2013 MINI PACEMAN REVIEW
What’s Hot: AWD grip, brilliant steering, entertaining exhaust noises
What’s Not: Expensive; comfort (we like) but lacks the razor handling of other JCWs
X-Factor: The most practical of all MINIs, the JCW is fun at the wheel as well as being a very usable daily driver.
Vehicle Style: Performance Compact SUV
Engine/trans: 160kW/280Nm 1.6 turbo petrol 4cyl (300Nm with overboost) | 6sp manual / 6sp auto
Price (plus on-roads)
MINI JCW Paceman ALL4 manual - $58,600
MINI JCW Countryman ALL4 manual - $56,800
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.0 l/100km (JCW Countryman manual), 8.0 l/100km (JCW Paceman manual)
But now there are two more to choose from, the John Cooper Works Paceman and John Cooper Works Countryman. This brings the total to seven and makes MINI the only manufacturer to offer a high-performance version of every bodystyle in its stable.
They are also the first four-wheel-drive vehicles to wear a JCW badge.
But as the largest, tallest and heaviest MINI’s around, are the Paceman and Countryman worthy of the JCW nameplate? We travelled to Tasmania to test them out on some of the Southern State’s more challenging roads.
JCW-specific interior flourishes are limited to a black headliner, more heavily-bolstered front seats, JCW steering wheel, piano black trim and red contrast-stitching.
Elsewhere, the standard spec sheet has all the basics covered. Bluetooth telephony, multifunction audio controls on the steering wheel, a USB audio input and a thumping 10-speaker harman/kardon stereo system are all included.
There's also an auto-dimming rear view mirror, rear parking sensors, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps and rain-sensing wipers.
The taller bodies of both the Paceman and Countryman allow a better view of the road ahead, but the high, upright seating position feels anything but sporty.
That said, in the Countryman you get the most practical interior of all MINIs. A three-person rear bench is standard and the two extra doors means accessing that bench doesn’t require the skills of a circus contortionist.
The Countryman’s boot is also a healthy size... for a MINI.
At 350 litres, it’s not huge, but it’s 20 litres more than the Paceman and 60 litres more than the most capacious front-drive JCW, the Clubman.
Comfort in either the JCW Paceman or JCW Countryman is good, but the front seats could use better side bolstering to help keep torsos in place during hard cornering.
There’s also the typical ergonomic complaints regarding the pointlessness of the central speedometer, the positioning of important switchgear at the base of the centre stack, the intrusiveness of the central armrest and, of course, that silly handbrake lever.
ON THE ROAD
On the twisty, lumpy and frequently damp backroads out of Hobart, the JCW Countryman and JCW Paceman shone.
There was actually a lot more ride compliance than we were expecting, and although each comes with plenty of body roll, we were impressed with how composed each remained through corners.
While other JCWs ride like rollerskates, the Countryman and Paceman are anything but.
As a consequence neither feels as razor-sharp as their smaller siblings, but we’re willing to bet that the comfort advantage will be very appreciated by owners.
Both the JCW Countryman and JCW Paceman are powered by the same 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol four, which produces 160kW of power, and a maximum of 300Nm of torque.
That’s slightly more than the FWD JCW models (and 20Nm more torque than the JCW GP flagship), but thanks to the extra heft of their larger bodies and AWD drivetrains, the Paceman and Countryman are the slowest in the JCW range.
From rest, the JCW Paceman will hit triple-digit speeds in 6.9 seconds, while the Countryman is fractionally slower at 7.0 seconds. That's far from shabby, and, on road, both feel brisk.
In greasy conditions, the all wheel-drive advantage becomes clear. While the JCW Clubman that we also drove on the road loop struggled to put power down out of damp corners, the Paceman and Countryman simply hooked in and took off.
In normal conditions 50 percent of drive is taken to the rear axle by MINI’s ALL4 drivetrain, however up to 100 percent can be diverted rearwards if the situation demands it. As a result, traction under power is pretty hard to beat.
Happily, steering feel and weight haven’t been adversely changed by the adoption of AWD.
The electrically-assisted steering of both the Paceman and Countryman is direct and communicative, and the weighting becomes even meatier when you stab the “Sport” switch.
It’s a loud car inside, though. The noise of the run-flat tyres (Dunlops on the Countryman, Pirellis on the Paceman) and the buzz of the engine permeates the cabin, and the exhaust becomes even more raucous when in Sport mode.
We don't mind it at all; in our opinion, if you buy a performance car and complain about the noise, you’re probably better off settling on something a little more sedate.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Although they’re heavier, slower, more expensive and not quite as sharp in a corner, they’re the most sensible cars in MINI’s performance garage.
They’re easier to see out of, easier to get into, more comfortable on surfaces that aren’t racetrack-smooth and grippier when the weather turns sour.
If you want a practical JCW, these are the cars for you.
Granted, the styling won’t tick everyone’s boxes, and at $56,800 for the JCW Countryman and $58,600 for the JCW Paceman these are the most expensive MINIs you can buy - and that’s before you delve into MINI’s incredibly lengthy options list.
We’d probably leave the Paceman in the showroom, but the Countryman holds appeal as a car with hot-hatch pace and small wagon practicality.