Going greener: Subaru hybrid to debut at New York Auto Show

Subaru-Advanced-Tourer-Concept-front-detailSubaru has long been associated with Birkenstock-wearing hippies, so it’s only natural that the Japanese carmaker is working on a hybrid. A Subaru official told the Detroit Bureau that the hybrid will debut soon, possibly at the New York Auto Show in March.

Kenichi Yamamoto, director of product management and coordination for Subaru of America, told the Detroit Bureau that parent company Fuji Heavy Industries feels Subaru needs a hybrid to compete in both its home market, where hybrid sales are on the rise, and the United States.

In the U.S., many Subarus qualify as partial zero emission vehicles (PZEV), thanks to the small four-cylinder boxer engines offered in most models, and continuously variable transmissions. However, with most mainstream carmakers offering both conventional and hybrid powertrains in their bestsellers, it’s easy to see why Subaru wants a hybrid of its own.

What will that hybrid look like, though? Subaru gave the world a clue back in 2011 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The Advanced Tourer concept featured a hybrid powertrain, consisting of a 1.6-liter direct-injected boxer engine, a single electric motor, and a lithium-ion battery pack.

A boxer engine will almost certainly provide the petrol power for a production Subaru hybrid. Whether it is the Advanced Tourer’s 1.6 or a bigger version from the Impreza, Legacy/Outback, or Forester remains to be seen.

Which Subaru will get the hybrid powertrain? Fuji Heavy Industries isn’t saying, but the Advanced Tourer was billed as a C-segment car, putting it in roughly the same size category as the Impreza and Forester.

The Advanced Tourer’s hybrid system was designed to work with Subaru’s trademark “Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive,” and it seems likely that the production hybrid will also have all-wheel drive.

That could be one of the Subaru’s biggest selling points. There are only a handful of all-wheel drive hybrids available, and they’re all SUVs.

We’ll get the full scoop on Subaru’s hybrid in late March, when the New York Auto Show opens.