If there’s one model of car that has generated more than its fair share of concept vehicles it’s the MINI. The 2008 Paris Motor Show saw the debut of the MINI Crossover, the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show brought us the MINI Coupé, and a year ago the MINI Beachcomber was revealed ahead of its public debut at the 2010 NAIAS. A year on from the Beachcomber and ahead of its public debut at the 2011 NAIAS, MINI is previewing the MINI Paceman Concept, a vehicle it calls “the first Sports Activity Coupé in the premium small segment."

The provide the vehicle with some visual muscle, the Paceman combines the features of the MINI Countryman and the style of a coupe. A shoulder line that rises toward the rear of the vehicle, coupled with a flat roofline, causes the coupé-style windows to taper towards the rear and give the vehicle a dynamic wedge shape. Additionally, what Mini calls a ‘helmet’ roof appears to be suspended on top of a band of glass formed by the windows that appear to wrap around the car.

“In contrast to the more vertical design of the MINI Countryman, we’ve given the MINI Paceman Concept a horizontal emphasis and accentuated the width of the car rather more to underline the powerful appearance of the study” explained Marcus Syring, Head of MINI Exterior Design.

The radiator grille is the same as that of the Cooper S Countryman save for the addition of air intakes in the bumper for improved brake ventilation and the new deep-set fog lights. Like the Countryman, the rear apron of the Paceman Concept features a diffuser that channels the airflow between twin exhausts for some extra aerodynamic benefits.

The vehicle has been designed to accommodate the MINI John Cooper Works 1.6-liter twin-scroll turbocharged engine. This 16 valve, four cylinder unit develops 211 hp and generates maximum torque of 260 Nm (192 lb-ft), although an Overboost function can increase this to 280 Nm (207 lb-ft) for brief bursts.

The all-wheel-drive version of the Paceman concept features MINI’s ALL4 permanent all-wheel-drive system, which features an electromagnetic center differential positioned directly on the final drive to vary the distribution of power between the front and rear axles. This variation can range from up to 50 percent of the drive being sent to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions, to as much as 100 percent being directed to the rear in extreme situations – the front of the car hanging over a cliff for example.

Although MINI says no decision has been made about a future production version of the Paceman concept, it has hinted at the possibility and has a history of developing marketable concept cars.