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No new turbos for Subaru until next WRX

Natural aspirations: The new-gen Forester will be offered with just one 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol powertrain delivering 136kW/239Nm in US-market guise.

Subaru drops turbo Forester, while next WRX is still some way away

Subaru logo2 Apr 2018

By TIM ROBSON in NEW YORK

SUBARU Australia managing director Colin Christie says the loss of the turbocharged XT versions of the Forester with the introduction of the new-generation model will not have a dramatic impact on local sales.

The fifth-generation Forester will lob into Australian showrooms later this year with a streamlined powertrain line-up that no longer includes a turbo-diesel or turbo-petrol offering.

Mr Christie acknowledged that the 177kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol XT was a popular variant, but falling sales meant it was no longer a viable proposition from an Australian perspective.

“Look, I think there'll be some concern,” he told journalists at the New York motor show last week. “It’s been a great car for us. It’s a halo car for the brand. But the reality is we were down to selling 70 to 80 a month for the last probably 12 months. It hasn’t been a massive seller for us.”

The Forester will be offered globally with just one powertrain variant – a heavily revised, direct-injection 2.5-litre naturally aspirated flat four petrol engine that pumps out 136kW/239Nm in US-market guise, combined with an updated continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drivetrain.

Internationally, Subaru still offers turbocharged powerplants, and the most suitable appears to be the new 2.4-litre forced induction petrol unit that powers the forthcoming US-made Ascent seven-seat SUV.

Unlike the 1.6-litre turbocharged unit in the current Levorg wagon, it is built to fit the new Subaru Global Platform architecture, which also underpins the new Forester.

Mr Christie said that the company was keeping an open mind in relation to turbocharged powertrains, but that nothing was planned.

“If a turbo version became available in the future, that’s something we’d definitely be interested in it,” he said. “But to be honest, where this car sits in the segment it plays in now, (the naturally aspirated engine/CVT) combination is perfect for where the bulk of the market is.

“There’s obviously a different variety of engine technology potentially available. I can’t answer, to be honest, why it wasn’t put into the car.”

Meanwhile, Mr Christie confirmed that an update to the ageing WRX that was launched Down Under back in 2014, was still a number of years away.

“We’re working obviously with the factory as to when that may or may not happen, but at this stage it’s certainly nothing, not in the pipeline for the next year or two.”

He pointed out that sales of the current WRX – backed by an extensive marketing campaign spearheaded by a multi-year assault on the Australian Rally Championship – were still sound.

“Like everything, you’d want a brand-new car as soon as you can get it,” he said. “And we know how good the global platform is. But, the reality of WRX and STI at the moment is they’re still selling extremely well. And with the upgrades that were done last year, the car still rides and drives and handles exceptionally well. So I don’t think there’s any great hurry for it. But if it were available tomorrow, of course we’d take it.”

He admitted that a turbocharged powerplant was likely for Subaru’s all-paw sportscar successor. “You’d presume that if it gets to that stage then it probably could be (turbocharged),” he said.

Sales of the WRX stand at 382 units to the end of March this year, a lift of 4.4 per cent over the same period last year. Last year, Subaru recorded 2614 WRX sales, an 11 per cent dip over the 2016 haul.

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