The upcoming Subaru-Toyota joint-venture sports car will be a Subaru at heart, though Toyota is expected to have input on the car's appearance. Subaru fans can rest assured that the company’s characteristic looks won’t be toned down by Toyota’s numbing influence. Toyota recently announced its intention to increase its interest in Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, to 16.5% from the its current holdings of 8.5%.
Speaking with MotorAuthority, Dominick Infante, national manager of product communications for Subaru of America said, "We're still designing our own products. With this new sports car that's coming about it'll be a Subaru chassis and engine. We think we'll be able to maintain the Subaru-ness of our products."
Infante indicated that though it is still too far out to talk about specifics, the Toyota-Subaru sports car is going to be a four-cylinder car, and that cars like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe would be in a larger segment.
The car will be built at a new factory setup for the purpose, and both companies will sell versions of it under their own brands. Subaru will reportedly be designing the platform, while Toyota will handle the exterior. Reports indicate the car is likely to be powered by a 2.0L boxer engine and will be available as both a coupe and three-door hatch.
It’s even possible the car could be offered in a high-performance configuration with Subaru’s Symmetric AWD and a 300hp engine, though these details are just speculation and have not been confirmed by Subaru or Infante.
There's also been some speculation that the RWD sports car might cut into sales of Subaru's existing line-up as it's usually considered a sportier, more enjoyable alternative. Infante doesn't see that happening.
"We believe it's going to be something that's smaller. It's going to be a two door. Obviously you're either a sedan or a hatch buyer when you're looking at the 5-door WRX or the 4-door sedan. We think it's a separate market," he said.
One thing that will appeal to many current Subaru owners and future buyers is a diesel engine option in the WRX. Though there is still no timeframe for the diesel WRX, Infante did speak warmly of its drivability, noting its quietness.
"At full throttle in this car it's designed to be very very quiet. That Subie thrum is still there but with the work that the engineers did on quieting the car you really only notice it at idle, under acceleration it's just really quiet in there," said Infante.
The potential fuel savings for the diesel WRX engine is one of its key selling points, and though Infante couldn't provide any specifics, he compared the car to the diesel-powered Outback, which achieves 38mpg on the highway, noting that the move to diesel results in "no small increase in fuel economy."
A hybrid would be another way to improve fuel economy, and thanks to the alliance with Toyota, Subaru now has access to leading edge technology that could soon make production reality.
Subaru is not afraid of Toyota’s influence - the company will remain a separate entity with its own design style and its own products. But that's not to say that the two companies won't be sharing technologies and resources.
"We think it's definitely a positive. We're already sharing engineers, and we can only benefit," said Infante.
A Subaru hybrid is also definitely in the works, but it's still too soon to get any specifics on what sort of vehicle it will be. Nevertheless, the company is sure all of its cars will maintain their characteristic Subaru quality into the future. Expect it to feature a signature symmetrical AWD system and seating for five.
Alongside its work with Toyota on a new hybrid, Subaru is also working on its own programs to lay the ground work for a pure electric car with its R1e program.
Although the R1e is not a product that will ever be sold to the public at large, it is a test bed for the sort of technology Subaru thinks will be necessary to develop a future where pure EVs and plug-in hybrids are a serious option for all driving needs.
One of the most interesting developments with the R1e project is the quick-charging station. Essentially a standalone unit, the chargers can top an EV up with a full charge of electrons in just 15 minutes. While that's about two or three times as long as it takes to put a full tank of petrol or diesel in a car, it's still a significant improvement on the overnight solutions now prominent. Even better, the system can be retrofitted to existing locations for quick and easy expansion of the infrastructure.
"Unlike hydrogen or something along those lines, these power stations can be put everywhere, hooked up to the regular grid," said Infante. "They'd probably cost about $30,000 to add these on. You could put them in the parking lot of an existing gas station. It's not that it needs all this great new technology, it's just essentially the interface that would have to be customized."