Monday, September 7, 2015

BMW’s 225xe PHEV: Another Blow to Brand Loyalists

BMW 225xe Front

The 225xe is a vehicle that traditional BMW aficionados would probably sneer at: a tall people-mover built on a front-wheel drive platform, powered by a three-cylinder engine that’s aided by an electric motor. Not exactly a sporting driver’s dream—yet it epitomizes how BMW is attempting to deal with the impositions of future fuel-economy and emissions regulation.

BMW 225xe side

Based on the new BMW 2-series Active Tourer, a car that—contrary to original intentions—will remain absent from the U.S. market for the foreseeable future, the 225xe is propelled by a 134-hp 1.5-liter three-banger and a rear-mounted 87-hp electric motor. (The battery pack sits below the rear seats.) With a combined output of 221 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque, the compact people-mover charges forward with alacrity: 62 mph comes up in a claimed 6.7 seconds.

With a full charge, the plug-in-hybrid 225xe also can travel up to 25 miles on electricity alone (it’s limited to 78 mph in EV mode). For some commuters, that’s enough. Moreover, the electrically driven rear axle adds rear-wheel-drive capability, so when both powerplants work in unison, the vehicle is all-wheel drive. We recently tested a prototype, and the climbing ability of the little van is surprising.

The hybrid’s capabilities come at a cost: At 3825 pounds, the 225xe is a full 750 pounds heavier than the 218i Active Tourer on which it is based; it also carries a price premium of a whopping EUR 10,400 (about $11,560) over the standard version.

BMW 225xe rear

The 225xe might not be what we expect from BMW, but it’s a capable and versatile compact people-mover. It goes on sale this spring in Europe; will U.S. buyers miss it? If you ask the aforementioned aficionados, no. But perhaps a new breed of buyers, who come to the brand by way of the i3, eventually will want BMW to extend its hybrid portfolio beyond a few premium models.

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