Hands-on with the MINI JCW Paceman

In many ways the JCW Paceman is the car many of us have been waiting for. Equipped with all wheel drive, a retuned sports suspension, a JCW engine and a coupe-like shape, it’s an interesting proposition for MINI fans. The rest of the automotive press might not quite see the point, but we suspect more than a few of you will fall for the design, performance and utility. So we wanted to take a closer look at the range topping JCW Paceman now that is officially landed.

The stance of the car is the one thing that MINI has gotten right. Especially with the optional 19″ wheels, the Paceman finally fulfills the R6X platform in terms of that magic wheel to belt-line ratio. It may not be the lowered look some want but it’s a well engineered compromise that crossovers rarely get right. Then there are those rear hips. They’re one of the key reasons the Paceman looks better in person as photos can’t quite capture the dimensionality of them.

Inside the Paceman represents a huge step forward in seat design. Both the front and back receive completely new designs that have more aggressive bolstering and (crucially for us taller MINI drivers) a longer bottom seat cushion. Finished in lounge leather they are stunning and, outside of the optional Recaros in the R5X models, the best seats MINI has ever offered.

Much has been made about the window switches moving to the doors rather than the center toggles. It’s a change that makes sense to us. The toggles of course aren’t going away and now the window controls are where 99% of the population expects them. The switches themselves are relatively high quality metalized plastic that feel and look good up close.

Not since the MINI Roadster have we been more excited about a new model MINI. The JCW Paceman screams urban rally car to us and feels usable in a pinch for a small family. Yes it’s over 3,000 lbs and yes the JCW is still at 208 hp. But we suspect the sum of the parts, a unique design and a healthy dose of utility will make this a very special MINI.

Oh and that rear diffuser? Yes it’s functional.

  • Speck

    Hey Gabe – I’m considering a Paceman in May but wasn’t considering the JCW – mostly for cost reasons and because I’m not going to be racing it or pushing it too hard. Any thoughts on the S vs. the JCW? What are your thoughts on the all 4 vs the non all 4?

    • R.Burns

      Hey Speck – Mr. Gabe already wrote his opinions about this

    • Dr Obnxs

      IF you don’t really need the All4, skip it. It’s heavy, and doesn’t add much to how the car works in good traction environments. It costs too.

      For the S vs JCW, I haven’t driven Paceman variants yet, but I did go back to back with S and JCW Coupes. The JCW is a bit “more” in everything in performance and handling, but for me (and this is just me), the difference wasn’t worth the cash. I’d get more out of modding it myself (I like modding, so I like making cars different than they come from the factory). The JCW premium isn’t small, so if I were you, I’d test drive a S and a JCW of some model to see what you think of the differences.

      But this is purely subjective: It’s based on what YOU like, and what YOU can afford, and what YOU like to do. But from my seat, the two sweat spots for MINIS are close to option free base models for commuter cars, and close to option free S variants for sporting drives. The JCW and GP models are better performers, but it costs a lot to get the benefit. I also like close to option free cars because MINI is like BMW, and if you aren’t careful, you can double the price of a base car. Then the value proposition gets all out of whack and you might as well get a different car.

      Whatever you choose, just do your homework so you get what you like the best, and say to heck with others opinions, including mine!

    • I’ve never driven the JCW Paceman or Countryman so I don’t know. That will change soon but for now I’d just tell you to test drive both.

      In terms of AWD – I love the idea of simplicity and lighter weight so FWD appeals to me. When we did our longterm Countryman I wondered aloud of a FWD R60 wouldn’t have been a better option. If you’re worried about snow, simply add winter tires and you’ll be unstoppable in the white stuff. You’re not I’d have a hard time advocating for AWD. but clearly I’m in the minority as apparently everyone now needs AWD given the current marketplace trends.

      • Speck

        Thanks Gabe. I’ve had a cooper and cooper S and never had much trouble in the snow. Looking forward to your review of the JCW

  • walk0080

    I like how the mat plastic wraps around the rear. Probably my most favorite pics of this car so far. I was never really a fan of the Paceman but look forward to seeing a JCW in person. Wish my JCW Hatch had longer seat bottoms like this car does 🙁

  • IowaM1N1

    Got to see it in person at NAIAS on Saturday — yes, it does have a different look ‘in person’. Thought the interior was well done, too — it felt more intimate like a regular MINI and less like a Countryman.

  • hi

    What about the Diffusor in the JCW countryman? Is it functional??

  • FoxHoundADAM

    Are they bringing the name lettering like on the back of the Paceman to the Countryman this year? I know it is coming for all the cars in time but didn’t know if that was part of the CM’s mid cycle update. Personally, I kinda like it.

  • MINIMe

    Sure wish they would build the Beachcomber…