In the early days of Mini's relaunch, it seemed as though the small car manufacturer could survive on one or two niche products catering to driving enthusiasts. Now that a decade has passed, the quirky enthusiast brand is looking to expand by zeroing in on even more specialized markets. At the 2011 Detroit Auto Show Mini will unveil a two-door crossover concept called the Paceman.
Resembling a cross between the Mini Coupe and Countryman, the Paceman is built on the same platform as the Countryman and designed to use the John Cooper Works 211-horsepower, turbocharged, 1.6-liter I-4 engine. The adaptation of Mini's ALL4 all-wheel-drive system allows owners to feel as rugged as a flannel shirt while cruising mall parking lots in washed-silk comfort. In normal driving, ALL4 sends 100-percent of the power to the front axle, but an electromagnetic center differential allows as much as half of the car's power to be sent to the rear axle in low-grip situations. The suspension system is also lifted from the Countryman using a MacPherson strut in front with a multi-link system in back. Mini states that the Paceman delivers typical Mini agility and confidence while maintaining the compliant and comfortable ride customers expect in this segment.
Styling of the Paceman is described by Mini as urban, sporting and masculine. The idea of an urban off-roader seems oxymoronic, possibly even light on the "oxy" part, but it's hard to deny that our initial peek does look interesting. The renderings make us think that every panel on the car is bespoke. If the Paceman does see production, odds are it will share some pieces with other Mini offerings for cost saving.
The interior already looks as if it shares some pieces with the Countryman using the same dual center rail system and four individual seats. The styling is classic Mini featuring a large center-mounted speedometer and large round air vents. The martini holders look to be a new touch, obviously a necessity for attracting the urban, rugged, masculine demographic Mini is shooting for with this crossover.
We are anxious for the unveiling of this car at NAIAS this year and see how it stands on its own. Many manufacturers are counting on the buying public's interest to remain in crossovers, even in segments where they may not seem like a natural fit. Classic Minis were built in numerous varieties ranging from delivery vans to near bodiless beach cruisers. Will modern Mini be able to attract enough new customers to justify all these different models, or will new variants cannibalize sales from existing cars. What do you think: has Mini found something that will hit or miss?