Masahiko Inoue, Subaru project general manager product and portfolio division, told CarAdvice in a one-on-one interview at the launch of the new Subaru XV in Japan this week that he has been copping it from all angles about the 2.0-litre engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto in the latest-generation Impreza and XV models.
“Everybody is requesting from me a more powerful engine,” Inoue said. “Everybody thinks it needs more power. They are satisfied, they understand the Subaru Global Platform and the new 2.0-litre engine – but needing more power is a common complaint from everybody.”
So, what is Inoue doing about it? Well, it seems possible that the company will work a new engine into the mix if the sales volumes continue to rise. He said that, because the XV and Impreza are the brand’s entry-level models around the globe, there is pressure to make the costs of introducing more powerful drivetrains viable.
He said the brand is looking at a few different options: a larger displacement non-turbocharged engine; a smaller displacement turbocharged engine; or a hybrid version with battery backing.
“Of course, we are studying, and we are now studying one of the options: a 2.4- or 2.5-litre engine, downsized and turbocharged, and power supported by motor, a hybrid. Every way we are studying for the next model, or the future model.
“Now, the XV is not so popular. If it becomes more popular, then we have to go to the next step to have more power in the highest version. We need more volume to justify that,” he said. “One of the ways is using a downsized turbo, and of course we are thinking that way.
“But we cannot spend money on this vehicle, because this is an entry vehicle for Subaru. We have to keep competitive with the cost for the entry vehicles, so if the turbocharged model is requested, maybe it will go to the Forester, or the Levorg, or another vehicle,” he said, perhaps giving away a little hint that the next-gen Forester, due mid-2018, will have a turbo engine in lower-grade models, not just the flagship XT.
“In the case of the Impreza and the XV, now it’s just a 2.0-litre direct-injection model, and a 1.6-litre in Japan and the European market. This has expanded the customer base for Subaru: this is the entry vehicle.”
Inoue said that if hybrid were the answer – and it has been offered in the XV in the past in the US – the brand wouldn’t just have one type. We know that the new global platform has been built with electrification in mind.
“Hybrid, now we are thinking of it: many types of hybrid – plug-in, series hybrid. Electric, we have to think of that to have a zero-emission vehicle with some volume in the market in future,” he said.
As for a diesel? Don’t count on it.
“Diesel is really decreasing: you have to spend a lot of money to clean up the emissions. Hybrid is better,” he said.
To see what we thought of the 2017 Subaru XV - and whether its engine is indeed underpowered - catch our review here.