The BMW Active Tourer
Every time I drive a new BMW I reflect on the experience with a wry smile. That’s normally because I’ve had a pretty good time driving it. Outside of specialist high performance cars, BMW is amongst the most committed brand I know to enjoyment behind the wheel. Us motoring scribblers have often praised their commitment to the common driver’s choice of front-engined rear wheel drive cars, and of course, the overriding priority the brand give to driving dynamics. The BMW ‘M’ cars are now legendary for just that, but all BMW’s are in essence, driver focused cars.
This new BMW 2 Series Active Tourer breaks away from BMW tradition to make its mark in the highly competitive small SUV class, What’s more it debuts a new super-efficient 3 cylinder engine. Two quite radical moves for the brand, and being BMW, you have to sit up and take notice.
Spacious, comfortable, innovative
The move to front wheel drive for the 2 Series Tourer is all about maximising cabin space and comfort in a highly compact yet user friendly package. As such, herein lies one of the most efficient space utilising packages this observer has seen. Whilst measuring only 4,342mm in length, and 1,800mm in width there is ample room for five, and enough room for six footers to sit comfortably front and rear…yes, at the same time! Actually it has the same amount of rear seating space as the BMW 7 Series – their biggest saloon.
Flexibility is enhanced by sliding adjustable rear seats, creating even more generous luggage space to the rear. Drop the rear seats, however, and the kitchen sink won’t be out of the question creating an humongous easy to load 1,510 litres of total luggage space in all. Lift the foldable boot floor and there’s a handy storage compartment and multifunction tray to stop the kids spotting and eating all your Mars bars, Skittles, and Twix bars.
Still the driver’s machine
Ride and handling are the ‘acid test’ for any new BMW. If it can’t ‘walk-the-walk’ here then it’s game over. Of course, the game is raised pretty high too as there is some serious competition out there. BMW have thus needed to redefine how a small SUV bearing its prestigious name should perform. This new car is agile, involving, and fun. We test drove the car on some of the Cotswold’s finest roads, and found ourselves praising the flexibility and free breathing nature of the new 3 cylinder engine, as well as the refinement of the four cylinder diesel.
That’ll be due in part to a whole new chassis design matched to a long wheelbase and wide track, a reduced –friction steering system, a tortionally stiff lightweight body with low overhangs, and a low centre of gravity. That combination allows you to drive with enthusiasm, sitting tight and flat into bends with excellent body control, high levels of grip, and minimum ‘lean’ into the bends. It has that ideal balance of agility and refinement, striking just the right compromise between those of us who enjoy a keen drive, and those for whom comfort and ride refinement come first. Believe me, this SUV is not a boring option to a keen driver; quite the opposite once you’re behind the wheel.
Yet it’s interesting how BMW have been able to translate engaging drive and handling dynamics into a segment that it is rarely an overriding priority. But of course ‘it’s a BMW’, a USP for drivers, yet without sacrificing expectations of possibly less enthusiastic partners and children. It makes absolute sense for BMW to enter this segment in this way, and they do it well. They had to.
The new twin turbo’d three cylinder petrol engine is all aluminium and ultra-low friction; it breathes freely and on the drive has no noticeable drawbacks to a four cylinder. So much so that you wouldn’t know unless you were told of the difference. Where you gain, however, is on fuel consumption (an average 57.6 mpg) and emissions (only 115 g/km) and this from a car that will take you to the 0-62 mph benchmark in 9.3 secs, top 124 mph, yet generate a respectable 220NM of torque.
The four cylinder diesel promises more of everything: 68.9 mpg, 109 g/km on the emissions front, 0-62 mph in 8.9 secs, and a top speed of 127 mph.
Great standard spec
When you buy a new car, the standard price tends to grow with optional equipment that becomes more of a ‘necessity’ than an option these days. BMW have cottoned on to that and keep costs honest by offering a comprehensive range of standard spec on this new car. The Active Tourer, for example, features the new Pedestrian Warning system with City Braking ie if you don’t stop in an emergency then the car will do it for you. The options are useful though; a full colour head-up display showing information on a screen that extends out between the steering wheel and the windscreen keeps eyes usefully focused on the road, whilst the Parking Assistant package goes one step further in making the driving test redundant by doing your parking for you.
So BMW have ‘done it again’ – as always, a well researched, well developed premium motor from BMW. In your BMW showrooms from 27th September, waiting for the keen driver who needs a truly practical all-purpose ‘lifestyle’ vehicle that doesn’t sacrifice the joy of driving.
- Kevin Haggarthy