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First drive: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Plug-in Hybrid. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Plug-in Hybrid
The next plug-in hybrid from the core BMW brand will be this 2 Series Active Tourer.

   



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BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Plug-in Hybrid

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On a day when BMW showed off some of its medium-term future propulsion technology, this 2 Series Active Tourer Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) was probably the closest thing to normality. It will likely be the fourth PHEV of the main BMW range, after the current X5 xDrive40e and forthcoming 340e/740e models, but where all of those cars use a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol as the main form of drive, this car has a 1.5-litre three-cylinder unit. And if you think that sounds familiar, it is - this is essentially the BMW i8's drivetrain.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW 220e Active Tourer Plug-in Hybrid prototype
Pricing: not yet for sale
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol with synchronous electric motor
Transmission: six-speed Steptronic automatic (petrol) with two-stage reduction gear (electric), four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat MPV
CO2 emissions: predicted to be less than 50g/km (VED Band A, 0)
Combined economy: 141.2mpg
Top speed: 78mph limited (electric); 128mph petrol
0-62mph: less than 6.5 seconds
Power: petrol 136hp; electric 88hp; combined peak output 220hp
Torque: petrol 220Nm; electric 165Nm; combined peak output 385Nm

What's this?

A 2 Series Active Tourer PHEV prototype vehicle, although as you can see from the pictures, apart from some very light camouflage and a bit of black duct tape covering up what looked like '220e' and 'eDrive' badges, it's standard Active Tourer fare here. Which means the ungainly MPV appearance that doesn't look like any other BMW. If you like this tall 2 Series, or at least find it inoffensive, then the PHEV model isn't going to put you off visually.

The interior is also largely unaffected, the rear-mounted hybrid gear probably affecting underfloor boot space, but as yet, final cargo capacities have yet to be disclosed. Certainly, in the passenger cabin, it's brilliant BMW business as usual. Everything feels of the highest quality and the only hybrid giveaways are the eDrive button on the centre console, plus a few more iDrive screens and instrument cluster displays that tell you what's happening to the available battery power.

How does it drive?

Not including the ActiveHybrid models, which were pretty good, BMW has had three attempts at either full- or part-electric vehicles so far and none have been (if you can forgive the pun) shockers. Therefore, despite this 2 Series Active Tourer being a prototype vehicle, it felt almost production-ready in terms of the polish of the drivetrain and the inclusion of the electric ancillaries.

The 1.5-litre engine with its six-speed auto and an electric motor with two reduction gears is lifted almost wholesale from the i8 supercar, although BMW tried to say that the 2 Series' running gear was merely inspired by the i8; apparently, many of the components are different here. However, we hardly reckon that BMW went back to the drawing board, so in essence let's just say this is the i8 drivetrain but flipped through 180 degrees for the Active Tourer. Thus, the petrol engine is now at the front, controlling the attendant axle, while the electric motor and its gearbox are located at the rear. This means it's a front-wheel drive vehicle with just the petrol unit running, a rear-driver in full electric, zero emissions mode and a four-wheel drive 2 Series in hybrid mode - something BMW aptly demonstrated by making the Active Tourer PHEV climb a 50 per cent, rubbly gradient with little difficulty.

The drivetrain is also detuned from the i8 application, here making peak outputs of 136hp/220Nm from the 1.5 three-pot, 88hp/165Nm from the electric motor and combined maximums of 220hp and 385Nm. The results, when running the all-wheel drive Active Tourer in Auto eDrive hybrid mode, make for a surprisingly rapid car, the 2 Series punching forward strongly under middling to heavy throttle demands. That three-cylinder engine is nothing like as vocal as it is in the i8, but there's still a pleasing thrum to it once it starts to rev beyond 4,000rpm, the engine pulling cleanly out to the redline. As ever with BMW, the integration of the hybrid unit is bang on the money, so the 2 Series Active Tourer never jolts or jerks as the petrol engine cuts in/off as necessary. The gearboxes also work well together, providing smooth responses during all driving modes, while the ride and handling seem unsullied; you could even make a case to say the road-holding qualities of the Two have been improved by the hybrid components.

Some words on the logistics of owning a 2 Series PHEV: in full, Max eDrive electric mode, the Active Tourer will be limited to 75mph and have a maximum range of around 24 miles. Charging via the mains will take between 2.25 and 3.25 hours, depending on whether owners use a BMW i-Wallbox or a domestic socket, while running the car in Save mode sees the petrol engine and brakes used to maintain/charge the battery to around 50 per cent capacity. The model BMW kept referring to as a comparator for the PHEV was the 225i xDrive, so expect the '220e' to cost around 32,000, while Munich is quoting some astonishing economy and emissions figures at 141.2mpg and less than 50g/km CO2. We know the PHEV is unlikely to match the former but it should nevertheless be capable of something in the region of 70- to 80mpg in the real world, while the latter at least means it is free from both VED and the London congestion charge, as well as allowing it some other useful UK tax breaks in terms of benefit-in-kind.

Verdict

The larger-engined BMW hybrids might be coming on stream first but this three-cylinder 2 Series Active Tourer PHEV is no less important nor impressive than them - and it possibly points to this drivetrain finding its way into all 1 Series, 2 Series and MINI variants in the very near future. Its three-cylinder character means it's a more charismatic set-up than the 40e-badged BMW hybrids and it should offer comparable real-world economy figures to the more powerful BMW diesel engines offered in the Active Tourer line-up. We therefore heartily approve of this plug-in prototype and await the confirmation of production with great interest.

3 3 3 3 3 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 14 Jul 2015



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2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.

2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.



2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.
 

2015 BMW 220e Active Tourer prototype. Image by BMW.
 






 

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