What is it?
This is BMW’s new plug-in hybrid version of the 2 Series Active Tourer. Although it is currently in final testing, this pre-production example is very close to showroom tune. BMW won’t say when the car will go on sale, but spring 2016 seems like the best bet.
As you might expect from BMW, there’s an impressive elegance and clarity of thought behind the conversion to a hybrid powertrain, as well as the promise of very swift-reacting all-wheel drive, substantial performance and up to 23 miles of pure electric running.
Fundamentally, the front-wheel-drive 2 Series layout has been retained. The turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. However, the transmission gets the addition of a starter/generator.
This performs three tasks. It can be used as a charger to top up the 2 Series’ battery pack, and it makes for very swift and smooth restarting, when the engine has stopped. It can also be used to boost performance at the front wheels, putting an extra 20bhp and 111lb ft into the system.
Charge from the generator is directed to the rear of the 2 Series via high-voltage cables to the compact lithium ion battery pack. With a modest 7.7kWh capacity, the battery is mounted in the same under-seat space as the fuel tank.
As a result, the fuel tank has been shrunk to 36 litres. It’s now also made of steel and is pressurised to allow the petrol to be stored safely over longer periods if the 2 Series is run mostly on battery power.
The car’s rear end is the familiar Z-axle, with more or less the same rear differential and driveshafts as those of the all-wheel-drive 2 Series. The rear electric motor is mounted aft of the rear axle, directly driving the rear wheels via the differential.
Aside from the charger flap in the front wing and the loss of the 50-litre storage space under the boot floor, this looks like any other 2 Series.