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.