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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Mini Cooper S Paceman

Mini’s entry into Mudfest 2013 was an odd choice. If you think the Cooper is too small, the bigger Countryman might be a logical choice. However, Mini submitted a 2013 Cooper S Paceman ALL4. While the Paceman is based on the larger Countryman, and roughly the same size, it lacks the added utility of four doors. In a competition for outdoor activity vehicles, the tiny Paceman stood out like a sore thumb.

General presence aside, the Paceman was still well-equipped with the cold weather package, Mini Connected with Nav Pack infotainment system, xenon headlights, and rear park distance control sensors. The infotainment package largely resembles what you find in the BMW's QNX-based system. Although its layout is weird and it lacks a touchscreen (something even the more value-oriented alternatives have), you do get a control knob and other physical buttons within reach in the center console.

The well-placed knob makes for easy navigation of the system's options while the car is moving. We didn't run into any problems using the Mini Connected navigation system with our HTC Droid DNA test phone. The iPad didn't have any trouble with the Lightning connector, either. Placement of the infotainment system and gauges is truly unique to Mini, with a center stack-mounted speedometer, and the LCD within.

Our S Paceman came with a 1.6-liter, turbocharged engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Mini ALL4 all-wheel drive system is active full-time, sporting front and rear torque distribution capabilities. It performed competently on the watered-down autocross course and made it through the dirt course, too. There were no signs of under or oversteer with the Paceman’s ALL4 system. Just plenty of grip to go around. It surprised us a bit, but the Paceman is a joy to drive. It's just lacking in the cargo department for a weekend camping trip with the family.

When it comes to style, this is a Mini, through and through. It has a clean retro look, though we find the excess chrome trim surrounding the head, tail, side marker lights, and door handles too much for our tastes. The sloped roof is a nice touch. Painfully, the price you pay for that snazzy style is quite steep at $38,050 (for our sample).

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman
Trim levelALL4
Engine1.6 L Turbocharged
TransmissionSteptronic automatic
DrivetrainALL4 full-time intelligent all-wheel drive
InfotainmentMini Connected with Nav Pack
Notable featuresPark distance control (rear)
Fuel economy23 city, 30 highway, 26 combined MPG
MSRP$38,050
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply