Here’s an Early Look at MINI’s new Plugin Hybrid Countryman

MotoringFile broke the news of MINI’s plugin hybrid almost exactly two years ago. Since then we’ve had a steady drip of news on the new drivetrain. However last week BMW formally introduced the new 2 Series Active Tourer Plugin Hybrid. Why does that matter to MINI fans? Because what you see in front of you is essentially the 2017 Plugin Hybrid Countryman.

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We initially had been led to believe the hybrid would be available on both the Clubman and Countryman. However if MINI is forced to choose one vehicle (due to costs) there’s a very good chance that choice will be the Countryman. Traditionally MINI’s volume seller within the larger offerings, the Countryman seems like a safer bet than the wagon-esque Clubman.

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in hybrid fuses BMW eDrive with a model-specific form of power transmission – based on the front-drive of the standard BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. The 1.5-litre BMW TwinPower Turbo engine generates an output of 100 kW/136 hp together with a peak torque of 220 Nm (162 lb-ft), with power relayed to the front wheels via a six-speed Steptronic transmission. The additional high- voltage generator on the front axle fulfils three different tasks: it boosts the combustion engine for brief periods with extra output of up to 15 kW and some 150 Nm (111 lb-ft) from rest, generates electric power while on the move (which is fed directly to the high-voltage battery), and enables the engine to be started and turned off very smoothly thanks to its higher output compared to conventional starters. The electric motor is located above the rear axle, together with its two-speed transmission and the power electronics. It sends output of up to 65 kW/88 hp and maximum torque of 165 Nm (122 lb-ft) through the rear wheels.

If that equation sounds familiar that’s because it’s basically a less potent version of the same drivetrain found in the BMW i8 hybrid Supercar.

As with the BMW i8, the intelligent drivetrain management and networking with the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system ensure safe and supremely assured handling characteristics at all times, together with optimised traction, highly dynamic acceleration and cornering, and maximum efficiency.

The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in hybrid prototype accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in around 6.5 seconds. Its average fuel consumption in the EU test cycle for plug-in hybrid vehicles will be approximately two litres per 100 kilometres, which equates to CO2 emissions of under 50 grams per kilometre. The range on electric power alone as measured in the EU test cycle will be 38 kilometers.

Additionally, the driver is able to adjust the responses of the drivetrain management using the eDrive button on the centre console. With this functionality there is a choice of three settings:

  • Auto eDrive: this hybrid mode is activated as the default setting in Comfort mode every time the vehicle is started. The engine and electric motor combine to extremely efficient effect in this setting. Under normal loads, the vehicle initially sets off purely on electric power. Once the speed exceeds approximately 80 km/h (50 mph) or under strong acceleration, the engine cuts in automatically. When route guidance is activated, the system automatically calculates how to make the most efficient use of the energy generated by the electric motor and combustion engine, with all-electric driving prioritised over sections of the route where it makes most sense. In Comfort mode, the high-voltage battery is automatically recharged by the high-voltage generator to a charge up of around 15 percent
  • Max eDrive: in this setting, the vehicle is powered by the electric motor alone. Top speed is limited to around 130 km/h (81 mph), while the all- electric range is some 38 kilometres. Accelerator kickdown brings the combustion engine into play
  • Save Battery: This mode allows the energy stored in the high-voltage battery to be deliberately kept at a constant level or increased again up to 50 percent (when its charge drops below that mark) by efficiently raising the engine’s load points and using energy recuperation. The stored energy can then be used for all-electric driving at a later stage in the journey, for example when driving through an urban area.

When Sport mode is selected with the Driving Experience Control switch, on the other hand, the combustion engine and electric motor operate in unison and are geared toward a sporty driving style. The high-voltage generator provides a boost effect at low engine revs and generates electricity that is stored directly in the high-voltage battery up to a charge level of around 50 percent.

Unlike the Plugin Hybrid X5 and 3 Series, the capacity of the main load compartment in the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer plug-in hybrid prototype is identical to that of its conventional siblings. And there is still a storage compartment underneath the load compartment floor, as well.

While we’re short on the exact time-frame, Hybrid MINI Countryman will likely debut sometime in 2017.