That tally of alterations should whet the appetite of enthusiasts, but they’ll be needed given how underwhelming the old JCW was – its mediocre performance meant it barely justified the not insubstantial premium over the regular Cooper S.
However, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the welcome improvements here. It now has the straight-line pace to challenge the hot hatch elite that surrounds it at this price point - Mini nominates the Mercedes-AMG A35 as its main competitor here.
Power from the reworked 2.0-litre engine leaps to a gratifyingly competitive 302bhp – enough for a sub-five second 0-62mph sprint. A stint on a quiet autobahn saw the new 155mph limiter – the first needed on any Mini - reached with little drama, with what felt like a bit more in reserve.
While its standard eight-speed automatic 'box and unflappable all-wheel drive means it pulls away in the same undramatic yet ruthlessly efficient way as a VW Golf R, you now get a good shove in the back and the punchy top-end that was sorely lacking in the old car. Put simply, the performance gap between this and the Cooper S is obvious and welcome.
It even sounds pretty good - not as not as in-yer-face as something like a Hyundai i30 N but raucous enough to give it en edge. In terms of potency, only the extra interaction afforded by a manual gearbox (not offered, as is becoming the norm, because it wouldn’t really sell) would further increase the sensation of speed.
Despite the thorough chassis hardware revisions detailed above, Mini engineers state the aim wasn’t to radically alter the way this car handled. So the hottest Clubman still majors on secure grip levels and stable body control rather than outright entertainment.
Grip of the unstickable kind is the order of the day here: throw the JCW into a bend and it turns in keenly, the Michelin Super Sport tyres beginning to squeal without it relinquishing your chosen line, which it holds tenaciously when powering out thanks to a proper mechanical diff.
Unfortunately, finding that line still take a bit of trial and error, owing to the Clubman’s overly darty, responsive steering. With Mini preferring an immediate feel rather than a gradual build-up around the dead-ahead, it can be difficult to turn pick a cornering line with confidence without making frequent small corrections. Such aggressive responses increase the feeling of agility, but would better suit a small hot hatch than something with this much mass.