This is BMW’s Concept Active Tourer, which will make its official debut at the Paris Motor Show, and it’s a very important vehicle for the German manufacturer. Why? Primarily because the platform on which it’s built will go on to form the basis of the next-generation Mini, and a new range of entry-level BMWs in 2014.
Also, it’s the first car to showoff BMW’s new, super-frugal, three-cylinder, 1.5-liter turbocharged motor; plus the concept is a plug-in hybrid that uses the same system seen in the gorgeous BMW i8.
However, there’s another reason too, not that BMW will shout about it. The Concept Active Tourer is front-wheel drive. Yes, the three-cylinder engine powers the front wheels, and it paves the way for the first production front-wheel drive BMWs.
In fairness, BMW is easing us in gently, as the electric motor drives the rear-wheels, making the Concept Active Tourer four-wheel drive; except with 134 horsepower through the front wheels and only 67 through the rears, the bias is the opposite of the aforementioned i8.
Back to that petrol engine for a moment though. It’s mounted transversely rather than longitudinally, and is essentially the same as that in the i8; except here, the 1.5 turbo will produce 134 horsepower for a 0-60 time of less than 8-seconds and a top speed of around 120 miles-per-hour.
Economy is the order of the day, and when the petrol and electric motor — which has a standalone range of 19 miles — work together, BMW estimates a minimum of 113 miles-per-gallon while producing less than 60g/km of CO2. Cleverly, the hybrid motor talks to the satellite navigation, deciding between them which will be the most efficient way of driving on upcoming roads.
Features on the concept car include a “Cool Shade” panoramic roof, which has an active particle layer that goes from opaque to clear at the touch of a button, 20-inch rims, a color heads-up display and a 10-inch touchscreen control panel.
Aficionados may balk at the thought of a front-wheel drive BMW, raise their eyebrows at a transversely-mounted engine, and fondly recall a time when the company only used front-wheel drive in ads to mock its rivals. The move is a sign of the times though, as production costs will fall and BMW will be able to produce more small cars.
As for the Concept Active Tourer, it’ll eventually become a Mercedes B-Class competitor, and is almost certainly our first proper look at the previously rumored 1-Series GT.