Petrol-electric Forester will be joined by new XV hybrid shortly afterwards
UPDATE, Feb 13 2019: Subaru Australia now says its "best estimate" for Forester e-Boxer hybrid timing is the last quarter of 2019, potentially November. This is still to be locked in, however. The new model will make its debut at the Geneva motor show next month. Find out Forester reviews here.
Subaru Australia should launch its first petrol-electric hybrid vehicles before the end of next year, with first cab off the rank almost certain to be the new-generation Forester 'e-Boxer' mid-sized SUV, closely followed by a hybridised version of the smaller XV crossover.
This timeline means the hybrid launch will come a little more than a year after the 'regular' new-generation Forester with its revised 2.5-litre flat-four petrol engine, due in September this year. Read about our preview drive experience of that car here.
Subaru Australia managing director Colin Christie said the company saw a market for hybrid here, even though we're miles behind almost every single developed market when it comes to greener technologies (those are our words, not Christie's).
"Nothing has been confirmed yet but our expectation and desire would be to have at least one hybrid in market by end of 2019 and one more shortly after that," he said, adding it'd likely be the two SUVs.
The newly developed e-Boxer - no prizes for naming originality, guys - pairs the company's circa-115kW 2.0-litre direct-injection engine with a CVT gearbox/motor unit and a lithium-ion battery pack under the cargo floor. Naturally, the drivetrain is still symmetrical permanent AWD.
The e-Boxer system runs on pure electric power at low speeds, under low throttle inputs, for limited distances. The two power sources work together at times to give the drivetrain some extra oomph, while the batteries are recharged by captured waste kinetic/brake energy.
Subaru claims fuel consumption on the Japanese government's JC08 test cycle of 5.4 litres per 100km, compared to around 7L/100km for the 2.5 Forester. The e-Boxer's fuel use is around 40 per cent superior to the outgoing Forester petrol, for further context.
The electric architecture doesn't impinge on space much either. The back seats flip-fold 60:40 and the cargo floor is only a fraction higher than the petrols, with more than 500L of space available. That's much more than the outgoing model.
The e-Boxer is step one for Subaru as it embraces greener drivetrains. It'll roll out a plug-in hybrid XV/Crosstrek in the US in 2019 and its first pure-electric cars are expected in 2020/21.
Subaru’s new global architecture has been designed to handle electrification with little modification, and significant shareholder Toyota is in a position to supply hybrid components with proven longevity and scale.
It's a small-scale and cautious company, but its key markets of the US and Japan are buying more and more electrified models every year, while in Europe and China they'll soon be essential.
The Forester e-Boxer will join other electrified mid-sized SUVs such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - more advanced, in that it can run as a pure EV for up to 50km - and the imminent next-generation Toyota RAV4 hybrid.
MORE: Everything Subaru