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Tokyo show: Hybrid wagon shows Subaru’s new style

Taking a Liberty: Subaru’s Tokyo concept is a pointer to the next-generation Liberty and Outback.

Next Liberty likely to hit the gym to attract a new breed of Subaru customer

Subaru logo30 Nov 2011

THE muscular wagon concept you see here is set to carry the medium-car hopes of Subaru on its broad shoulders, as the blueprint for the next-generation Liberty and Outback, due in about 2014.

Unwrapped at the Tokyo motor show this morning, the Subaru Advanced Tourer Concept was teased in photographs before the show, but now has entered the full glare of the spotlight on the Subaru stand, where it is starring alongside the production BRZ sports coupe in its global debut.

However, little extra information has been supplied with the new images, with Subaru reiterating that the wagon is powered by a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain that marries an electric motor with a new 1.6-litre turbo ‘boxer’ engine with direct injection.

That engine is expected to provide the basis for the new downsized powerplant for the next WRX and STI, due in a couple of years.

No power, performance or fuel figures have been provided, but expect a significant improvement on the thirsty 10.5 litres per 100km consumed by the current 2.5-litre Impreza-based STI and 10.4L/100km for the WRX.

For now, Subaru is only saying the engine “showcases technology that will guide the brand’s future engine strategy”.

While the 1.6-litre turbo engine may not deliver the raw power and torque of the current 2.5-litre boxer of the STI (221kW/407Nm), a concerted attack on the weight of the new-generation performance flagships is likely to provide a similar white-knuckle result.

2 center imageSubaru has yet to confirm the architecture for the next WRX/STI performance flagships, but it will not be the Impreza this time, with a Subaru insider telling GoAuto it will be “something different”.

The hybrid powertrain of the Tokyo concept wagon is a precursor to a petrol-electric model to be trialled in Japan on a current platform from 2013.

If this toe-in-the-water exercise is successful, the system will be extended to other markets, perhaps including Australia from 2015.

It might first appear here in the sixth-generation Liberty (known elsewhere as Legacy) or the related Outback crossover wagon, in a package similar in most regards to the hybrid all-wheel-drive Advanced Tourer Wagon Concept now on show in Tokyo.

While you can forget the fanciful pillarless design, sky-high gullwing doors, glass roof and slammed suspension, the overall design looks a serious attempt to test public enthusiasm for a new design for the currently conservative mid-sizer.

Subaru product planners and designers are acutely aware of the brand’s ageing demographic around the world and are looking to attract new blood under its five-year Motion V product plan, which calls for one new full-model change each year.

Subaru says its new hybrid powertrain drastically improves combustion efficiency at practical driving speeds.

It says the system employs a single electric motor for simple structure and light weight, along with a lithium-ion battery.

“This system has an electric vehicle mode which allows all-wheel-drive motion using only the motor at start-up and low speed,” it says.

“When decelerating, the regenerating mechanism uses the motor as a power generator.” The petrol engine and motor are linked to Subaru’s Lineartronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), which the company says has been refined to meet the high power of the turbo engine.

At 4580mm long, the concept wagon is more than 200mm shorter than the current Liberty wagon that arrived in 2009, but at 1840mm is 60mm wider.

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