Playing down reports that Subaru’s forthcoming front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car will be an exclusive creation, the man heading up the project, Toshio Masuda, has told VDI that the end product – due by the second quarter of next year – will be more in the Mazda MX-5’s price range rather than a high-end offering.
Jointly developed with Toyota, the upcoming sports car is Subaru’s first attempt in launching a mass-produced, front-engine rear-wheel drive model. It will also be the only such sports car application in the world with a horizontally-opposed Boxer engine, which is likely to come in the form of Subaru’s 2-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder unit, although both Japanese partners are refusing to confirm actual production powertrain plans, which may also include a turbo four-pot. What is known is that the Toyota derivitive will also gain access to the Subaru Boxer from launch, and Toyota powertrain sources have confirmed that a six-speed transmission will be used to channel the Boxer’s power.
Venturing into the unknown – what with the front-engine, rear-drive layout – has meant that Subaru engineers have created a new platform that’s loosely based on the car maker’s AWD model package, which Masuda says will help the engineering team to realize maximum performance potential.
Much development work is centering upon the chassis to ensure that the sports car delivers a sporty drive. Masuda says it’s important that the vehicle does not solely rely on the Boxer engine for power, so the aim for Subaru dynamicists, he says, is to create a chassis that achieves the fundamental characteristics of a real-wheel-drive sports car. To help ensure the car is agile, the suspension will feature struts at the front and a double-wishbone setup at the rear. Masuda says the suspension is totally new, with very little being carried across from existing Subaru models. The Subaru man adds: “The base input on chassis has come from Subaru, but we have listened closely to Toyota and their tuning ideas.”
The RWD design means that the car’s engine will sit even lower and further back in the engine bay when compared to current Subaru AWD models. Masuda says this is an important point, as this helps ensure a lower center of gravity that’s located toward the middle of the chassis, thus giving an optimum front/real weight balance. Further increasing stability, control and handling of the sports car will be a short front overhang and an even shorter rear overhang, to reduce any yaw moment of inertia generated.
VDI can reveal that the signed-off production sportsc ar will have dimensions that are not too dissimilar to the data revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2011, which includes a wheelbase of 2,570mm, length of 4,200mm, width of 1,770mm and height at 1,270mm. Tire size will be around 215/45 R17.
At present, Subaru’s test team are monitoring mules that are up and running in the USA and Japan. And aside from it being Subaru’s first mass-produced front-engine, rear-drive product, Matsuda says that the three greatest challenges to the program so far have been “how to maximize performance from the engine; ensuring cost reduction; and thirdly, it’s never easy to undertake collaborations with other car makers!”
Also making a public bow at the Geneva Motor Show was Toyota’s FT-86 II concept, which in its current guise looks production ready. Unsurprsingly, the dimensions of FT-86 II are close to the numbers released by Subaru, with the Toyota machine measuring 4,235mm long, 1,795mm wide and 1,270mm high, and with a wheelbase of 2,570mm. Yet despite such similar stats, Matsuda is keen to promise that there will be distinct differences between the two product offerings.