MINI JCW Paceman
We get behind the wheel of the 215bhp MINI John Cooper Works Paceman to deliver our verdict
The JCW Paceman is the most expensive MINI money can buy, but it’s not the best. The engine is potent, and the four-wheel-drive system and uprated brakes ensure sweet handling. But for a sporty car to be better to drive in normal, rather than sport mode, you’d be better off saving £6,000 and buying a Cooper S Paceman, or looking elsewhere, unless the cachet of owning the flagship of the MINI line-up is enough.
At £29,535, the new JCW Paceman is the most expensive MINI money can buy, out-pricing the four-door JCW Countryman and even the limited-edition MINI JCW GP hatchback. What’s more, it’s £5,925 more than the standard Cooper S Paceman. But is it worth the extra investment?
Despite the cost, the flagship model gets exactly the same suspension settings as the rest of the Paceman range, which includes uprated springs and dampers, thicker anti-roll bars and a 10mm lower ride height than the Countryman on which it’s based. The ride is firm but well judged for a car of this ilk – MINIs are supposed to be a little on the raw side, and the suspension helps the Paceman feel light and nimble to drive.
The brakes on the JCW are larger and have red-painted calipers. There's excellent feel through the pedal and decent stopping power, too, when required to slow the Paceman’s 1,400kg.
A set of 18-inch alloys are standard, while some smart 19-inch ‘Crusher’ two-tone rims are on the options list, and suit the more aggressive bodykit of the JCW car well.
The steering is also the same set-up as any other Paceman. It’s light and direct in its normal mode, although you do notice the extra bodyroll on turn-in to corners, meaning the JCW takes a little while to settle into bends before you can accelerate.
Press the toggle switch in the centre console to turn on Sport mode, and the steering becomes artificially heavy and rather devoid of feel. It gives confidence at high motorway speeds, or if you were to venture on to a track, but the normal mode actually gives a better connection to what the front wheels are doing. However, normal mode does mean you miss out on the faster throttle response and pops and burps from the sports exhaust when you lift off the accelerator.
The big difference over the cheaper Paceman Cooper S is the addition of the 215bhp version of BMW’s 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Thanks to the addition of a larger intercooler and freer-breathing exhaust, it’s 34bhp up on the standard car. However, with the JCW’s price nudging that of a more powerful Volkswagen Golf R, you’d perhaps expect a bit more. The engine is quite raucous, especially on the motorway, but it doesn’t build speed especially quickly.
It’s a good job that MINI’s slick six-speed manual gearbox is standard fit, along with ALL4 four-wheel drive, which gives the car seriously impressive traction out of tight bends. It seamlessly shuffles power between the axles, and splits power 50:50 most of the time. However, it can move almost 100 per cent of torque to the rear axle should the going get slippy, which also gives a satisfying balance to the car’s handling.
Inside, the JCW gets extra badges, a JCW-branded steering wheel and black anthracite headlining, which does make things feel a little gloomy. The sports seats are a bit of a disappointment, as they lack enough side bolstering when the car is clinging on to tight bends.