Plug-in hybrid SUVs seem to be the “in” thing among luxury carmakers, with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo all rolling out plug-in versions of recent large utility vehicles.
And that trend may soon extend to yet another brand, one known for making vehicles that are a bit smaller. The next MINI Countryman crossover may get a plug-in hybrid powertrain, borrowed from the European-market BMW 2 Series Active Tourer with which it will share a platform.
Plans for a plug-in hybrid MINI were confirmed by Andreas-Christoph Hoffman–MINI’s global communications boss–in an interview with Australian car site Drive during the recent press launch of the 2016 MINI Convertible.
Without specifying the Countryman, Hoffman said the plug-in hybrid powertrain would be used in “any of the models we have launched so far.”
MINI is in the process of transitioning its vast array of models to the UKL platform that debuted with the current-generation MINI Hardtop back in 2013.
It’s also eliminating models–like the odd Coupe and Roadster–that were deemed superfluous, leaving the Countryman next in line for a redesign. The Paceman–a two-door version of the Countryman–will also likely be eliminated.
Hoffman also noted that, as an inherently less-efficient crossover, the Countryman would likely benefit the most from a plug-in hybrid powertrain in terms of its ratings.
That powertrain will most likely come from the BMW 225xe Active Tourer multi-purpose vehicle (or “mini minivan”) that debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show last fall. Not to be confused with the rear-wheel drive 2 Series coupe and convertible sold in the U.S., the 225xe and other 2 Series Active Tourer models use the same front-wheel drive UKL platform that will underpin the next Countryman.
The 225xe uses a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine–the same one used in current MINI models–and six-speed automatic transmission to power its front wheels. An electric motor powers the rear wheels, giving the 225xe a “through the road” all-wheel drive system. The 225xe has a combined output of 221 horsepower, and an electric-only range of 25 miles–at least, as measured on the notoriously optimistic European testing cycle.
Power output could remain the same in the Countryman, but that future crossover may weigh more and have a less aerodynamic body, which could affect efficiency. The next-generation Countryman is expected to debut at the 2016 Paris Motor Show this fall.
Gasoline models could go on sale in 2017, while the plug-in hybrid likely won’t be available until sometime after they launch.
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