When Subaru brought the first Impreza WRX to American shores it was already on its second generation. That was, of course, the 2002 “Bugeye” model and – at the time – its 227-horse, turbo-charged flat four coupled to a 50:50-split all-wheel drive system, turned the auto enthusiast world on its ear. Who cared what it looked like, this was a rally rocket for the road. (We learned to love its looks later.)
In the years that followed, this darling of the enthusiast world had a few nose jobs. It also saw the introduction of a top-spec STI edition in 2004. But in every case, the WRX was mostly bolt-on upgrades to a relatively low-cost volume car: the Impreza. It was a like adding strawberries to a pancake. Better. Add whip-cream and there’s an STI edition… as good as it gets. However, at the end of the day, it’s just piling stuff on top of a flapjack.
In 2008 Subaru launched an all-new Impreza. At the same time, in Japan, performance cars were falling out of favor. Because of this Subaru’s parent company decided that what Americans wanted was a faster grocery-getter, not a real performance car, and they pushed out the weakest WRX ever built. The 2008 WRX was hardly discernible from the standard Impreza. It had a little more power, a stick-shift and a spoiler. In Internet parlance, it was an epic fail for performance enthusiasts.
According to our sources, the low sales of the 2008 WRX turned out to actually be a good thing. It gave Subaru of America the ammunition to say to Japan, “we tried it your way, now we want to do it our way.” That led to a much-improved 2009 performance model, which was still just tweaks to the existing Impreza, but it was the start of something bigger.
In 2012 Subaru introduced a WRX that, for the first time, didn’t share all its body panels with a base Impreza. The WRX was finally becoming its own product, free from the performance baggage of its previous grocery-getter underpinning. Or, to continue the breakfast metaphor, someone replaced a flapjack with a Belgian waffle. But the chefs at Subaru weren’t quite done yet. As it turns out, the 2012 WRX was merely an entrée.
What you’re looking at here is a Concept version of what could be the next WRX. Not an Impreza WRX, because the car you see here, and going forward, has even less in common with the Impreza than the 2012 model did – though, yes, if you dig down to the basic unibody it is still built on the same core chassis.
If you wanted proof of just how serious Subaru is about performance with this next WRX just look at the roof: It’s carbon fiber to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. Overall the car is lower, sleeker and wider than even the outgoing widebody model. Like all previous WRX’s this new model will feature a turbo-charged boxer engine with a top-mount intercooler. Performance specs aren’t yet known, but our guess will be 280-320hp for the WRX (not the STI). But keep in mind, that’s only a guess based on rumors.
The colors should seem familiar. A base coat of “World Rally Blue Pearl III” along with trendy fluorescent yellow trim, as a nod to the WRX’s World Rally Championship heritage.
The concept also features BBS “RD-D” one-piece forged wheels wrapped in 245/40R20 Dunlop tires with an “exclusive tread pattern” and more of that fluorescent yellow. (You’d almost think Ken Block was still onboard with the Subaru Rally Team given his penchant for neon.)
Looking at what numbers we do have, it is clear this WRX is intent on blazing a new performance trail. The new car loses two-inches of its length (178-inches), is almost four inches wider (74.4-inches), and – get this – the new car drops four inches of stature to 54.7 when compared to the 2012/2013 model. Finally, the wheelbase extends a massive five inches to 108.7. (The 2012 WRX 4-door sedan measured 180.3-inches in length, 70.70-inches in width, 58.1-inches in height with a 103.3-inch wheelbase.
You know what else has a 108.7-inch wheelbase and a carbon fiber roof? The current BMW M3. Subaru claims it’s a coincidence, but I’ll just leave that there, along with this: outside of the futuristic headlights, the streamlined side-mirrors and the funky taillights, what you’re looking at is what we believe is the an only lightly-camouflaged, production-ready 2015 Subaru WRX. Excited yet?
Finally, there have been some questions about future STI versions of the WRX. Michael McHale, from Subaru of America put our concerns to rest by flatly saying that, “An STI will happen.” We can’t wait.