Toyota is studying how to more closely converge its products with Subaru, and might share its next-generation Highlander midsize crossover platform with the Tribeca. The two have similar dimensions, notes a source familiar with the tie-in.
As always with Subaru, the sticking point is how to share a platform that would use a longitudinally mounted boxer engine, in the case of the Tribeca, with a transverse-mounted engine, as in the Highlander. The platform also will have to accommodate a hybrid version of the Highlander, and it's a good bet the system would be adapted to the pancake-engine Tribeca.
Toyota tackles the problem with the upcoming FT-86 rear-wheel-drive sports coupe by going with a Subaru pancake engine -- the STI's 305-horsepower, 290 pound-foot version of the 2.5-liter turbo four, our source says. Earlier reports had the FT-86 launching with less-powerful Subaru engines. Toyota's development costs have ballooned, however, and the FT-86 is now seen as a mid-$20s car rather than a sub-$20,000 car.
Subaru's version of the 086A, as the project is known, is still scheduled for 2013 model year introduction and will likely be sold with all-wheel drive only, as part of its differentiation from the Toyota.
Subaru is leading development of the 086A, while the converged crossover platform looks to be more of a Toyota project. To accommodate both types of engines, the platform could be the same from the A-pillar back, but would need a different floorpan from the firewall forward. Subaru's flat engines require specific solutions for crash standards.
As for the crossover/utility vehicles, both the Camry-based Toyota Highlander and the slow-selling Subaru Tribeca are due for replacement in the 2014 model year.