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.