300bhp-plus MINI Clubman JCW targets Focus RS

17 Nov, 2015 2:40pm Richard Ingram

Exclusive image shows look of sizzling new four-wheel-drive Brit, set to battle Focus RS and Audi RS3 with uprated 2.0-litre turbo

MINI is looking to hit Volkswagen and Ford where it hurts, with a new 300bhp four-wheel-drive hot JCW hatchback – and our exclusive image shows how it could look.

Auto Express has received exclusive information from a MINI insider about the brand’s desire to up the ante in its hot hatch range. Our source told us: “There’s room for expansion in the hot hatch market.”

They added: “I think there is potential. Britain is the home of MINI, and Britain is a strong market for the hot hatch.”

When pushed for more information, we were told that there are no plansfor a five-door John Cooper Works, but that the Clubman is “different turf”.

Our insider’s comments back up spy shots. And with MINI pitching the new Clubman at a different audience to the outgoing car, a hot version would target the recent influx of super-powerful hatches.

The standard Clubman is bigger, faster and more efficient than before, and is now aimed at models like the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. So a hot version would need at least 230bhp to battle the likes of the Golf GTI or Focus ST. But our source hinted MINI had its sights set a little higher.

“Look at that market,” we were told. “Most are four-wheel drive.” This suggests MINI is looking to topple cars like the all-wheel-drive Focus RS and Audi RS3. Our source added: “We can integrate the ALL4 system, and it won’t be long before we communicate something in this direction.”

Both the Focus and RS3 have upwards of 345bhp, can cover 0-62mph in less than five seconds and top 150mph. The four-wheel-drive systems mean they can put their power down in all weather, too.

Our insider wouldn’t elaborate on what would power the super-Clubman, but an uprated version of the MINI’s existing 2.0-litre turbo seems likely. This engine is used largely unchanged in the BMW 3 Series – it’s found in the 330i with as much as 249bhp. That car does 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, so a lighter, more powerful, four-wheel-drive JCW could easily slash another second off that time.

The hot Clubman is also expected to be offered with manual and automatic gearboxes. We were told: “It was the right choice to offer the flexibility of the six-speed automatic and manual in the existing JCW. There’s an almost equal 50:50 sales split.”

Setting it apart from the Cooper S are likely to be unique alloys, sporty red trim and pumped-up wheelarches. The bonnet scoop and LED daytime running lights will be carried over from the S, with MINI’s extensive list of options – including adaptive dampers and sports exhaust – available, too.

The boisterous powertrain could also make its way into the all-new Countryman SUV, due in the next two years. Although our source expressed the MINI team’s desire to take on the four-wheel-drive mega hatches, any super-hot MINI is at least a couple of years away.

Rivals: What JCW has to beat

Audi RS3

At £40,795, the RS3 offers supercar pace in a practical package. Five-cylinder engine gives 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds

Mercedes-AMG A45

AMG-tuned A 45 is currently the most powerful hot hatch on sale. Its 376bhp turbo delivers 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds

Ford Focus RS

Ford rewrote the hot hatch rulebook when it announced that the 345bhp Focus RS would be priced at less than £30,000

Volkswagen Golf R

Just as the JCW MINI will be, the Golf R is offered with manual or auto boxes – the latter cuts 0-62mph time by four-tenths