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.

  • Nick Dawson

    Since the F54 Clubman is the sister car to the 2 Active Tourer, and thus has more in common with it than the F60/X1, technically there is no reason why there should not be a Clubman Hybrid. The Countryman Hybrid, however, is confirmed and has been caught testing in the Arctic Circle – see attached spy shot.

    Other spy shots have been published more recently of the regular Countryman with less camouflage, two of which are attached, a black Cooper giving a better indication of the size and shape of the front grille and headlights, and a red Cooper S giving a better indication of the size and shape of the vertical rear tail lights.

    The F60 certainly looks chunky and fit for purpose, and is not only the most exciting of the new F-series MINIs, it’s also the most important. For a start it will be the MINI that will restore MINI USA’s fortunes, and globally will catapult MINI annual sales toward BMW’s target figure of 400K. F60 gets its public debut in Paris on October 1st.

  • I’ve been hoping for a Plugin Clubby ever since the rumors about that started swirling and the Active Tourer was unveiled, so if MINI builds a Plug-in Clubman, I will almost certainly buy one, or a hardtop for that matter. But if they only build a plug-in Countryman, that would be a huge disappointment. I have no interest in any Countryman whatsoever.

    • Nick Dawson

      The F54 Clubman has a unique quality for a MINI – it is good looking – and as such will no doubt attract a fair number of buyers who previously would never have thought of buying a MINI.

      With stringent 2021 Euro emission regulations – phased in from 2020 – requiring a 40% reduction in car makers fleet average emissions, to just 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre, you may rest assured that MINI will be making a Clubman Hybrid, and I look forward to reading your feedback comments on MF after you have taken delivery of your own Clubby Hybrid 🙂

      • Sub_R

        I remember MF showing a pic of the “hybrid ready” filler cap on the clubman.

  • fishbert

    Plug-in? Yay! Hybrid? Eww!

    • Nick Dawson

      Full EV cars still have too many limitations to be widely attractive to MINI buyers. We are, however, likely to see more Hybrid versions of MINIs, and BMWs including M models.

      According to M division’s vice-president for engineering, Dirk Hacker, Hybrid M models are “inevitable”. Mr. Hacker said that BMW M customers are not interested in zero-emission mobility or EV range, but they want hybrid technology to make their cars quicker. So, as long as there’s a market for hybrid M cars, BMW is going for it.

      Mr Hacker added that the odds of a full electric M car are fairly low at the moment and also hinted that M is also in no rush to deploy an electric battery in an M car.

      • fishbert

        Hybrids for performance are an entirely different animal, and not something I’d expect to see in the MINI line for a long while (if ever).

        What I’m saying is that hybrids throw a lot of benefits of EV out the window (maintaining 2 engines, having to lug around 2 engines, etc.) for what amounts to a long-range comfort blanket that consumers by and large do not need in a daily driver.

        I’d much rather see MINI do an EV that adopts BMW’s i3 strategy, where pure EV is the standard and a gasoline-powered 2nd engine is available as an option.

        • This is not quite right. The dual engine hybrids allow for smaller engines of both types, as well as smaller batteries than a pure electric.

          For example, the 2016 Chevy Malibu hybrid will get 45 mpg combined, yet only has a 1.8kwh battery. It’s basically a small bucket to hold break regeneration to power launch duties.

          The electric portion of the drive train is almost maintenance free. It does add complexity but also reduces strain in the internal combustion side. I have yet to see any data on increased repair needs of hybrid drivetrains, other than the fear of battery replacement costs.

        • fishbert

          According to the U.S. Department of Energy, all-electric vehicles (EVs) typically require less maintenance than conventional vehicles because… 1) The battery, motor, and associated electronics require little to no regular maintenance 2) There are fewer fluids to change 3) There are far fewer moving parts, relative to a conventional gasoline engine

          While hybrid vehicles (HEVs & PHEVs) have maintenance requirements similar to those of conventional vehicles, due to them still having internal combustion engines.

          (source: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_maintenance.html)

          So, I at least have the US DOE on my side when I say hybrids throw a lot of benefits of EV out the window when it comes to maintenance.

  • LuckyDevil

    They need the full strength i8 powertrain in the JCW models!!! ??

  • Nick Dawson

    The long rumoured X1 plug-in hybrid has been caught testing recently (see attached spy shot). The particularly interesting thing about this shot is that this X1 clearly has a longer wheelbase and rear overhang, and appears to be the rumoured 7-seat model. China already has a 7-seat X1 but with unique front styling. Autocar, however, claims to have seen a 7-seat X1 with conventional front styling testing in Europe, increasing speculation that Europe will soon be getting a 7-seat X1. This is interesting for Countryman fans because a longer 7-seat Countryman has also been rumoured.

    The engineering technology for all these plug-in hybrids, including the i8, has been developed by BMW with the help of GKN Driveline, a British multinational automotive and aerospace components company, and the world’s biggest supplier of automotive driveline components and systems. The company is perhaps best known for supplying CV joints for front-wheel drive cars, most memorably the original 1959 Mini. The core part of the company business now is making transmissions for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric passenger vehicles.

  • Nick Dawson

    The long rumoured X1 plug-in hybrid has been caught testing recently (see attached spy shot). The particularly interesting thing about this shot is that this X1 clearly has a longer wheelbase and rear overhang, and appears to be the rumoured 7-seat model. China already has a 7-seat X1 but with unique front styling. Autocar, however, claims to have seen a 7-seat X1 with conventional front styling testing in Europe, increasing speculation that Europe will soon be getting a 7-seat X1. This is interesting for Countryman fans because a longer 7-seat Countryman has also been rumoured.

    The engineering technology for all these plug-in hybrids, including the i8, has been developed by BMW with the help of GKN Driveline, a British multinational automotive and aerospace components company, and the world’s biggest supplier of automotive driveline components and systems. The company is perhaps best known for supplying CV joints for front-wheel drive cars, most memorably the original 1959 Mini. The core part of the company business now is making transmissions for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric passenger vehicles.