I had an absolutely brilliant time behind the wheel of a prototype JCW Countryman on snowy Austrian alpine roads last winter. The first-ever all-wheel-drive John Cooper Works was a blast to drive as it dug in with all four, and rocketed out of corners with snow flying violently at the guardrails. MINI’s new JCW Paceman is mechanically based upon this car with which it shares most metal bits – and take my word: that’s a great thing.
My full review of the JCW Countryman can be read here, but let me fill you in on how these JCW-leading dynamics translate over to the new-to-the-stable Paceman.
First off, the new JCW Paceman is a sleeker, sexier, two-door version of the Countryman – it’s to the Countryman what BMW’s X6 is to the X5. Sitting on the same platform, with similar suspension bits, engine, brakes, electronic-assist steering, etc, the JCW Paceman is essentially a sexified version of its four-door brethren. It is handsome in person. I must say, it looks far more aggressive – more masculine even – in person than it does in photos.
The single twin-scroll turbo engine measures 1.6 liters in displacement and churns out 208 hp at 6,000 rpm. Maximum torque reads 207 lb-ft at 1,700 rpm – in typical MINI fashion, this torque sits flat across the rev-band. Power is transferred to the ground compliments of Getrag’s snappy 6-speed manual box. It’s a pleasure to work through the gates and thanks to great petal placement, the JCW Paceman can be heel-and-toe’d through its gears with ease, just like its four door brother. A 6 speed auto is also available, but for Pete’s sake (and the sake of anyone else who loves driving) – get the manual.
The JCW Paceman manages a claimed 0 to 60-mph time of 6.5 seconds. This doesn’t sound too hairy, but when you put this cat on snowy roads, its performance is grippy and electrifying. If you press on, you’ll eventually hit 127 mph, but this car is not about terminal velocity. The JCW Paceman also sports an aero package that reduces lift and cuts through the air. Check out those spectacular 19″ wheels: me likey.
When you cross shop against the competition from the likes of, say, Subaru’s STI, you’ll find the JCW Paceman to be a true fuel miser. The manual received an EPA rating of 25 mpg city / 31 highway. These are impressive numbers for a car that begs to behave badly.
Transferring all of this power to the wheels is MINI’s standard issue “ALL4″ all-wheel-drive system. ALL4 is based on MINI’s front-wheel drive drivetrain, but adds an electronically modulated power-take-off differential sending twist to the rear wheels. Typical driving will see power sent exclusively to the front wheels, though during spirited blasts you could see as much as 100% of the power routed to the front wheels, or 60% routed to the rear wheels – giving the car a surprisingly rear-wheel drive feel while accelerating out of corners. At 120 km/h the transfer case begins to tapper off the amount of power sent to the rear wheels, until the wet multi-plate clutch-pack is completely opened at 140 km/h, rendering the car front-wheel-drive only above this speed for reasons of fuel conservation.
If I was handed a blank MINI cheque and had to chose (this is a good problem to have), I would have to sign for the new MINI JCW GP. Drool. But second to that (and let’s say I’ve got a significant other poking my side about room for 4) I would invariably pick the new JCW Paceman. Or JCW Countryman if I really need 4 doors; I just fell for the looks of the Paceman.
Fill out your blank cheque for $35,000 USD and get ready to hand it in when the JCW Paceman arrives at a MINI showroom near you in March of this year.