This is a hybrid with two unexpected qualities. First, it’s pretty fleet of foot and, thanks to all-wheel drive (combustion engine driving the front wheels and the electric motor the rears), feels very well planted with the two engines operating at full power.
Second, the all-wheel drive system is claimed to be especially quick-reacting and sensitive to the under-wheel conditions. BMW demonstrated this by driving this pre-production model up a 50% incline with a loose surface.
Even with three adults on board, the car’s complex transmission was able to sit stationary on the slope and then pull away without any kind of hesitation or discernible activation of the traction control system.
Certainly, a typical 2 Series owner is unlikely to be heading down loose gravel tracks. But the demonstration showed the impressive sensitivity of this petrol-electric all-wheel drive system far better than could be achieved on asphalt.
A couple of fast laps of the BMW track couldn’t tell us too much about the 2 Series’ ride quality in the real world, but it did give a decent taster.
One of the best things about the eDrive 2 Series is that it uses a conventional transmission, rather than a CVT. This means it feels like a brisk normal car and any assistance from the electrically driven rear axle is extremely subtle.
Certainly, there’s a distinctive whine from the electric motor in the cabin and you know you are in a hybrid when the car pulls away on battery power alone. BMW says the 2 Series can get up to 50mph on battery power alone before the petrol engine kicks in.
Punted around the track, the 2 Series Active Tourer seems to have been polished nicely compared with the launch cars of 12 months ago. It corners nice and flat, it’s stable at speed and the steering seems to be usefully direct and positive through tight curves.
Using Max eDrive, which brings both power sources in together, not only delivers handy pace but also really gives the Active Touter a sense of tied-down stability which you wouldn’t get in a front-driver, even with many of the latest part-time all-wheel drive systems.
The sensation is accentuated because the seating position is higher than normal and the 2 Series doesn't have any sense of being on tip-toe through quick corners.
For the rest of the time, this car just feels like a very good, conventional front-driver. The Auto eDrive mode, which has the car shuttling between petrol and battery power in the most efficient way it sees fit, is the car’s default setting and it appears to work admirably.