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Subaru Diesel delayed

The Japanese company's new diesel boxer engine will not make it down under for another two months, well after the arrival of the all-new Liberty this week, and it will only be fitted to the high-rider Outback. "We're going to launch the diesel in Australia in the Outback model," says the father of the new Liberty-Outback range, Takeshi Tachimori.

The Japanese vice-president of Subaru was driving in the first Outback diesel to reach Australia during Repco Rally Australia last weekend and says the car is a major breakthrough for the company. But he says a massive development program in recent years on everything from the latest Impreza to the new Tribeca means there will be a staggered roll-out of the diesel engine, even though it is already fitted to the Impreza, Forester, Liberty and Outback in Europe.

"In just two years we updated the whole vehicle line=-p. It's such big work for us," Tachimori says. "We launched the Forester last year and this is big work for us. We cannot do everything at the same time."

He says the biggest changes for the new Liberty and Outback are the cabin space and body design, which were both focussed on American needs. The previous Subaru models were seen as too small in the USA and that meant a major change. "We discussed that we must look for the global market. We shifted the target to a global direction," he says. "Japanese people said the new Forester is too big, but it's not a big car in the United States or Australia. People looking at the new Liberty and Outback say they are so big, but the change is not so big.

The height is a significant increase, and also the proportion. "For this fifth generation we changed our centre of gravity, moving to a global position."

Tachimori also says Subaru went against the normal development flow by designing its Liberty wagon first. "Most car companies make the sedan, and then add the cargo space. We began with the wagon as we are sharing the car body with sedan, station wagon and outback. "We wanted a strong presence, especially with the Outback model. The packaging is a mixture of a sedan and SUV."

Apart from the diesel engine, the big technical change for the new Liberty and Outback is Subaru's first constantly-variable automatic transmission. It has a six-speed manual mode and was done in-house because of the complication of mating it to the company's unique boxer engines and all-wheel drive package.

"Our powertrain is very unique and our problem is making a good transmission. We cannot have a transmission from a supplier," Tachimori says. "Transmission is always a problem for us. We had to a have a better transmission for better fuel economy, so several years ago we decided to make a new transmission and it will be CVT."

The 2.0-litre Boxer diesel engine in the Impreza is claimed to achieve fuel economy of 5.9L/100km with CO2 emissions of 155g/km which is 20g less than a Corolla.

It's no slouch, either, with 112kW of power and 350Nm of torque between 1800 and 240 revs, propelling it to 100km/h in nine seconds and a top speed over 200km/h.

The horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine sits flat and deep in the engine well with a variable geometry turbocharger and catalytic converter mounted underneath for a low centre of gravity. Coupled with Symmetrical all-wheel drive, this improves handling and traction.

Subaru claims the flat-four layout with horizontally-opposed pistons cancels out second harmonic vibration which means there is no need for heavy balancer shafts.

Apart from reduced diesel noise, it also ensures a lively throttle response. The 1998cc Boxer diesel has an 11mm longer stroke and 6mm smaller bore than the 1994cc petrol engine. Cylinder bore spacing is reduced so the engine block is 61.3mm shorter at 353.5mm. It uses a common-rail fuel-injection system with fuel pressurised at 180MPa.

The variable nozzle turbocharger ensures the correct boost at all engine speeds and placing it beneath the engine contributes to the Imprezas low centre of gravity, where it also connects directly to the catalytic converters, boosting environmental performance.


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