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Tokyo show: Subaru points to 2014 Liberty

Design direction: Subaru's Advanced Tourer Concept wagon previews the styling of the next-generation Liberty and Outback wagon due in 2014.

Subaru 1.6-litre hybrid wagon hints at Liberty direction – and WRX engine downsize

8 Nov 2011

SUBARU will provide a glimpse of the sixth-generation 2014 Liberty and Outback when it unveils a concept wagon at this year’s Tokyo motor show from late November.

Fans of the boxer brand might get an even deeper insight into Subaru’s direction if they check out the 1.6-litre turbocharged direct-injected engine in the Subaru Advanced Tourer Concept wagon – a new engine that, in its hottest iteration, is likely to power the new-generation WRX and STI due in either 2013 or 2014.

Rumours abound that Subaru is preparing to downsize the four-cylinder flat-four engine of the WRX and STi from the current 2.5 litres to 1.6 for fuel economy and emissions reasons.

While no performance figures have been given on the Advanced Tourer Concept’s petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, the engine in the concept is the first evidence of that push.

The latest concept wagon is shorter but wider than the current Liberty wagon – known elsewhere as the Legacy – borrowing heavily from the styling cues of the Impreza Design Concept that set the design direction for Subaru when it appeared in the Los Angeles motor show a year ago.

Teaser images released by Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries last night reveal muscular styling with strong haunches and trademark six-sided grille, continuing the ‘Confidence in Motion’ styling theme of the Impreza.

2 center imageLeft: Advanced Tourer Concept. Below: Hybrid Tourer Concept at the 2009 Tokyo motor show.

However, the chrome wings either side of the Subaru badge in the middle of the grille are gone, with the logo seemingly floating against a black background.

The glasshouse is supported by a four-pillar design, with wide rear-most ‘D’ pillars embracing a conventional wagon hatch.

At 4580mm long, the concept is more than 200mm shorter than the current fifth-generation Liberty wagon, which was criticised in some quarters for being too bulbous when it arrived in sedan and wagon forms in 2009.

Subaru designers have also sliced 20mm from the height of the concept, which comes down to 1505mm, while boosting the body width from 1780mm to 1840mm – a gain of some 60mm.

The changes give the wagon a squatter, planted look, similar to the new Impreza that is set to arrive on Australian roads in the first quarter of 2012.

Inside, the Advanced Tourer Concept gets a multi-function LCD screen implanted in the steering wheel for sat-nav and other guidance functions.

A rendering of the interior shows slim-line seats sitting on a single floor mount, similar to the system employed in the Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept shown at the Tokyo motor show two years ago.

The design otherwise bears little resemblance to the fanciful gullwing-door wagon concept shown in 2009, aside from a hybrid powertrain.

This time, the Advanced Tourer Concept matches the new 1.6-litre direct-injected turbo boxer engine with a single electric motor that can run in all-electric mode at start-up and on low-speed drives.

The hybrid system powers all four wheels via a high-torque continuously variable transmission (CVT) and the latest Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system.

This hybrid system is expected to power Subaru’s first hybrid model due in about 2013, possibly based on the next-generation Forester that will follow the upcoming 2012 Impreza and XV compact SUV into Australian showrooms.

Replacements for the current Impreza-based WRX and STI are not due for about two or three years, with Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior telling GoAuto recently that a decision on the platform for the flagship sports models was still under discussion.

The 1.6-litre boxer engine appears to be a monty for the next WRX and STi, as well as other models in the Subaru range.

The Japanese manufacturer has made no bones about its intention to drive down the fuel consumption of its cars by a mix of downsizing and latest powertrain technologies.

Subaru said the direct fuel-injection turbo engine would be one of the main technologies guiding the brand’s future engine strategy.

“Not only is acceleration quick and smooth, the engine is environmentally friendly,” the company said in a press release accompanying the wagon images.

“The 1600cc engine offers drastically improved combustion efficiency in the practical driving speed range.”

The engine reportedly makes the same power as the 123kW/229Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine of the current Liberty and Outback ranges.

The new Subaru BRZ sports coupe that will also be revealed in production guise at this year’s Tokyo motor show uses the latest D-4S dual-injection system – combining both direct and port injectors for maximum effect – from development partner Toyota on its normally aspirated 2.0-litre boxer engine that Toyota will share on its near-identical 86 sports coupe.

To maintain current power levels of the current WRX and STI, Subaru would need to squeeze up to 221kW of power and 407Nm of torque – the current STI’s figures – out of an engine 900cc smaller than the current unit.

This would outshine the specific performance of Alfa Romeo’s forthcoming 224kW 1.8-litre turbo four-cylinder firecracker that is set to power the flagship Giulia when it goes into production in early 2013.

However, Subaru might be looking to lightweight construction to offset any power shortfall to maintain the explosive performance of its sports machines.

Autocar reports that Subaru will show “an ultimate version” of the current WRX STI called S206 at the Tokyo show.

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