Subaru of America Inc. have introduced the ST-X, a concept for a new type of crossover vehicle that blends the versatility of a four-door pickup truck with the performance and comfort of a sport sedan. A design that recalls Baja racers and classic dune buggies meshes perfectly with the "California Dreamin' 2000" theme for the Los Angeles Auto Show, where Subaru unveiled the vehicle.

Designed by Subaru of America in the United States, for four-passenger ST-X (Subaru Truck X-perimental) doesn't just join the four-door pickup trend ... it predicts a whole new type of vehicle. A vehicle based on the ST-X could appeal to consumers - especially younger car and truck shoppers - who want the versatility of a four-door pickup truck, but would prefer the driving dynamics of a car. "Having created a new market niche with the Outback Wagon, we wanted to explore a new type of crossover niche that Subaru could fill comfortably," sad Peter Tenn, the Subaru of America product planning designer who penned the initial ST-X sketches. "At the same time, we wanted to demonstrate the strength and flexibility of the Subaru Legacy/Outback platform and drive train."

The ST-X truly delivers on its promises of utility, performance and fun. With all the side and rear glass lowered and the huge power fabric sunroof opened, the ST-X provides nearly the open-air feel of a convertible. The unique pickup bed measures 55.5 inches long and extends FORWARD by another 20.5 inches to give the ST-X utility unmatched by current four-door pickups.

A supercharged/intercooled version of the Outback 2.5-liter "boxer" engine gives the ST-X impressive on-road performance, while full-time All-Wheel Drive, a dual-range 5-speed transmission and 8.5 inches of ground clearance give it true off-road capability.


Tenn was part of a special Subaru of America team formed to design and develop the ST-X. Comprised of personnel from the product planning and marketing departments, the ST-X team worked autonomously within Subaru of America, with technical support from Subaru in Japan.

The group saw four-door pickups as a category with tremendous potential, but at the same time identified drawbacks of those vehicles that a Subaru design could overcome. The ST-X follows in the tire tracks of the Subaru Outback, which became a tremendous success by combining positive sport-utility vehicle attributes with the handling, ride comfort and efficiency of a passenger car. The World's First Sport Utility Wagon (tm), the Outback inspired several other manufacturers to introduce car/SUV hybrid models.


The ST-X Team studied several four-door pickup trucks, including their engineering, design and market positioning. They concluded that the ST-X would have to provide, at the least, the same utility as currently available models. The Subaru ST-X provides seating for four plus the utility of a 55.5-inch cargo bed - comparable to other four-door pickups. A Subaru of America innovation called the Switchback System (patent-pending) can extend the cargo bed length to 76.0 inches without using a bed extender. (A bed extender carries cargo on the tailgate far behind the rear wheels, which can compromise handling.) With the Subaru Switchback System, the power-retractable rear window glass lowers completely into the rear seatback. The rear headrests, which pivot down from the roof, fold up and out of the way. The seat cushion folds up and forward, its bottom forming the new rear wall of the cargo bed.

The seatback then folds down to form a flat cargo floor. The bottoms of the seat cushion and seatback feature the same durable Sherwin-Williams Zolatone finish as the bed. "Aside from the car-like performance, ride and comfort characteristics of the ST-X, we knew we'd need something special, an advantage that no other pickup offers," said Tenn. "That's what the Switchback does for the ST-X."


Like all Subaru models sold in North America, the ST-X features full-time All-Wheel Drive. To give the ST-X true go-anywhere, off-road capability, the team specified a dual-range 5-speed manual transmission and a minimum ground clearance of 8.5 inches - more than some current SUVs. At the same time, the ST-X preserves a low-step-in height comparable to the Outback wagon, and it retains car-like on-road handling. Long-travel, heavy-duty four-wheel independent suspension provides a smooth on-road ride while allowing the ST-X to step over rough off-road terrain. The 225/55 R17 Yokohama AVS S/T tires mounted on 17" x 7" Enkei alloy wheels add to the off-road capability and give the ST-X a rugged, sporty look, as do the roof-mounted PIAA driving lights.


To give ST-X broad appeal, the designers chose to avoid giving it the "super macho" look of many truck-based concepts. They kept the size "just right" and avoided the pitfalls of an unrealistic ride height. They did not, however, restrain themselves with the vehicle's appearance. The team relied on Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes Corp. to specially blend the Solar Flare orange paint, which is complemented by Moondust silver lower body cladding. While Solar Flare finds wide appeal among Gen X-ers, inspiration for the colour came from the very pre-Gen X McLaren Can Am race cars of the late 1860's.

Echoing their desire to make the ST-X a fully functional concept, and to maintain a strong resemblance to current Subaru vehicles, the team decided to use as much Legacy/Outback exterior sheet metal as possible. The wheelbase remains stock at 104.3 inches, and the ST-X keeps the Legacy/Outback body shell back to the B-pillars and front doors.

The front uses modified Outback fenders and stock headlight clusters. The Outback lower fascia has been modified to accommodate larger fog lights with stone guards, plus inboard pencil-beam Outback design. The hood with integral scoop comes from the Japanese-market Legacy B4 high-performance sedan. The scoop is functional, feeding cool air to the B4 intercooler.

Rear doors - also from the Outback - have been shortened, and all doors feature the rugged pull-type handles from the Forester. The rear quarters have been extended seven inches and end in a new sculpted bumper. The ST-X uses Outback wagon tail light lenses "frenched" behind louvers.

From the B-pillars back, the ST-X features its own roofline, reinforced by structural flying buttresses" trimmed in stainless steel. Other functional touches include beefy step rails and a roof rack. The motorcycle-style gas filler cap accents the sporty flavor of the ST-X.


The durable and expandable pickup bed in the Subaru ST-X can handle everything from mountain bikes to home improvement chores. The bed measures 55.5 inches long by 54.5 inches wide, and offers a generous 44.5 inches between the wheelhouses. Box height measures 18.7 inches, and the floor-to-deck height (comparable to liftover in a car) is relatively low at 26 inches. The Sherwin-Williams Zolatone finish resists scratches and washes easily. The ST-X designers equipped the bed for a variety of activities. Removable brackets attached to the switchback seat can hold two mountain bikes. Higher in the bed, two indentations on each side can hold 2" x 4"'s on which you can lay 4' x 8' sheets of plywood.

A large under-floor compartment with flip-up lid will hold ice and canned beverages for tailgate parties - there are even built-in cup holders there and in the tailgate. There's plenty of electric power available with two 12v outlets plus a 110v inverter. The roof spoiler integrates a bed light and the Center High-Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL), which uses LED technology. A pivoting license plate mount allows the plate to remain visible with the tailgate lowered.


The ST-X design team created an interior to match the intensity and function of the exterior. However, they resisted installing a "hose it out" type of interior because most pickup truck and SUV owners use their vehicles as a cars, not dune buggies. "We focused on combining the comfort and function of the Legacy/Outback while increasing the luxury and sporty character," said Brenda Robert, colour and trim specialist for Subaru of America. "Because the vehicle's open-air capability gives high visibility to the interior, we also wanted to make it something worth showing off."

Starting with the stock Legacy/Outback layout, the designers added seats from the Legacy B4 high-performance sedan (not sold in the U.S.). Ms. Robert created a new black/orange leather pattern exclusively for the ST-X. The console and armrest trim, painted with a special dipped process, features an "aboriginal patter" finish, while satin-chrome look trim adorns the combination gauge pack and other items. The gauge pack also features "dark screen" technology - the dials don't become visible until the vehicle is started. A Momo steering wheel provides a sporty touch one might find in a sports car, and it of course includes an airbag. Many pickup owners choose to upgrade their vehicles' sound systems, but it's unlikely anyone would want to change out the system in the ST-X. The ST-X Team worked with McIntosh Audio of Binghamton, NY to customize a system for this concept vehicle. Audiophiles will recognize the McIntosh Audio name for its high-end home system components. The ST-X system includes and AM/FM head unit with CD player, three amps, 650 Watts of total system power and seven McIntosh speakers. 


The sound system includes dual VU meters, which, while functional, serve no real purpose beyond their visual interest. Their presence, however, provides some insight into the ST-X Team's mission and methods. After conducting informal testing with a teenage consumer clinic, the "older members" on the ST-X team opted to include the meters. Actually, the "clinic" included several teenagers who said "Ooh, cool" when they saw the meters in a McIntosh Audio catalog. Those "older" team members, meanwhile, felt that for some, the meters might rekindle fond memories of late 1960s-vintage hi-fi equipment.


The ST-X Team wanted to give the new concept vehicle a level of performance that would exceed current four-door pickups and appeal to sport sedan drivers. The 2.5-liter boxer engine as used in the Subaru Outback, Legacy and Impreza 2.5 RS performance models provided a solid base, as it already performs on par with some V6 engines. While Subaru has decades of experience with turbocharging - including three World Rally Championships - the ST-X Team chose supercharging for optimal torque characteristics, and because they felt it would fit better with the pickup image. Subaru of America contracted with Specialized Vehicles, Inc. (SVI) of Troy, Michigan to build the ST-X Concept, and SVI contributed its considerable power train expertise to build the supercharged/intercooled engine. (Drag racing fans may recognize the names SVI principals Michael Koran and Tom Coddington - Koran with the famous Motown Missile of the 1970s and Coddington with the Ramchargers team in the 1960s and 1970s.) The ST-X uses a new supercharger from Eaton, which packages greater volume into a compact housing. The charge-air cooler (intercooler) comes from the Japanese-market Subaru B4. The installation looks "factory" and boosts horsepower to 230 @ 5,600 rpm - a 40-percent increase over the stock engine. The supercharged engine also produces 210 lb.-ft. of peak torque - a 25 percent boost over stock - the same 4,000 rpm as the Outback engine.

SVI built a custom exhaust system for the ST-X, using a muffler designed and built especially for the vehicle by Bosal and SVI. The system ends with a single large outlet, and announces the ST-X's presence with a distinctive bark.


The ST-X Team conceived the idea for the concept vehicle during the summer and it didn't become an official project until September 9, 1999. That left only three months to design and build it, which precluded the use of conventional methods. The designers worked with SVI over the Internet to develop the vehicle, using a secure Web site on which everyone involved could exchange ideas and data. "We went right from the tube to the cutter path," said Koran, president of SVI. In non-techy terms, that means the builder created part moulds directly from computer-generated drawings and data without building clay models. SVI photo-documented every step of construction, uploading a steady stream of digital photos to the secure site. The ST-X design team would then examine the photos and mark them up with changes, as if editing a written document. SVI would follow these instructions to make any modifications. The team also used a live Internet video lineup with SVI, which could place any member of the New Jersey-based ST-X Team right inside the vehicle, even though it was 600 miles away in Michigan. "This process shortened the development and build time for the ST-X by about three months," said Koran, whose company has many years of experience building concept vehicles and prototypes. Following its debut at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, the Subaru ST-X Concept will tour the U.S. auto show circuit.

SOURCE: Subaru. Please mention if you use this text.