18 November 2004

Subaru is about to embark on its most comprehensive product revamp, and first off the blocks will be this seven-seat ‘crossover utility vehicle’. Dubbed B9X, Subaru has released this artist’s impression ahead of the official unveiling at the Detroit Motor Show in early January. This will be the first Subaru to use the company’s new nose design, first seen on the B111S concept (right).

The B9X will be built at Subaru’s US factory in Lafayette, Indiana alongside its Saab sister car. The Saab, due for launch next spring and called the 9-6X, will have its own interior and exterior design. Sources say the Subaru will be powered by a pair of 3.0-litre flat-six engines – the 241bhp normally aspirated version currently found in the Legacy, and a twin-turbo version good for well over 300bhp. An additional new 2.5-litre unit is also planned.

The B9X is based on a new-generation platform (see gallery) that could also underpin a flagship executive car to sit above the Legacy. It’s also thought to have sliding side doors – an unusual feature in this market sector. Subaru won’t say if the B9X will be built in right-hand drive, although the Saab version will be.

However, Subaru looks to be taking the European market much more seriously with news that work is underway on a new range of flat-four diesel engines. Subaru has built prototype diesels in the past, but with small European sales it couldn’t justify the significant investment required to produce them. However, its collaboration with Saab has given the project new life and a new urgency. Expect 2.0-litre and 2.2-litre versions of the diesel, which will be fitted to the next-generation of Subaru models as well as Saab’s 9-6X and the second-generation 9-2X, if it’s again based on the Impreza.

Early work on Subaru’s new diesel engine was carried out at Porsche’s Weissach engineering centre in Germany. However, the majority of its development has taken place at Subaru in Japan with additional expertise coming from fellow GM subsidiary Isuzu.

Work on the next-generation Impreza is also underway. The Impreza caught here at the Nürburgring circuit in Germany is thought to be testing the new platform. Due in 2006, the car has been re-engineered with engines mounted 50mm further back in the engine bay. The move will improve the car’s weight distribution, agility and body control. Upgraded four-cylinder 1.6- and 2.0-litre petrol engines will feature. It’s also rumoured that Subaru may specify a six-speed manual gearbox as standard in an attempt to reduce fuel consumption and improve the car’s mid-range acceleration.

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