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Geneva show: Subaru locks in ‘Boxer’ for 2012

'Subarota': New Subaru Boxer rear-drive sports car to commence production in second quarter of 2012.

Agile handling the focus of low, lean coupe to be shared by Subaru and Toyota

1 Mar 2011

SUBARU today confirmed that its pocket-rocket rear-drive ‘Boxer’ sports coupe being jointly developed with Toyota will go into production in the second quarter of 2012.

The announcement came at the Geneva motor show as Subaru revealed the mechanical heart of the all-new purebred sports model, which is yet to be formally confirmed for Australia.

Some 348mm shorter than the Impreza WRX sedan and 25mm narrower, the two-door, four-seater coupe will get an all-new ultra-lightweight body with short overhangs and a low-slung boxer engine for a low centre of gravity.

A mock-up of the car, dressed in a transparent acrylic skin, reveals a normally aspirated 2.0-litre direct-injection version of Subaru’s third-generation trademark flat-four ‘boxer’ engine sitting in what Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries calls its ‘Boxer Sports Car Architecture’.

Although no power or performance figures were quoted, European reports suggest an output of 149kW from this engine, which was co-developed with Toyota. That is 39kW more than the current second-generation 2.0-litre engine in the standard Impreza and 13kW more than the new 2.5-litre third-generation normally aspirated engine in the latest Forester.

A turbocharged variant belting out a WRX-like 194kW is also mooted, although there was no sign of that in Geneva today.

Subaru described the new car as the world’s only rear-drive, front-engined sportscar powered by a boxer engine.

It said the emphasis had been on driving enjoyment rather than raw speed, with a short 2570mm wheelbase – 35mm shorter than that of the Impreza – for agile handling.

“Short front and rear overhangs reduce any yaw moment of inertia and provide a higher level of stability, control and handling,” Subaru said.

The handling characteristics are further enhanced by the placement of the engine and transmission, which are not only mounted low but set back towards the cabin.

Subaru said this placement enables a low-profile sportscar body and low driving position, while “a high level of driving stability and remarkable handling are ensured” by use of the boxer engine.

The transmission is linked via a two-piece tailshaft to the rear axle, which is mounted in a sub-frame that also braces a double-wishbone multi-link rear suspension layout in the Subaru style. Front suspension is by MacPherson strut.

Subaru said much of the engineering focus had been on chassis development to provide “outstanding stability and control”.

“Rather than simply developing a frame and body that focuses purely on speed, development has produced a chassis that delivers a sporty driving experience and ride, and stable drivability, offering driver confidence,” the company said.

“The Boxer Sports Car Architecture does not depend solely on engine power output – instead it achieves the fundamental characteristics of a rear-wheel-drive sportscar, delivering sporty performance and agile response from its short wheelbase.”

If the acrylic body on the show display is any guide to the final shape of the new Subaru, it will be smoother and rounder than the angular Toyota version – dubbed FT-86 – which was shown today in second-generation concept form at the Swiss show.

The Subaru shape appears to indicate a boot rather than a hatchback, with a sporty sawn-off rear end, somewhat reminiscent of Honda’s defunct Prelude.

Although Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior told GoAuto at the recent 2011 Forester media launch that he was expecting word on an arrival date for the as-yet unnamed sports coupe, national corporate affairs manager David Rowley told us: “No decision has yet been made as to whether the sportscar will come to Australia.”

If it does come to Australia – and you can bank on it if Toyota Australia brings the FT-86 Down Under – it would be Subaru’s only model sold here without its symmetrical all-wheel drive system.

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