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Detroit show: Mini makes the Paceman

Chop top: The Mini Paceman Concept gets a long, sloping profile that its designers liken to a coupe.

Stretched three-door Mini Paceman Concept gets the streamlined coupe treatment

Mini logo20 Dec 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

MINI is set to unveil yet another niche model – a long-wheelbase three-door hatchback with “muscle car design cues” – at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 10.

Based on the platform of the five-door, all-wheel-drive Countryman that is set to land in Australia in March, the Mini Paceman Concept would become Mini’s seventh variant should it go into production in about two years.

So far, Mini offers three body styles in Australia – the original three-door Hatch, top-down Cabrio and Clubman five-door wagon – but that is set to expand to five in 2011 with the arrival of the Countryman crossover in the first quarter and then the two-door Coupe in the middle of the year, ahead of the two-seat Mini Roadster in 2012.

UK’s Autocar says the Paceman, with its elongated, coupe-style profile and sleeker tail treatment, is “strongly placed to go into production in 2012”, although the green light had not yet been given.

The debut of the British green Paceman at Detroit will mark the 10th anniversary of the return of the brand to the US under the guidance of BMW.

The German car-maker will also break out a brace of new models at Detroit, with the world premieres of the 1 Series M Coupe, BMW 6 Series Convertible and tweaked 1 Series Coupe and Convertible.

As GoAuto has already reported, the 250kW 3.0-litre twin-turbo 1 Series M Coupe will arrive in Australia in the third quarter of next year, while the 6 Series Convertible – previewed at the recent Los Angeles motor show – will hit Australia showrooms in the second quarter of 2011.

39 center imageFrom top: Mini Paceman concept. Bottom: Mini Countryman.

BMW describes the Mini Paceman as the first ‘sports activity coupe’ in the small-car segment, blending lifestyle elements with premium quality.

While the Paceman has the raised, crossover stance of the Countryman, its sloping windscreen, rising beltline, sloping roof and three-door configuration give it a more coupe-like profile.

The designers have dispensed with the traditional vertical taillights, replacing them with larger, more horizontal lights surrounded with a chrome rim, spreading into the large tailgate.

Sitting on the Countryman’s wider track with mudguard extensions, the Paceman has a more muscular, squat look, especially from the rear where twin exhaust pipes and horizontal lines accentuate the solid look.

At the front, the Paceman gets essentially the same snout at the Countryman, although the grille has been simplified, with three simple horizontal bars in a chrome surround, and the lower vents and foglights have been set in a matt-black strip.

The roof pillars have all been painted black to give the effect that the ice-white ‘helmet’ roof is floating on the glasshouse for a split three-level effect.

On the front mudguards, Countryman-style diagonal strips incorporating the side indicator lamps line up with the A pillars to provide a point of interest. The bronze colour of these strips is repeated on the 19-ich alloy wheels and leather inlays in the door handles and a left tab to open the fuel filler cap.

The four-seater car is 4110mm long, 1789mm wide and 1541mm high, making it 396mm longer than the standard Cooper S, as well as 106mm wider and 134mm taller.

Head of Mini exterior design, Marcus Syring, said the Pacemen had been given a horizontal emphasis, in contrast with the Countryman’s vertical design.

The concept gets an all-new interior, although no images of the inside have been released. The rear seat is said to be extra roomy, thanks to the long-wheel-base dimensions of the Countryman platform, with a luxury limo feel.

The Paceman Concept has Mini’s most powerful engine, the John Cooper Works 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbo-charged four-cylinder with 155 kW of power and 260Nm of torque (with an overboost function to 280Nm in short bursts).

The concept also gets the Countryman’s optional ALL4 permanent all-wheel-drive system, with electromagnetic centre differential to vary power distribution between the front and rear axles according to need.

The Detroit motor show has become a favourite playground for Mini. Last year, it pulled the wraps from the out-there Mini Beachcomber – a latter-day Mini Moke that has yet to see the light of day in production form.

Meanwhile, BMW has welcomed back designer Karim Habib who has spent the past two years with Mercedes-Benz.

Beirut-born, Canadian-educated Mr Habib, who was a protégé of former BMW design chief Chris Bangle before defecting to Benz, returns as head of exterior design.

He replaces Anders Warming, who has transferred to Mini as head of design.

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