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First look: Subaru goes hybrid touring

Hybrid boxer: An electric motor at each end drives the turbocharged flat-four hybrid tourer concept.

Subaru hybrid tourer combines direct-injection turbo boxer with two electric motors

30 Sep 2009

SUBARU has revealed a futuristic hybrid wagon concept with a pair of massive gullwing doors ahead of its world debut at the Tokyo motor show on October 21.

While the twin oversized roof-hinged doors that expose almost all of the four-seater interior are unlikely to appear in a Subaru showroom any time soon, the hybrid tourer is the first Subaru to combine a direct-injection boxer engine with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a petrol-electric hybrid drive system.

Naturally, the avant-garde Subaru showcar also features the company's trademark ‘symmetrical’ all-wheel drive system, but the simplistically dubbed ‘hybrid tourer’ concept also showcases a number of other groundbreaking new technologies from the off-beat Japanese brand.

Fresh from releasing its fifth-generation Liberty and Outback range in Australia and a month before launching the Exiga people-mover and diesel Outback here, the company will use the 41st Tokyo show to preview a new driver safety system called EyeSight.

2 center imageIntegrated with vehicle-to-vehicle and road-to-vehicle communication technology, Subaru says EyeSight is an advanced driver safety system that recognises a wide range of driving environments and includes an “assist collision prevention” support system that uses stereo camera technology.

The system is claimed to be a major breakthrough in collision detection performance by combining a stereo camera with a specialised three-dimensional image-processing engine to recognise both pedestrians and cyclists.

According to Subaru: “Wide-ranging driving conditions that cannot be covered by a stereo camera alone are acquired through vehicle-to-vehicle and road-to-vehicle communication technology, which is then synchronised with EyeSight, offering another level of preventative safety.

“This system continuously detects vehicles that move into and out of blind spots and advises the driver on appropriate driving manoeuvres.” Also likely to be seen on a production Subaru soon is the “next-generation” 2.0-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed boxer engine with turbocharging and direct petrol injection.

Unsurprisingly, Subaru says direct injection endows its flat turbo four with improved fuel efficiency, reduced exhaust emissions, higher torque output and superior overall engine response.

As with the new Liberty and Outback, it is mated to a stepless automatic CVT dubbed Lineartronic, but the big news is Subaru’s first full-blown petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain.

The tourer’s unique hybrid system employs two electric motors - one at either end of the vehicle – plus regenerative braking and idle-stop systems a lithium-ion battery pack similar to that found in Subaru’s plug-in Stella electric vehicle.

Subaru says the direct-injection boxer four is the primary power source during normal driving, with the 20kW rear electric motor assisting the petrol engine during acceleration and the 10kW front motor also kicking in during uphill acceleration.

Confirming the tourer employs a full parallel, or two-mode, hybrid drive system as used by Toyota’s Prius, the petrol engine remains idle while the rear electric motor provides drive for take-off and during extremely low speeds such as when parking.

Measuring 70mmm longer than the Forester and 90mm shorter than the new Liberty wagon at 4630mm, the hybrid tourer is also 50mm lower than the mid-sized wagon at 1420mm but a whole 160mm wider at 1890mm.

Described as a “grand touring car that features a luxurious cabin and an eye-catching sculpted aerodynamic body”, Subaru says the hybrid tourer has a flat rear floor to maximise passenger space, specialised windscreen shielding to reduce driver eyestrain and a new leather seat covering that incorporates a ventilation function designed to improve breathability, comfort and texture.

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