BMW entered the market with hybrids several years ago (do you remember the ActiveHybrid series?), but now they have also taken plug-in hybrids by the horns.

Starting off with the expensive i8 and the spacious (as well as expensive) X5 xdrive40e, they have now moved further down the line of models--the 3 and 2 Series Active Tourer.

The "xe" in the 225xe indicates that, just like the much larger X5 plug-in hybrid, it has a four-wheel drive, and a hybrid system that is, of course, different and less powerful, but comparable to the i8, considering its 1.5 liter three-cylinder turbo engine.

The gas engine in the Active Tourer falls short of its counterpart in the i8, though its 136 hp, combined with the 88 hp electric motor, make it powerful enough for (even speedier) daily use. Contrary to the other BMW plug-in hybrids, the electric motor in the Active Tourer is not concealed next to the automatic transmission. Instead it is independently mounted next to the rear axle. The 225xe thus boasts four-wheel drive when running as a hybrid, and rear-wheel drive when running on electricity alone (the method of choosing between driving modes is the same as in other BMW hybrids). And, to top it all off, when driven on electricity alone, the 225xe allows you to completely shut down the stability control, which will make the Active Tourer an electrically rear-wheel driven machine, ideal for side drifting (providing the surfaces are sufficiently slippery).

Nevertheless, the Active Tourer did not lose its efficiency (with the battery under the rear seats, together with a slightly down-sized fuel tank). It's the other way around: owing to the electric drive, the familial city rides are not only cleaner, they are also much more comfortable.

The 225xe is hardly recognizable from behind the steering wheel (beyond the silence and agility of the electric drive). Sadly, the gauges are still classically analog, with a small LCD screen in between (which may be subject to change only in the next Active Tourer generation), as is the feeling in the cabin, consistent in every Active Tourer. Apart from the eDrive button, for switching between the different driving modes, and mildly-altered gauges (which can display the battery status, as well as degrees at which the battery is charging or emptying), nothing has changed.

Of course, as a BMW plug-in hybrid, the car is as ace in charging the battery (of 5.8 kWh capacity) from a domestic socket (in a good three hours) or a wall box (in a good two hours), as it is from a much more powerful charging station outlet, thanks to the built-in charger with a 7.4 kW charging rate, which means less than half an hour for a battery refill. With a cleverly-packaged battery beneath the rear seats, the seats are positioned 30 mm higher. On the one hand, that means that the headroom is mildly jeopardized (noticeable only with very tall passengers), but on the other hand, the comfort while seated is even greater than in its classical Active Tourer counterpart.

On electricity alone, the 225xe has a top speed of 125 km/h (in fully-electric mode, and up to 80 km/h in automatic mode) and, given you're a frugal driver, an official range of 41 km, which translates to 30 to 35 km, in reality.

The energy is better used with the help of the Proactive Driving Assistant, which continuously computes what drive to use when, based on the information received from the navigation system (such as the conditions of the road, whether it climbs or descends, is it in the city or outside, and so on) as well as a real-time traffic information system. As a result, the car will employ a gas engine when driving on a regional road, and an electric motor when driving through an urban area, while also giving a driver a heads-up about when to release the accelerator, for maximum energy regeneration.

The 225xe Active Tourer is, of course, equipped with every safety accessory also featured in its classic equivalent, and other BMWs of its class, while the battery placed under the rear seats makes sure that the trunk space remains the same: 400 liters. In a nutshell, the 225xe Active Tourer is an everyday vehicle, a family vehicle, if you will, that deviates from its classical counterpart only when driven by electricity (or when plugged-in). Most of all: largely operated on electricity by the majority of the users, the car makes no sacrifice on behalf of its practical daily performance.

July 25, 2016 Driving photo: BMW

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Plugin magazine 04/2016


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