New Model Preview: Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Andrei Avarvarii
by Andrei Avarvarii

Subaru is hard at work on the successor to the legendary Impreza WRX. Spy photographers recently caught several camouflaged test vehicles strutting their stuff. The shots lead us to believe that the new car will be a hatchback, drawing its design inspiration from the ’00 B5-THP concept car. The change from four doors to five will throw the WRX STI against cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Opel Astra OPC and Ford Focus ST. Do the European and American hot-hatches stand a chance?

Although Americans are supposedly hatch aversive, the arrival of the MINI, Audi's “premium compact,” sales of the not-for-fairies Dodge Caliber and the emergence of the “hatches on stilts” CUV genre have all paved the way for a Subaru WRX STI five-door. Equally important, the current Impreza is having a hard time competing against European hot hatches and wagons. Audi's new S3 and BMW's 130i have extended the battle into Subie’s (and the Mitsubishi Evo's) happy hunting grounds. By adding a fifth door, maintaining the brand's astounding value-for-money pricing, and keeping the model's supercar slaying performance, a Subaru Impreza hatchback could recapture lost ground from higher-priced competitors, and obliterate its peers.

The B5-THP’s fancy hybrid technology will not make it to production, but some of its design lines certainly will. At our behest, artist Andrei Avarvarii examined the next gen WRX spy shots and prepared two computer illustrations to give TTAC readers a feel for where the next WRX may be heading.

Judging from the photos, the B5-THP concept’s front fascia seems fairly close to production. The headlights will get conventional lamps while maintaining their radical shape. Same for the radiator grille, which will feature the usual black plastic net instead of the concept’s shiny, painted look.

The STI's aggressive front spoiler will host a enlarged air intake to meet the turbocharged boxer engine’s cooling needs. A fully functional hood scoop will also remain in situ, continuing to project the WRX’ extreme capabilities and rally heritage. To that end, large round fog lights will extend and complete the snout’s rally-car look.

The new WRX’ rear will drop the fantasy optics of the B5-THP for conventional lights, with a different shape (but similar technology) to that of the current models. The sportier-looking exhaust will be probably divided in two, to accommodate the boxer engine’s two banks of cylinders.

Mechanically, the new Impreza WRX will be an evolution, not a revolution. The model will continue to use technology developed for and borrowed from the company’s phenomenally capable WRC rally cars. Obviously, racing technology marches on; so there’s plenty of scope suspension and drivetrain upgrades– that will increase the car’s hard-man reputation for extreme performance.

Although the new WRX STI's turbo boxer engine will still displace 2.5 liters, rumor has it that the updated blower will boost power (so to speak) to 330hp, perhaps more in selected markets (in Japan, a “gentlemen’s agreement” limits a vehicle’s power output to 280hp). Subaru’s engineers have also addressed the powerplant’s lack of bottom end torque– one of the few chinks in the WRX’ mechanical armory.

The WRX STI's legendary four-wheel drive system is slated to be fitted with new active differentials. It’s not known, but likely, that some of the components will made out of high-strength, low-weight aluminum, as more and more automotive manufacturers are turning to the material to try to save weight, to increase performance without raising fuel consumption.

The WRX STI's interior is a question mark. Subaru would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know they need to raise the WRX' cabin's game to meet the encroaching threat of the premium hot hatches. Whether or not the WRX will sacrifice some of its maniacal nature to achieve greater ride comfort is another quandary that won't be answered for some time yet. On one hand, a more civilized Impreza would make serious inroads into the hatchback market. On the other hand, the car's take-no-prisoners nature has won it a large and devoted following– who would not want the car to go "soft" in any way, shape or form.

A launch date for the new WRX STI has not been officially announced. Judging from the current test car’s level of development, the new STI should be ready for production in late 2008.

[For more of Mr. Avavarii's work, please visit www.spyshots.carbonmade.com]

Andrei Avarvarii
Andrei Avarvarii

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  • Durishin Durishin on Oct 16, 2006

    Wow! Sad....about Mr. Zapatina's grille design... I was looking foward to owning an entire fleet of Flying Vagina's - trading in my Spec. B and starting with the new STi then getting bigger ones from there.

  • Ilias subaromania Ilias subaromania on Nov 26, 2006

    I M 29 years old and i have my first impreza from 21 years old. I M happy with my car and i have 160,000 happy k.m. IN CASE THAT THIS WOULD BE THE NEXT DESIGN OF IMPREZA I WOULD SALE IT MY OWN AND I WILL DON T WONT TO HEAR ABOUT IT AGAIN>

  • Kcflyer hang in there Lexus. Keep making the IS with the V8 and sooner or later I will buy a new one :)
  • 1995 SC I'll take Mystichrome. And a different car
  • Wolfwagen I wish I could afford one of these except that stupid short master. Has no one learned from the Hummer H2 SUT?
  • 1995 SC Any Tom Petty album
  • Wolfwagen Another Democratic green energy boondoggle. Have they even paid for the clean up at Solyndra yet? I wish some investigative journalist would follow the damm money to see how much is going into the pockets of the DNC and Politicians and donors
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