Subaru Motorsports has revealed its entrant for the Open 4WD class of the American Rally Association (ARA) Championship. The vehicle is simply being called the “WRX Rally Car” and it’s a painful reminder that enthusiasts haven’t been afforded a hardcore variant of the platform. The ARA racer is effectively what the mind conjures up when trying to imagine a modern WRX STI — a model the fans expected but Subaru elected not to build.
When Subaru announced the latest WRX sedan, it was made perfectly clear that it would arrive without the high-performance STI variant metaphorically in tow. After attempting to push performance versions of the Impreza sedan into becoming their own thing for years, the 2022 model year saw the WRX jumping onto the Subaru Global Platform. This resulted in a more mainstream vehicle we assumed would need additional time in the relevant skunkworks garage before it could reemerge as the aggressive, rally-inspired, no-nonsense WRX STI.
But Subaru is now saying that there won’t be an STI for this generation. According to the manufacturer, “future sports and performance cars should evolve to meet the needs of the changing marketplace and the regulations and requirements for greenhouse gasses (GHG), zero emissions vehicles (ZEV), and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE).”
This 2022 model year marks the introduction of a fifth-generation WRX – that all-wheel-drive hooligan that some of us first discovered on the screens of a PlayStation. The car has gone through several permutations over the years, including some ill-advised styling choices, but has never left the psyche of most gearheads as one of the preferred turbocharged tools for sliding around a dirt-covered back road.
For 2022, the WRX adds a new top-of-the-line GT trim, featuring electronically controlled dampers that can tailor the dynamic performance to the driver’s preferences. But – hang on a minute; according to the bumf, that trim is only available with a CVT!
Subaru hasn’t sold the WRX as a wagon since 2015. While fans have been clamoring for its return ever since, the automaker’s willingness to play along hasn’t gotten much further than its Viziv concept vehicles.
But that doesn’t mean other markets have to do without. The manufacturer is currently prepping the 2022 WRX Sportwagon for the Australian market. Though it’s difficult to be broken up about it being trapped in the land down under, considering it’s going to be offered exclusively with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
While a slew of vehicles has swum in its wake, nothing has been able to replace the Subaru WRX as the world’s favorite road-going rally car. Despite owing its own existence to the original Audi Quattro, the souped-up Impreza become synonymous with vehicular hooliganism and (for some reason) vaping.
Delivered onto the United States as part of the 2002 model year, the WRX has been maturing as slowly as its hardcore fan base of two decades. This remains apparent as the company has opted to give the car a new platform, new engine, and an updated appearance while adhering closely to the fundamentals. That means customers should be getting more of what they wanted out of the car — at least in the relative sense.
Subaru plans on delivering the goods in 2021 when it debuts the next incarnation of its flagship performance model. Rather than incrementally improving the WRX line as it has in the past, Subie looks to be kicking down the stable doors to drag as many horses as possible back to the factory for canning beneath the WRX STI’s hood.
A recent report from Forbes claims Subaru’s engineering team has targeted a minimum of 400 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque for the next STI. While the outlet initially referenced the motor as entirely new, it later clarified that it was technically the same 2.4-liter FA24 that currently powers the brand’s Ascent crossover — and was already assumed be adapted for use on the next WRX among those paying close attention. However, it’ll have to undergo quite a bit of work to deliver the figures being claimed.
The unappetizingly named Subaru Levorg (a portmanteau of Legacy Revolution Touring) has always been a model we wanted to grace our shores. With used WRX wagons getting harder to find than the Lost City of Atlantis, we could certainly use it in North America. Yet we’ll have to continue going without, as Japan still doesn’t seem interested in exporting the model here.
While unfortunate, Levorg can still serve a purpose. Subaru debuted the prototype at the Tokyo Motor Show this week, proving the automaker wasn’t joking about the styling it previewed via its latest concepts — especially the Viziv Tourer Wagon. Levorg is also giving us a taste of the next-generation WRX, as the two are closely related.
Lancer Evolution vs WRX STi had been as classic a rivalry as Mustang vs Camaro. But, with the departure of the Evo in 2016, there has been a hole in the marketplace and in the hearts of enthusiasts. Reports coming out of Autocar point to a revival of the famed rivalry, with an theoretical Evo XI getting some help from Renault.
While the Evolution name has been rumored to be revived in the form of some sort of SUV or electric vehicle — or both — the Lancer Evolution may yet return in proper super-sedan form. While details are spotty, it is speculated that the engine would come from the next-generation Renault Mégane RS. The current Mégane RS is the front-wheel drive Nürburgring production vehicle record holder, sporting a 296 horsepower and 295 ft-lbs 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine. With the next-generation engine anticipated to displace 2.0-liters, it may utilize a bit of electric boosting from a 48V mild-hybrid system to close in on the 341 hp coming from Subaru’s WRX STi S209.
Yesterday, Subaru released a teaser video for a rip-roaring special edition of the WRX STI. Hours earlier, AutoGuide reported the brand filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reserve the “S209” moniker, which we (and every other automotive outlet) now believe is the car in the video.
Those in the know will recognize that the designation is one number higher than the Japan-only S208, which exists as the Christmas ham on Subaru Tecnica International’s table. The S208’s 2.0-liter turbo flat-four generates 329 horsepower and 319 pound-feet of torque. It also boasts shorter ratio steering, upgraded suspension with Bilstein dampers, BBS wheels, upsized Brembo brakes, a sizable rear spoiler, carbon-fiber roof, and a unique aero kit.
STI has been building special edition S models since 2000, when it debuted the S201. Thus far, track-focused cars have emerged every year, just never in America. That doesn’t appear to be the case for the S209.
Subaru has been showcasing the Viziv Performance Concept in an effort to build hype for the next-generation WRX since last fall. The automaker even produced a hardcore STI variant to double down on the concept’s current role. However, a large subset of Subaru enthusiasts only care about one thing: finding out when the WRX wagon will return.
Officially, the WRX wagon died when Subaru made the switch to a stubbier hatchback in 2007. To the chagrin of the platform’s fans, the company eventually stopped offering the performance model as a hatchback, too. North America has been in a tizzy ever since, and enthusiasts seeking an AWD performance hatch have been forced to seek comfort elsewhere. Those days might be coming to a close.
Subaru just unveiled the Viziv Tourer Concept at the Geneva Motor Show, giving us a taste of what might be in 2020.
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