Now that the 2-series Active Tourer’s got everybody used to the idea of a front-drive Beemer, an all-wheel-drive version makes perfect sense, especially given its handy fit with the car’s lifestyle marketing angle.
So, say hello to the all-paw BMW 2-series Active Tourer xDrive, the most active of Active Tourers. No doubt the marketing department in Munich is already composing brochure pictures with a set of skis on the roof and a mountain bike rack on the back.
How does it drive?
Most of the time, there are few clues that this is a four-wheel-drive car other than some extra meatiness to the steering. An exploratory traffic light throttle pedal-to-carpet introduction and it takes off smartly, without a chirrup from the tyres.
Laterally it’s very grippy too, as you’d expect, but can be relatively playful if provoked. In summary, it’s more fun than most people carriers and no less than most hatchbacks.
The xDrive’s available with the most powerful 2.0-litre four-pot petrol and diesel engines in the Tourer range only: the 227bhp 225i petrol and the 187bhp 220d diesel. All xDrives are fitted with BMW’s eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox.
With the 225i engine installed the Tourer’s surprisingly brisk. It even sounds quite racy, with the odd exhaust crackle on upshifts that’s most unbecoming of an MPV. The 220d diesel is less urgent but moves along smartly and quietly enough to dodge any obvious criticisms. Good job too as it’ll vastly outsell the petrol in the UK.
The auto ’box impresses, swapping as smoothly and swiftly as you could reasonably expect of any self-shifting transmission.
Main bugbear is the ride quality. It’s very, very firm and could do with a bit more pliancy. We’re told the same suspension settings will be adopted for UK-spec cars, which is a worry. Even with the adaptive dampers fitted to our test car in Comfort mode it was really quite jiggly on anything less than a smooth surface.
How does the four-wheel drive bit work?
This is the first time BMW’s hooked its xDrive gubbins up to a transverse-engined car designed primarily for front-wheel drive.
Power flows to the rear axle via an angular gear on the front diff and a two-part shaft on the gearbox and crankcase. An electro-hydraulically controlled clutch inside the rear drive axle can send an ‘infinitely variable’ amount of torque to the front and rear wheels. Theoretically, as much as 100% can be sent to either end in the most extreme scenario, such as the front wheels sitting on a slick patch of ice.
Of course, most of the time there’s no need for the Tourer to drive both axles so to save fuel the hydraulic pump on the rear axle depressurises during steady-state driving and renders the car front-drive only.
In total, the whole four-wheel drive addenda add only 61kg to the Active Tourer’s overall weight.
Can it off-road?
A bit. We trailed through a muddy but fairly light off-road track on winter tyres. An ordinary car could have managed most of the course bar one fairly sheer hill which to its credit the xDrive Tourer scrambled up with ease. Although the stability control system can mimic a locking diff by braking a spinning wheel and sending more torque to its opposite partner to help find traction, since ground clearance is unchanged from the regular Active Tourer it’s probably best not to attempt anything too adventurous.
BMW 2-series Active Tourer xDrive: verdict
Speccing the Tourer with xDrive adds around £1500 to the price of the equivalent front-drive car. BMW expects xDrive-equipped cars to make up around 15-20% of Active Tourer sales, with most cars finding homes in Alpine regions and other gnarlier-terrained bits of continental Europe.
The BMW’s only direct rival on paper is the Mercedes B-Class 4MATIC, and it’s a darn sight more desirable than that. It does the MPV thing well enough – there’s loads of head and legroom front and rear, the seats do slidy and tilty stuff and you’ll fit bulky luggage in the boot without difficulty. Meanwhile, the interior quality and ambiance feels high-quality enough to justify the price premium over C-Max and co.
So, the xDrive Tourer is unarguably the most premium people carrier on the market and subjectively one of the most fun to drive, too.
Read CAR's review of the front-wheel-drive BMW 2-series Active Tourer here