GVB

Nat’s GRB STI

The GRB is the most recent iteration of the STI that I actually like. The newer sedans just aren’t cutting it – not that you ever see them in the wild anyway. Has anyone actually seen a modified GVB driving down the street or at the local meet? The newer generation of STIs don’t seem to be getting the love from owners and one of the reasons could be a lack of decent parts from manufacturers. In recent years, the STI hasn’t really been a big hit with tuning shops in Japan. Most are still deferring to the Evo and many of done away with AWD sedans completely to focus on the 86 and GT-R. This lack of attention has left a hole in the aftermarket, add to it the fact that hatchbacks are a far more popular option in Japan and Europe (hence the GRB) and it really has been an uphill battle for new generation of STI sedans.

Luckily this problem is much less so for the model’s hatchback counterpart and the GRB remains the best looking of the new generation of STIs. My friend Nat’s car is definitely no exception.

nat_grb_01

I love the car’s simplicity and the way it appeals to people who know, while remaining fairly anonymous to everyone else.

nat_grb_02

Nat’s EQ tuned STI is putting out over 300whp on E85 with stock internals, turbo and drivetrain. The perfect setup for a daily driver.

nat_grb_03

What really sets his car apart for me are the beautiful matte black Volk CE28Ns. While the wheels are certainly aggressive, it’s the tires that really finish off the looks, especially in person.

To drive, it’s a great street car. A bit of understeer in the corners (most Subarus are) and extremely responsive at the exit. Compared to my WRX with a VF34 and FMIC, there’s virtually no lag and excellent midrange torque. I can’t wait to drive it again with the new E85 tune.

Nat claims to be done with this build. I doubt it.

Kansai Service GVB

It will probably be a few more months before we start seeing the aftermarket’s interpretation of the 2015 STI. In the meantime, the Kansai Service GVB STI.

kansai_service_gvb_01

I’m a big fan of the Advan RSIIs and the Impreza wears them very well. Kansai Service has always had a soft spot for Subaru and they’re one of the few tuning outlets still giving the Impreza some much needed attention. They’re also responsible for producing one of the best and certainly most popular rear diffusers for the GD chassis.

kansai_service_gvb_02

A Voltex GT wing replaces the standard STI wing and definitely improves the looks of the car. I’ve always felt the GVB’s rear was too chunky and tall. The GT wing helps to give it a bit more contrast compared to the standard.

kansai_service_gvb_03

The front lip is Kansai Service’s own design and is a nice alternative to the more popular V-Limited lip. You’ll also notice the not so exciting Seibon decal in the top right and there’s an interesting theory about that…

I’m sure many of you have become aware of Seibon’s presence on Kansai Service builds over the last few years. Apparently this boils down to the hierarchy of power in the Japanese tuning industry. Rays Engineering and Option basically run the show in Japan and Rays’ collaboration with Seibon a few years back is presumed to be the cause of more of their products popping up on Japanese demo cars. Small tuning outfits rely heavily on their exposure through Option (who has a tight relationship with Rays) and as a sign of good faith, they like to ruffle feathers as little as possible with the top brass. I would in no way claim this as fact, but it’s a theory that’s been floating around for a few years and it all seems a little too convenient to not have elements of truth. The Japanese are obsessed with quality and innovation, neither of which are things that Seibon represents, so it would be odd for respected Japanese tuning shop use their products without some kind of ulterior motive.

kansai_service_gvb_04

Performance-wise the Kansai Service STI features the usual combination of intake and exhaust upgrades from HKS and one of the shop’s own carbon air boxes – a nice piece of kit.

Sstay tuned for more frequent Subaru and Japanese car-related mischief.

Photos courtesy of Yokohama.

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.

Okachan’s C-SER GVF STI

c_ser_gvb_01

C-SER has been flying under the radar for the last few years. If you haven’t heard of them, they are Yashio Factory’s Subaru brand. While their GVF demo car isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it’s nice to see Okachan working with the new generation STI.

c_ser_gvb_02

The GVF is the brand’s latest demo car and showcases some of C-SER’s unqiue exterior pieces including a rear wing and front canards (which actually look great).

c_ser_gvb_03

c_ser_gvb_04

The upgrades are more than skin deep including a slew of suspension upgrades and C-SER’s titanium exhaust.

c_ser_gvb_05

When it comes to the GVB/F STI, it’s been pretty slim pickings the last couple of years. The car never really took off in the same way as previous iterations of the Impreza and aftermarket brands have followed suit. Perhaps the $40k price tag has something to do with it?

Photos courtesy of C-SER.

ZERO/SPORTS Anniversary Festival

It doesn’t seem like too long ago that we were watching the demise of ZERO/SPORTS. Back in 2011 the company filed for Chapter 11 – a time when it was the thing to do if you were part of the Japanese tuning industry. After some modest Tokyo Auto Salon appearances, the company appears to have found new life with the Subaru BRZ. Back in April, ZERO/SPORTS hosted a special Anniversary Festival at the company’s tuning facilities.

zerosports_open_house_03

Apart from the usual festivities which included food vendors and dyno pulls for customers, 3 generations of the brand’s famed demo cars made appearances.

zerosports_open_house_02

As you’re likely to find with most of Japan’s larger automotive brands, ZERO/SPORTS has an impressive retail, tuning and maintenance facility called ZEROMAX. The space allows customers to get a closer look at the company’s products and meet with consultants to discuss the various tuning options available.

zerosports_open_house_05

Out back, customers were invited to put their cars on the dyno.

zerosports_open_house_04

ZERO/SPORTS has always been known for their work with the Subaru Impreza. At one point they had the most dominant STi around Tsukuba Circuit. Today the brand’s attention has shifted towards a more street-tuned approach with their latest project the CZS Impreza.

While the CZS Type ZERO aero adds a certain elegance to the current crop of Imprezas, the brand will always be most famous for their GDB Time Attack car.

zerosports_open_house_06

zerosports_open_house_01

Also on hand, the BTZ007R2 GC8 demo car.

zerosports_open_house_07

They just don’t make them like this anymore.

In recent years the future of Japanese tuning has looked at times bleak. However it’s great to see brands like ZERO/SPORTS carrying on. With their impressive retail and tuning facility ZEROMAX and a firm grip on the BRZ market, bankruptcy is hopefully a thing of the past.

Photos courtesy of ZERO/SPORTS.

Tokyo Auto Salon 2013

It’s early Monday morning in Japan and this year’s Tokyo Auto Salon has officially come to an end. Here’s a sampling of all the rest of the cars present at Makuhari Messe.

As always Nissan had a very big presence at this year’s show. While the GT-R remains the king, Silvas and Skylines have not been forgotten.

tas_01

tas_02

TAS needs more builds like this fantastic 180SX from SPIRIT Rei.

tas_10

tas_12

tas_13

tas_09

tas_11

It’s hard to go wrong with a white R32 on Advans. Funny enough it’s the simple builds that stand out most at TAS.

tas_22

tas_26

tas_27

tas_30

Phoenix’s Power had the GT-R well represented at the show including this lime green example on BBS LMs.

tas_33

Next door to Phoenix’s Power was Top Secret. They also showed up with a few different GT-Rs as well as their Rocket Bunny kitted 86.

tas_35

This year could be the biggest ever turnout for imports, both European and American at TAS. Ferrari had a large presence as did Porsche and BMW amongst others.

tas_03

tas_06

The Ferrari F40 was given a very nice display this year. The Japanese have always been obsessed with European cars and as exotics get older and become cheaper, we’re going to see a lot more tuners working with them.

Despite strong showings from Nissan and Toyota, Mitsubishi didn’t fare as well in 2013. The Evo X is now 5 years old and it’s beginning to show. It’s disappointing to see a car which once littered the show floor at TAS, suffer the same fate as its Subaru rival. With Mitsuibshi moving towards EV production, the CZ4A may be the last of the great tuner cars from the brand.

tas_04

tas_18

Varis continues to dominate the market. I’m disappointed that Voltex never created their own Evo X wide body kit to compete.

tas_24

tas_29

Unsurprisingly, Toyotas dominated the show in 2013. The 86 is the new darling of the Japanese tuning industry, massively overshadowing its sibling the BRZ.

tas_05

A JZX100 with strange lights inside of the wheels. This was a trend seen on a number of cars at TAS.

tas_07

tas_14

tas_25

tas_16

Original Runduce was present with their 86 demo car kitted in Varis aero. This car just looks so good and is probably my favorite 86.

tas_31

After all these years, the Mazda RX-7 continues to be one of the very best looking Japanese cars.

tas_08

tas_15

tas_21

tas_23

Last but not least there’s Subaru. As with every year, I was disappointed in the turnout for Imprezas. While the STi fights to remain relevant, the tuning industry seems to be moving on. I blame Subaru for not giving the car the AYC and extra 30-50 horsepower it so deserves.

tas_32

D Language came out with a very large booth featuring their STi, Evo and 86 demo cars.

tas_19

tas_20

Blitz was also on hand with a GVB STi showing off some of their latest electronics and performance parts, including this 6-pot brake kit.

tas_34

Despite filing for bankruptcy in 2012, Zero/Sports was on hand with a GVB STi. They’re hardly the dominant force they once were at TAS.

tas_17

I’ll end with this truly awesome looking wide body GVB STi from Varis. This kit has kind of gone under the radar with all the attention on the 86.

That about does it for TAS coverage on A Class. If anything else exciting comes my way, I’ll be sure to post it. Overall I’m disappointed by this year’s show. There’s a real lack of variety right now in the Japanese tuning industry. I suppose it’s been a long time coming. With major players like Honda, Mitsubishi and Mazda failing to produce exciting cars like they once did, the industry has been forced to rely on Nissan and Toyota. Subaru can be happy with their role in the 86 and their own BRZ but as the Impreza continues to get heavier and slower, we may see another great fall by the wayside. On the bright side, the amazing reception the 86 has gotten has shown other manufacturers what’s possible. Hopefully in the next few years we’ll see more of the affordable, fun cars the Japanese automotive industry so desperately needs.

Photos courtesy of GTNET.

GVB Sleeper

To the untrained eye this GVB hatch would appear stock. I spy all kinds of goodies. I love subdued builds like this one. It’s as if it came from the factory that way.

Is it just me or are grey/silver cars starting to look really good lately? Maybe it’s because everyone is so crazed over white.

Photo courtesy of rsutton198.

Varis GVB Impreza

It’s been taking me a while to warm up to the GVB. Even though Subaru made the right decision and went back to a sedan, I think the GDB is a superior looking car. However, Varis is making a compelling argument for the current model.

With the exception of their recent GRB widebody kit, they nail it every time. Varis really does produce some of the industry’s best aero products and this kit is no exception. The front bumper and canards add an aggressiveness this car so desperately needs. The Prodrive GC-014i is also a great looking and underrated wheel.

Photo courtesy of Varis.

Whiteout

A couple weeks ago, I said that I’ve been continually impressed, by some of the cars coming out of Canada lately. Jason’s GVB STi is one such car. This thing is money.

The GVB hasn’t proven to be as popular with the tuning scene, as some of the past iterations of the Impreza. I can’t see why, as the car has plenty of potential.

The Voltex wing fits the rear perfectly.

No matter which Impreza you’re looking at, the rear corner is always the car’s best angle. White on white is a tough combination to pull off properly, he’s done it.

Lots of great things going on in Canada right now. Hopefully Jason doesn’t mind me using his photos and make sure to visit his Flickr, for more shots of his STi.

Photos courtesy of Jason Hoang.