This is the Mini Paceman concept, which has made its public debut at the the Detroit auto show today - the 10th anniversary of the brand’s relaunch in the USA.
Substantially based on the five-door Mini Countryman, the Paceman concept is designed as an upmarket, compact coupe and has been confirmed for production in Detroit by BMW board member Ian Robertson, with 2012 the most likely year for launch.
BMW is calling the Paceman (so named because it follows on from the Clubman and Countryman) the first ‘Sports Activity Coupe’ in the small car segment. When the Paceman goes on sale it is likely to only be available with the most powerful Mini engines. One source told us, "There’s no chance of a 'One' version of this car," and the concept is being shown with a tuned version of the John Cooper Works petrol engine, now with 212bhp and hooked up to Mini’s ALL4 permanent four-wheel drive system.
However, in keeping with the car's intended upmarket feel, the production models will probably not be highly strung, high-performance racers. The emphasis will be on accessible torque for performance that’s effortless rather than urgent.
The Paceman is based on the current Mini Countryman, using the same platform and floor structure and the same inner structure up to and including the bulkhead. The car also uses the same windscreen as the Countryman, although it's had 20mm shaved off its height. From the screen rearwards, the Paceman gets an entirely new exterior. It's 4110mm long, marginally more than the Countryman, even though the front bumper is 20mm shorter.
The car's long doors are newly designed and have allowed the Mini design team to incorporate a rising window line, which flows into the new rear wing. This further kicks up towards the roof, giving the Paceman a much wedgier and dynamic profile than its sister car. There's also a marked shoulder over the rear wheels, which pushes the rear windows of cabin inwards, giving a sportier, more coupe-like feel and emphasising the width of the car’s rear tracks.
However, outgoing Mini design boss Gert Hildebrand says that there's no loss of shoulder room in the rear cabin compared to the Countryman. Unlike most coupes, the Paceman is also set to have significant rear legroom and more than adequate headroom.
As well as the rising waistline, the Paceman has a sloping version of the Mini family’s 'capped' roof which, combined with the rising waistline, further reduces the size of the side windows, emphasising the Mini’s 'three-layer' design theme of roof, windows and bodyside. The car’s C-pillar is tinted the same colour as the glass to give the impression of complete wrap-around glazing.
However, the big break from modern Mini tradition comes at the rear of the car. The vertical shutlines and vertical sheet metal that characterise the other models in the range have been replaced by a surface that’s much softer and more flowing.
Unexpectedly, Hildebrand and his team have dumped the rule that said Mini tail-lights are vertical and surrounded on all sides with painted bodywork. The Paceman's lights are substantial and cut right across into the tailgate, resulting in a most un-Mini-like rear elevation. However, the combination the wide track, sloping roof and narrower glasshouse means the rear wheels are well outboard of side windows, and it all combine to make the Paceman look extremely purposeful from the rear.