What is it?
Sir Alec Issigonis is famed for his quotes as well as his Mini, and looking at the new Mini Clubman All4, I’m reminded of one in particular: “The public don’t know what they want; it’s my job to tell them.” Could that apply to the All4? Do we really want a four-wheel-drive Mini Clubman, and will many of you buy one?
Perhaps let’s put the philosophy of it to one side and for the moment concentrate on the All4’s oily bits instead. The four-wheel drive works on demand, so when you are bowling along the road, heading roughly in a straight line, all the power goes to the front wheels; that saves around 30% in frictional losses.
When things get tricky, an electronically controlled ‘hang-on’ clutch mounted in front of the rear differential can switch power to the rear wheels in an instant.
The system is designed not just to react to wheel slip but to predict it as well, considering factors such as throttle position, steering angle, wheel speeds and lateral and longitudinal acceleration. If it thinks you need some rear bias, it engages the rear diff.
It also uses the stability program to replicate a limited-slip front diff, braking the inside wheel during cornering and sending drive to the outside wheel with better traction.
Talking to the Mini engineers, it seems they wanted a sporty, rear-wheel drive feel. After weeks spent in Sweden’s Arctic Circle tuning the All4’s system to drift, they reckon they’ve cracked it.