Mini Paceman Concept is Rally, Rally Cool

Mini's entry in the 2011 Detroit auto show concept car sweepstakes is a two-door crossover design concept combining elements of coupe and Countryman with some new style tweaks. Will it be a countrymouse or a future rally monster?

Actually, Mini's injected some aggressiveness into its familiar styling, including a rising shoulder line that merges into a shrouded C pillar, which makes the rear portion of roof appear to be cantilevered over the rear quarter panels. (Mini calls this a "helmet" roof.) Despite the flat roof line, it fools the eye into making out a pleasing taper. At least in the photos and renderings it does. We'll see for real when the Paceman concept debuts at the Detroit auto show next month.

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The Paceman shares a radiator grill with the Cooper S Countryman, and Mini's added deep-set foglights and extra air intakes in the bumper for brake ventilation. At the rear, a diffuser that channels airflow between twin exhausts for extra aerodynamic amusement. Exterior styling boss Marcus Syring says the point of the design is to emphasize the car's width, or as the kids say, stance.

Under that snubby hood is the company's John Cooper Works 1.6-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four, producing 211 hp and 192 lb-ft, with a 207 lb-ft overboost for short squirts. The concept also has Mini's ALL4 permanent all-wheel-drive system, whose electromagnetic center diff can shift 50 percent of torque to the rear.

Mini's saying the Paceman is just a style concept for now, albeit one whose name will be on the tongue of every two year old who's trying to say "spaceman." Nonetheless, the company's been fairly consistent in developing marketable show cars, so this one's got a good shot at daylight. And don't forget the Paceman will inevitably provide reinforcement of Mini's nascent WRC program.