There’s a rumour going around Japan right now that Subaru’s VIZIV 2 concept car revealed at this year’s Geneva motor show previews the next-generation Forester, but our sources tell us otherwise.
Given the fact the latest Forester has been on sale a little more than a year in Australia, where the smaller XV is just over two years old, we can safely say the VIZIV 2 does not point to a replacement for either SUV.
Nor does it preview the new Outback, which is expected to appear at the New York show next month, and is expected to be the only wagon version of the next Liberty sedan. The new Liberty and Outback are due on sale here almost simultaneously early next year.
No, the VIZIV 2 points in another direction, or should we say directions. Compelling evidence about the concept’s secrets came from a source close to Subaru who tells us this sharp looking crossover gives significant hints to what a new, smaller SUV will look like, while at the same time suggesting the shape that a much larger Subaru SUV will take.
This is Subaru’s new design language for SUVs and we can expect to see a lot more of it in future models. While our source remained tight-lipped about the new smaller model, he did expand on the larger one.
So how big will it be? “Try reinterpreted Tribeca territory.”
Just as the underperforming Tribeca is being phased out in all markets, news of a totally new reinterpretation makes perfect sense. Only this time, Subaru has to get the package right. It has to look good, deliver enough power and offer class-leading fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
And if the Tribeca replacement – it will most probably inherit a new name to differentiate it from the outgoing sales disaster – borrows lines from the VIZIV 2, then it is definitely heading in the right direction. This concept is without doubt the sharpest, best-looking crossover design we have ever seen from Subaru.
Despite the fact it incorporates just four seats, we’re told the VIZIV 2 show car accurately previews the design direction of a bigger new SUV, even if it at an overall length of 4435mm it’s about 400mm shorter than the Tribeca, 130mm shorter than the Forester and 15mm shorter than even the XV.
Even more critical to the new crossover’s success than its styling will be its powerplant. That’s why the current Tribeca’s thirsty 3.6-litre six-cylinder boxer engine is being considerably downsized.
But don’t think that the new SUV will want for power. “The radical new engine will offer plenty of poke,” says our source.
In realising that engine, Subaru will lean heavily on its relationship with Toyota (which blossomed with the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ collaborative effort).
This new crossover will bring together two of the industry’s most advanced engine technologies: the world’s only boxer diesel engine and Toyota’s tried and proven THS-II hybrid system.
Although the concept was powered by a downsized 1.6-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder Direct Injection Turbocharged (DIT) boxer engine, we understand the production model will be powered by the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel boxer fitted to the Outback and Forester, in which it generates about 110kW and a beefy 350Nm of torque from just 1800rpm.
But to produce the ideal combination of sufficient torque and class-leading mileage and emissions for the larger crossover, Subaru engineers will take Toyota’s hybrid system and employ in-house knowhow honed on the XV Crosstrek hybrid project to create a plug-in hybrid.
That’s right, the new Subaru SUV will be the world’s first turbo-diesel boxer plug-in hybrid. And to clean up emissions even further, the crossover will incorporate a diesel particulate filter to minimise CO2 and other emissions.
Also previewed by the VIZIV 2, the ground-breaking powertrain incorporates one front electric motor and two rear motors, all charged by a lithium-ion battery.
As Subaru promised when it revealed the VIZIV 2, the independent rear motor-driven symmetrical AWD system “points the way to a future generation of Subaru technology” and will offer “superb driveability, based on the low centre of gravity and superior weight distribution”.
At last, a stylish Subaru crossover by late 2017 that will offer world-leading technology and a totally new driving experience -- or at least that’s what our insider hints at. If the promise meets reality then we have something to look forward to.
Subaru entered unchartered waters in 1999 when its engineers commenced work on the first boxer diesel. Now 15 years later, they are once again going where no engineer has gone before.
By Peter Lyon