slow, real slow, prolonging the moment. Work colleagues were watching me. I was real slow, they were probably wondering where my Trilby was. I crawled past them giving a quick wave.
The road outside the factory was a thirty. Full of pot holes and abandoned cars and lorries on the pavements and road. Schoolkids were passing along. I took it slow to the lights at the top of the road. I was at the front at the lights. I gunned the throttle as I took a right and hit 40 in seconds.The supercharger whined. The Limited slip did its work on the bend. How do I explain the pleasure that move just gave me.
I slowed up to the roundabout then shot through it, stopping on a red light on the roundabout stopping me entering onto the motorway. A green light and I whizzed up to 70 as I went down the slip way, easing off as I did so.The supercharger whined, the exhaust popped as I let off. The car was playing its favourite tune.Driving this is not about speeding, I know how fast it will go, it’s having fun but legal fun.
I cruised along the motorway for one stop.I looked around the cockpit of the GP. Near vertical A-panels gave it a tank like feel. Things looked huge in the rear view mirror and the side mirrors. The gray instruments looked special. The loops of silver gray in the door panels gave it a rally car feel. It feels like a very special place.
Off the motorway now and exiting Upton’s 30 limit onto a 60. Two cars ahead were dawdling along. I lined them up and floored the GP. “Waaaaaaaaaarrrrrp!” went the supercharger as we flew past them. At 60 they were out of sight behind and I reined him in. Again the exhaust popped. My heart was a part of the car. It popped too as it recovered from the “warp” that shot through my chest.
I got home. Peanut was waiting for me on our steps. She hugged me and kissed me. Was she kissing Beastmaster or Steve McQueen? How should I know, I mean inside I felt like Steve McQueen.