Tokyo, Japan - At first glance it looks like a box-section ladder chassis for a heavy-duty bakkie, and indeed it shares many of the same qualities.

What it is, however, is the new Subaru Global Platform, announced by parent company Fuji Heavy Industries this week, which will underpin all new Subaru models for at least the next nine years, along with its signature horizontally-opposed engines and symmetrical all-wheel drive.

Subaru concept hints at 2017 Impreza

The box-section members make it 70-100 percent stiffer than current Subaru shells, while revised suspension mounts lower the centre of gravity, for significantly improved steering precision "that looks ahead to the need for enhanced straight-line stability in the autonomous vehicles of the future".

And that's the first official reference we've seen to Subaru's rumoured self-driving programme.

The new platform also damps out noise and vibration better than a tin box so it runs more smoothly and quietly, even on rough roads, while attaching the rear anti-roll bar directly to the body instead of a flexibly mounted sub-frame reduces body roll - by half, according to the maker.

ALTERNATIVE POWER

The box-section structure also absorbs impacts 40 percent more efficiently than previous Subaru shells - and Fuji says it can still improve on that as better hot-pressed steel alloys become available. It's tailored from the outset to make provision for petrol, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or even fuel-cell powertrains as demand for alternative-power vehicles grows.

But most important of all, by stretching or squeezing its dimensions as required, it'll provide a standard design concept for all Subarus across the range. That means the critical components for any given model could be made at either of its two plants in Japan or at Subaru of Indiana plant in the United States without retooling, freeing up production capacity for in-demand models and making the whole process more flexible.

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