Subaru might not be on the tips of tongues when discussing innovation or high sales volumes in the current market. This misperception obscures Subaru’s avid following in New England, the Pacific Northwest and Europe. The automaker has attracted loyal customers by offering wagons and SUVs that can actually handle trips on rugged terrain. The next step in Subaru’s continued growth is to meld popular vehicle designs with advanced features that are friendlier to the environment. The VIZIZ plug-in hybrid concept presented at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show seems to represent this step forward for Subaru.
The term VIZIZ stands for Vision for Innovation, which clearly telegraphs Subaru’s concerns about a rapidly changing marketplace. The Subaru VIZIZ concept sticks with the crossover template that has earned Subaru kudos throughout North America and Europe. An intriguing twist is a pair of doors that flip up for easier entry and exit. A combination of a 2.0-liter Boxer diesel engine with three motors and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) allow the VIZIZ to run partially on electrical power. The electric motor paired with the engine is used for low-speed operation and power generation for the battery pack.
Engineers at Subaru stationed two electric motors on the rear axle to provide 100% of the power to the rear wheels. These motors work with the onboard computer to adjust torque to each wheel based on turn severity. As the driver turns, the motor for the outside tire provides greater torque while the inner tire receives less torque until the wheel has returned to original position. The Hybrid SI-Drive system also coordinates power between the front motor and rear motors during turns. The rear wheels receive more power when the vehicle is turning and the front wheels receive more power during straight-line driving.
Subaru’s Hybrid SI-Drive system goes beyond power management to ensure that the VIZIZ operates at peak efficiency. The onboard computer determines the best time to rely on the electric motors or engine based on speed, driving tendencies and road conditions. The front motor starts the vehicle and operates without the engine during low-speed travel. The VIZIZ uses the diesel engine and CVT when reaching highway speeds. Drivers need not worry about switching between operating modes thanks to this innovative drive system. The vehicle alternates between Intelligent, Sport and Eco-Cruise modes based on travel conditions. Subaru notes that the Eco-Cruise mode is initiated when the Eyesight camera determines that roadways are optimal for all-electric power.
The Subaru brand has been in ascendancy in recent years with five years of continuous sales growth in the U.S., Europe and Japan. This growing automaker has branched out recently with the sporty 2013 BRZ and the 2013 XV Crosstrek SUV. A concept vehicle like the VIZIV might not enter the market as shown at Geneva but the innovations are clear in Subaru’s presentation. The Hybrid-SI Drive and the alignment of electric motors could be translated easily to Subaru staples like the Outback and the Forester.