WRC

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.

Subaru’s Unicorn: The 22B

Hey Subaru, how about doing us all a favor and building a few thousand more?

Not only is the 22B the best Subaru ever made, it’s one of the best cars ever made, ask any real petrol head and they’ll tell you the same.

A WRC car for the road and with only 400 units produced, it’s the definition of exclusivity. There’s at least one of these in the dream garage I stroll through before falling asleep at night…

Video courtesy of Subaru.

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.

Days Gone By

I communicate pretty regularly with a number of veteran Subaru owners – guys who have been in the game for upwards of a decade. One thing we all seem to agree on is that the community is dead. It’s a harsh statement but one that’s undeniably true. I base my views primarily on the parts market or lack thereof. It’s become harder than ever to buy new parts for the various iterations of the Impreza, especially the GC and GD. If you’re trying to do the JDM thing, good luck.

hyper-lemon-wrx-4

As more Japanese companies pull out of the US, it’s a grim reminder that people have moved into other cars or out of the community entirely. The BRZ was a nice blip on the radar, especially for those seeking more aggressive wheel options for the unrelenting 5×100 bolt pattern. However the BRZ has in no way captured the market or the interests of Subaru aficionados, quite the same way the FR-S has.

The Impreza has become dated and with Subaru out of the WRC, it’s tuned variants are becoming increasingly irrelevant in this new era of paddle-shifters and energy recovery systems. Someday we can only hope that the Impreza will share a similar affinity to classics like the Hakosuka and S30 Z. In the meantime, I only see the car’s popularity dwindling.

aclass_wrx_01

It’s a grim outlook, but in many ways an optimistic one because I still love my WRX as much as I did the day I got it in 2005. It’s a car that’s gotten so far under my skin that I may never be able to part ways with it. In the meantime there are still exciting Imprezas out there – granted their harder to find, but they still exist. There’s also the exciting news of the WRX Concept and Subaru’s desire to continually produce AWD rally-inspired cars. Maybe someday we’ll see a return to the Impreza’s former glory in the WRC. For now we hold onto the memories.

mcrae_555_01

The 22B

What is it about the Subaru Impreza 22B that makes it so special?

What the F40 is to Ferrari and the DB5 is to Aston Martin, the 22B is to Subaru; it’s the embodiment of a brand. Never has there been another Subaru held in such high esteem. It’s a handsome brute, a car that looks more at home amongst the trees than in the civilized world, with which it was intended.

At the heart of the 22B is Subaru’s EJ22, considered by many to be the brand’s greatest engine. The high strung flat-4 has been lusted after by many, myself included. It’s the perfect power plant for a car that more closely resembles its WRC counterpart than any Impreza since.

The car was built to celebrate Subaru’s 30th Anniversary and 3rd Constructor’s Title in the WRC. Only 400 units were produced and completely sold out in 30 minutes. As a collector’s car, it joins only a handful of the very best Japan has to offer.

What really makes the 22B so special are its looks. The Peter Stevens inspired body is utterly timeless and the car looks just as good today as it did 15 years ago.

For me it represents everything Subaru owners love about the brand; the WRB paint (the first road car to use it), the painfully flashy gold wheels and that massive STi rear wing. Sure you’ll look 16 behind the wheel and suffer from the disapproving stares of your fellow motorists but isn’t that the point? What defines a car for me is how big of a smile it puts on my face. Too often we see people buy cars for the sole purpose of fitting in. Just look at the direction the tuning industry is moving in… and all the hybrids populating the streets. People are no longer driving cars for themselves.

The 22B has presence. Behind the wheel, you’re diving a piece of rallying, dare I say automotive history. Were one to turn up at Cars & Coffee it would proudly join the company of the European elite. I had the rare opportunity of seeing one in the flesh while in Japan a few years ago. It was a biblical experience and (as always) looked even better in person. The 22B represents why I love cars and will always be a piece of automotive perfection.

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.