First Look: BMW Concept Active Tourer

Pay no attention to the C-word stuck in its moniker. The BMW Concept Active Tourer, which debuts later this month at the Paris Motor Show, is more than a concept: it's our look at the future of the 1 Series portfolio.

A Front-Drive First

In early 2010, Automobile's Georg Kacher reported the 1 Series range would soon give birth to a wide array of variants derived from two different platforms. The F20 platform would give rise to rear-wheel-drive 1 Series three- and five-door hatchbacks (both presently on sale in Europe), while a new front-wheel-drive architecture would spawn a number of cars, including a new array of Minis, a 1 Series GT, and a "wide-shouldered" 1 Series "Family Activity Vehicle" mini-minivan.

The Concept Active Tourer is most likely a preview of the latter. Billed as "a key component in the ongoing development of the BMW portfolio," the Active Tourer is not only built atop a front-wheel-drive architecture, but fulfills the prophecy by its wide stance. With a 105.9-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 171 inches, the Concept Active Tourer isn't much longer than a Euro-spec 1 Series five-door, but it is nearly five inches wider.

Despite its 1 Series roots and dimensions, the Concept Active Tourer bears a closer resemblance to a number of BMW's larger product offerings. Unlike the current 1 Series hatch, the Concept Active Tourer's headlamps don't flow into the grille nacelles; instead, they're shaped much like those on the 5 Series, as is the scalloped hood. BMW suggests the Active Tourer's wedge-like profile and short overhangs lend it "a dynamic feel even when stationary," but the high rear fenders and tall liftgate panel eerily recall the company's stillborn E1 and E2 concepts from the early 1990s.

It's (Partially) Electric

That resemblance is rather ironic, given both the E1/2 and Concept Active Tourer are powered - at least in part - by electricity. Unlike its E Series forebears, the Active Tourer isn't a pure battery-electric vehicle - instead, it utilizes a plug-in hybrid drivetrain hinged upon a new BMW engine architecture.

The system is similar to many so-called through-the-road hybrid systems already offered by several automakers, including Peugeot. A turbocharged 1.5- three-cylinder is mounted transversely in the Active Tourer's nose, and assigned with propelling the front wheels. Meanwhile, an electric motor - powered by a lithium-ion battery pack -- mounted in the car's tail drives the rear wheels. Both powertrains can operate simultaneously to provide all-wheel drive traction, but the electric motor can function independently, allowing for as much as 18-20 miles of electric-powered travel.

BMW says the battery pack can be charged on a 220-volt supply, but doesn't note how long a full recharge will take. That said, it does suggest the Concept Active Tourer packs a net output of 190 hp, can sprint from 0-62 mph in less than eight seconds, hit a top speed of 124 mph, and sip as little as 2.5 liters of fuel for every 100 kilometers traveled (94.1 mpg).

Tech-Laden Interior

Advanced technology isn't restricted to the powertrain: it's also found throughout the Concept Active Tourer's interior. Analog gauges are eschewed in favor of a large 10.25-inch LCD display, which can be configured to show a wide variety of information, as can a retractable, full-color heads-up display. A smaller 8-inch touchscreen is mounted in the dashboard, and functions as both a navigation and audio system interface. If that's not enough electrically-actuated glass for your taste, the panoramic glass moonroof can be transformed from transparent to opaque states, much like the Magic Sky Control function offered on the Mercedes-Benz SL.

One neat trick: both front seats feature metallic tracks mounted vertically in the seatback. Much like the Mini Countryman's Center Rail system, these tracks are designed for a number of accessories that lock in place. In these press photos, the rail is shown supporting a pair of tablet computer docks, though BMW suggests additional storage cubbies can also be attached.

Exactly how many of these cosmetic and technological touches carry over into production remains to be seen, but the Concept Active Tourer's basic package - a front-wheel-drive, compact MPV - has already been given a green light for production. The three-cylinder engine range has already been confirmed for production, and the plug-in hybrid variant - which will be sold under BMW's new eDrive label - will likely join the portfolio at a later date. We'll know more once the first of the production-ready Active Tourers hit the market in early 2014.

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