Diesel-Hybrid Debuts with New Electric All-Wheel-Drive Tech
The dramatically doored Subaru VIZIV Concept provides a clear window into the future of a brand that is at a bit of a crossroads here in the U.S. Looking at Subaru’s two most recently introduced products—and I’m not counting the 2013 Subaru BRZ—we see the company’s foray into the mainstream is having a hard time staying afloat, while the entry that hews closer to its quirky/AWD reputation is doing relatively well.
Consider: The 2013 Subaru Impreza, which looks like a fairly conventional compact sedan on the outside, is enduring a sophomore slump in its second season on the market and is behind last year’s sales pace by 27.5 percent through February. On the other hand, the 2013 Subaru Crosstrek XV, a relatively distinctive crossover in its first full year on sale, has managed to climb ahead of rivals like the 2013 Kia Sportage, 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan, 2013 Nissan Juke and 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.
Which brings us back to the Subaru VIZIV Concept, which shows the kind of taut, dynamic sheet metal that’s been successful on the Crosstrek and also was well-received on the 2011 Advanced Tourer Concept. Now, per Subaru, the VIZIV introduces “the new design direction … that will take the Subaru brand into the future,” and that should be good news for owners. After all, if the Geneva concept is any clue, the future look means clean, flowing lines matched to distinctive lighting treatments and a trendy grille shape.
It also means updating some of the brand’s hallmark technologies—as again illustrated in the Subaru VIZIV Concept.
The Subaru VIZIV Concept naturally boasts both all-wheel drive and a boxer-style engine, and it puts a suitably next-gen spin on the features with fresh technology that is just about ready for the U.S. market. This includes a hybrid powertrain that leverages not only a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine, but also an advanced lithium-ion battery and two electric motors. Mated to a cutting-edge Lineartronic CVT, the components work together with the diesel engine driving the front wheels and each rear wheel being powered by its own dedicated electric motor.
A high-tech control system then manages power distribution to ensure an optimum mix of performance, safety and efficiency across a wide range of driving conditions. The technology is particularly helpful in honing the VIZIV’s handling, too. According to Subaru: “Turning the steering wheel increases the drive power applied to the rear, creating a handling characteristic that responds nimbly to driver operations. Turning the steering wheel back increases the drive power applied to the front, creating a handling characteristic that emphasizes stability.”
The Subaru VIZIV Concept also can leverage that technology to push ye olde efficiency envelope: When the vehicle’s three-mode drive selector is set to “Eco-Cruise,” an advanced control system links with the stereo camera from its EyeSight pilot-assistance feature. Then, the VIZIV’s powertrain operation is automatically fine-tuned, in real time, to match conditions detected by the EyeSight camera.
The result, per Subaru, is “an intelligent driving feature designed for safety and environmental friendliness.”
And while the Subaru VIZIV Concept isn’t likely to spawn a production model, expect some of those technologies are sure to arrive in dealerships sooner rather than later.