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Subaru’s ‘all-powerful’ hybrids may preview next-gen STI

By Tony O'Kane, 13 Feb 2019 Car News

Subaru’s ‘all-powerful’ hybrids may preview next-gen STI

Subaru is preparing two new hybrid powerplants for the Geneva motor show – could they preview what’s coming for the brand’s next-gen performance cars?

Subaru will showcase two electrified powertrains, which the Japanese car maker bills as “all-new, all-powerful” at the Geneva motor show in March. Making their debut under the company’s established e-Boxer hybrid nomenclature, the new engines are expected to represent a more concerted push toward battery-enhanced technology for Subaru.

And with future iterations of Subaru performance cars, most notably the WRX and WRX STI, expected to retain their grippy all-wheel-drive underpinnings yet transform into petrol-electric hybrids, there are reasonable odds that the Geneva engines could provide clues about what’s in store for those models as well.

Read next: 2018 Subaru WRX STI: Hot Hatch Megatest 9th

Subaru’s PR office appears to be priming us for such a scenario. Using language like “there's hybrid, then there's the all-powerful e-BOXER”, and “excitement generates electricity”, in their announcement of the dual-hybrid debut, we’re guessing these engines will pack a much greater punch than the company’s most recent hybrid effort – the 115kW/253Nm naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre hybrid used in the Japanese-market Subaru Forester e-Boxer.

And they will need to if Subaru is to deliver on its commitment to electrify its range of cars while avoiding alienating thousands of WRX fans. The current WRX and WRX STI will be due for all-new replacements in 2020, and while they generate a stout 197kW/350Nm and 221kW/407Nm respectively from their turbocharged flat-four engines, both powertrains suffer from considerable turbo lag.

Augmenting an otherwise-traditional turbo flat four with an electric motor to ‘fill in’ that turbo-lag-induced pause in power makes sense from a performance point of view, and would help Subaru’s track stars exploit their all-wheel-drive grip advantage to the maximum. At the same time, the hybrid hardware could also help tame that other WRX negative trait: high fuel consumption.

Read next: 1999 Subaru WRX STi 22B: Quick History Lesson

What it would mean for the rest of the drivetrain is a mystery – Subaru’s current hybrids all send power to the wheels via a CVT automatic, a type of transmission that’s not known for offering much in the way of driver enjoyment.

However, we do have at least some inkling of what a future Subaru performance car might look like – hybrid or not. Last year’s Subaru Viziv Performance STI Concept (pictured) was an ultra-aggressive design study that pointed toward a very WRX STI-ish four-door sedan, and its prominent bonnet scoop suggested turbocharged engines were still very much at the front of Subaru’s mind.

Read next: 2018 Ford Focus RS vs Subaru WRX STI vs Volkswagen Golf R comparison review

Yet making it a hybrid would be relatively easy. If a production version were to eventuate it will be built on Subaru’s hybrid-accommodating SGP architecture (which underpins the current Impreza, XV and Forester), and Subaru executives have already dropped hints that hybridisation is on the horizon for the company’s performance cars. How soon is that future? We’ll likely find out on March 5 at Geneva.