The plug-in hybrid BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is the family car of tomorrow

Shedding light on what the family car of the future could look like, BMW has unveiled an experimental version of the Europe-only 2 Series Active Tourer that’s equipped with a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

When viewed from the outside, it’s hard to tell the hybrid 2 Series Active Tourer apart from its regular-production counterpart. The biggest visual difference between the two people-movers is that the hybrid-powered model features an extra flap integrated into the driver’s side fender.

The story is different under the skin, where the 2 Series is powered by a highly-innovative drivetrain whose main component is a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. Also found in the engine bay of the third-generation MINI, the three-banger sends 136 horsepower and 162 foot-pounds of torque to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

The front axle is also fitted with a compact generator that can send up to 20 horsepower and 111 foot-pounds of instant torque to the front wheels when extra power is needed. However, in normal driving conditions the generator sends the bulk of its electricity to a high-voltage battery pack that’s linked to a small electric motor mounted over the rear axle. The motor transfers 88 horsepower and 122 foot-pounds of torque to the rear wheels via a two-speed transmission.

The drivetrain offers three operating modes called Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save Battery, respectively. In Auto eDrive, the 2 Series is powered exclusively by the electric motor at speeds of up to 50 mph. The three-cylinder automatically kicks in above that, under strong acceleration or when the battery is running low on juice.

With the two power sources working together, the plug-in hybrid 2 can reach 62 mph from a stop in 6.5 seconds – on par with the fastest gasoline-burning Active Tourer – and it returns up to 117 mpg in a mixed European cycle.

In Max eDrive, the 2 is capable of running on electricity alone at speeds of up to 81 mph for approximately 23 miles. If extra power is needed the driver can instantly engage the three-banger by pushing the gas pedal all the way to the floor. Finally, Battery Save retains at least 50-percent of the battery’s charge so that Max eDrive can be engaged later in the trip.

Although BMW says the hybrid 2 Series Active Tourer is currently a prototype that’s still being fine-tuned, executives openly admit the green people-mover has already been given the green light for production. A time frame was not given, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see it unveiled next March at the Geneva Motor Show.

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