SWRT

Identity Crisis: The Subaru Impreza

The current GVB STI really isn’t a good looking car. When it was first revealed I thought, “give it some time and it will age well”. It hasn’t. In fact it will probably be remembered as one of the least memorable Subarus ever and judging by the 2015 WRX, it’s only going to get worse.

subaru_sti_s206_01

I email back and forth with my buddy Earl a lot and we often discuss the current state of Subaru, where the brand has been and where it’s headed. Not too long ago he sent me this article from The Truth About Cars. It primarily discusses the way automotive manufacturers are continually using less interesting power plants in their cars and the way competing brands are offering more similar products. One of the article’s more interesting points discusses the way manufacturers are using their brand’s heritage to sell cars and how that will become more important as time goes on.

subaru_gc_wrc_01

Take Subaru for example. They haven’t really raced in years. After pulling out of the WRC in 2008, the Impreza doesn’t have the motor sports tie-in it once did. As a result, Subaru have shifted the car’s focus and rather than building a road-going rally car, they’ve designed the Impreza to be more comfortable and more “luxurious” to compete with the Europeans. The change in direction can’t solely be blamed for its weight gain and stubborn styling. Heightened crash and pedestrian safety regulations are also a major factor. The interesting thing to consider is that the Europeans have to deal with the same kinds of regulations, but they’ve still managed to produce very good looking cars. In fact, 2014 is set to be a stellar year for European car design – the BMW M3, Alfa Romeo 4C, Volkswagen Golf GTI and the absolutely stunning Jaguar F-Type Coupe to name a few. There’s also a new golden age of hyper cars emerging with LaFerrari, McLaren’s P1, the Porsche 918 Spyder and anything Pagani are building at the moment. Consider that and Subaru, who had their best sales year in 2013 are sort of missing the mark.

subaru_wrx_concept_side_01

But wait, what about the WRX Concept you say? Well that was indeed a very good looking car and shows what Subaru are capable of building, but for whatever reason they’ve decided that the upcoming WRX is good enough. This harks back to the idea of manufactures selling heritage. As a consumer, when you buy the 2015 WRX, you’re buying over 20 years of rallying history and you’re buying a car that was “inspired” by the WRX Concept. In the eyes of the manufacturer it becomes more about everything tied to the car, rather than the car itself.

subaru_2015_wrx_01

You may remember when Subaru first debuted the 2015 WRX, they began producing special videos about past iterations of the Impreza, including the 22B. These were not only intended to showcase some truly great moments in the brand’s history, but to assure the consumer, “yes, this is where we came from and this is what you’re buying into”. While it’s nice in theory, the whole idea falls flat and instead leaves us wishing we could somehow buy a 22B, rather than the current, boring and frankly ugly new WRX.

22b_03

Rather than stepping back and recognizing the 22B as their peak, Subaru should be striving to outdo it. Since the WRX has become so similar to the STI, why not make the latter even more outlandish? As of 2015 all you’ll really be getting from buying an STI over the WRX are some big brakes, more aggressive bumpers and lots of badges. Subaru should give it the premium quality and performance it’s price tag warrants. Instead of doing a limited production, JDM-only tS Type RA, make that the standard STI! If they’re trying to emulate the 22B, why not make the new car a coupe, give it more horsepower and then it can truly compete with the M, AMG and S models of the world.

subaru_sti_ts_01

The Impreza lineup has become complacent and it’s all for the simple fact that it has no competition. Not only is the Mitsubishi Evo extinct, but the brand itself may be in a few years time. The Impreza occupies a place in the Japanese market where it has no competition, so why would Subaru feel the need to actually put that WRX Concept into production? They’re doing just enough to keep enthusiasts on the hook and nothing more. I just hope we don’t see the STIs of the future suffer the same fate as their Mitsubishi counterparts.

Euro-Style Bugeye

The Europeans have always been known for their unique approach to modifying Subarus. While Americans were obsessed with everything JDM, the European’s interests lied in rallying – the Impreza’s roots. The rally style has become synonymous with European-built Subarus and it’s one of my favorite approaches to modifying the car.

prodrive_gda_infek_01

While this particular GDA isn’t European, it certainly looks the part. Prodrive used to run the SWRT and they’re well represented throughout this car. Really nice build and a style that I wish we saw more of today.

Photo courtesy of iNfEk.

A Perfect Match

No brand has become more synonymous with Subaru than Prodrive. The firm started its close relationship with the auto manufacturer in 1990, when they formed the Subaru World Rally Team. Since then numerous race inspired products have found their way onto road cars. The OEM-like attention to detail, quality and fitment has made Prodrive a very popular brand among Subaru owners.

Despite being UK-based, the brand has always had a strong foothold in the US and Japan. Over the years, it’s become increasingly difficult to source their products. Their WRC front bumper is one of many highly sought after pieces that people are lining up to pay a premium for.

Prodrive also produces some of the best looking and most underrated wheel designs on the market and I’d love to see more Subarus using them.

 

Revisit: Subaru STi RB5

A few weeks ago, I posted about the UK-only STi RB5. The car is essentially an upgraded GC8, in honor of Richard Burns’s return to the SWRT.

The other day I came across this lightly modded example.

Judging by that sheet of paper on the rear window, this car was for sale at some point.

It’s easy to understand why so many consider the GC8, to be Subaru’s best iteration of the Impreza. I mean look at the thing! Even by today’s standards, it’s a thing of beauty; with so much character. The RB5’s biggest selling point, has to be that pristine shade of Steel Blue Mica.

Mediterranean STi

Word of my blog must have caught on in Greece because I’ve just heard from another Greek Subaru owner. Andreas was kind enough to send over some pictures of his WRC-inspired GRB STi project, which I rather like.

The first thing I noticed were the 18×8.5 Work XC8’s. They nicely resemble the BBS’s the SWRT used for tarmac stages on the WRC car. The closest thing BBS actually makes to those wheels (for a street car) are the factory wheels from the 04-07 STi; the XC8’s are a very nice substitute. The STi front lip and Prodrive carbon door mirrors nicely round out the front end of Andreas’ car.

The massive L’AUNSPORT rear wing draws in most of the attention at the back of the car. It wouldn’t be my first choice to use on the street, but I like the looks of the L’AUNSPORT wing a lot. The STi is also fitted with a custom turbo back exhaust and the factory turbo has been ported and polished. The setup is making around 350hp on an EcuTek. A big thanks to Andreas for sharing his GRB STi with me and I hope to see more updates of the car in the future!

Photos courtesy of Andreas Georgiopoulos.