• 2012 Mini Takes the States is the automaker's fourth annual cross-country road rally.
  • Mini announced the all-new Paceman at the opening event.
  • Tour travels through 16 states and stops in 11 cities.

The fourth annual Mini Takes the States cross-country road rally began on July 4 at the company's Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, headquarters. Thousands of Mini drivers and their traveling companions are out on the roads of America during the event, some joining for just a portion of the trip and others making the full transcontinental journey. The group will reach Los Angeles this weekend after traveling through 16 states and stopping in 11 cities along the way.

At the opening event, Mini announced the name of its latest model. The three-door Paceman, described as a compact sports activity coupe, will be the seventh model in Mini's lineup. The production model is expected to look similar to the Paceman concept shown at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, which itself bore a strong resemblance to the four-door Mini Countryman. Kay Segler, Mini's senior vice president of brand management, said the Paceman will be the first vehicle of its kind when it launches next year.

"The Mini Paceman is the world's first sports activity coupe in the premium compact segment," said Segler. "It combines a clear appetite for extravagance and infectious driving fun in a style that only a Mini could pull off with such authenticity."

With the big announcement out of the way, the rally hit the road and headed for the first stop in Philadelphia, the site of the first of four autocross events on the tour. Autocross allows drivers to test their skills and push vehicles to the limit on a safe and controlled course. Drivers proceed one at a time through a course marked by traffic cones, usually in a large, flat parking lot.

In Charlotte, participants had an opportunity to take a lap on the high-banked Charlotte Motor Speedway. From there, the tour crossed the Smoky Mountains and Deal's Gap, home to one of America's most famous motoring roads. Drivers and motorcyclists come from miles away to experience the twisting mountain path of U.S. 129 at the North Carolina/Tennessee border. The section called the Dragon includes 318 turns in just 11 miles.

Mini provides plenty of entertainment along the way, too. Each nightly stop gives drivers an opportunity to unwind and connect with other owners who share their passion for the Mini brand.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Mini in the U.S. Mini Takes the States celebrates not only this milestone, but also the Mini drivers who have made the brand such a success.

What it means to you: A nice way to unite the Mini community for travel and fun.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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