Mini Clubman to get the 'Works,' four-door Hardtop not so much

Performance sub-brands are expanding faster than leftover marshmallow Peeps in a microwave. And Mini's John Cooper Works line is not likely to be an exception.

Mini's stand at the New York Auto Show was somewhat low-key, with the debut of the Clubman All4 all-wheel-drive variant on one end and the expected John Cooper Works Convertible on the other. And for the foreseeable future, the Mini lineup will change through redesigns of existing models and the introduction of more derivatives – like a John Cooper Works version of the new Clubman. At least that's what some of Mini's product guys indicated.

"The Works is always our top model. John Cooper Works is not just limited to small cars, it's also for compact cars," said Ralph Mahler, Mini's head product manager, in an interview with Autoblog at the New York Auto Show. "Therefore, I wouldn't see anything against bringing the Works to the Clubman. I think it would be a perfect match."

2015 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop

Though one was offered in the last generation, a Works model may seem at odds with the new Clubman's mission, as the company has spent considerable effort pitching it as the grown-up Mini, something to rival premium-branded compacts. Yet Mahler sees a possible Works Clubman as the ultimate in the lineup and an exclusive model, especially since he said take rate for the rest of the Works Minis is around 5 percent. Patrick McKenna, Head of Product Planning at Mini USA, said that since the Clubman went on sale early this year, ordering has included mostly highly optioned models, and customers are notably cross-shopping the Audi A3. Loaded up, a Clubman Cooper S All4 pushes past the $45,000 mark.

Currently, the most powerful Cooper S produces 189 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbo four. That's more power than a front-drive A3 1.8T, but less than the A3 2.0T Quattro – and way less than a cheaper Volkswagen Golf GTI. Consider that the engine in the just-released John Cooper Works Convertible produces 30 more horses than the one in the Cooper S and a Works Clubman starts to make more sense.

Strangely, the four-door Mini Hardtop, released last year, doesn't appear to be destined for the Works treatment. McKenna said the four-door will continue to offer special appearance packages that offer Works-like touches and offer dealer-installed accessories such as exhausts and horsepower increases.

And despite the addition of all-wheel drive to the Clubman, Mahler poured cold water on the idea of something like a Clubman " Allroad," a jacked-up version of the six-door hatchback in the vein of the Audi A4-based Allroad wagon or the Volvo V60 Cross Country.

"We say if someone wants to have a higher vehicle, we have the Countryman," Mahler said. "We want to separate them as they are today, we don't want to bring them closer together." Count that as a win for people who still want cars to look like cars.

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