Axed Subaru WRX STI deserved better, even if an electric future is bright | Opinion – Automotive News

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“Subaru Corporation will accelerate its investment in future performance technologies, confirming today that there will be no STI variant for the new generation Subaru WRX.”

And with that short phrase, one of the great performance cars of our time passed a sudden and unexpected death.

The impending launch of the next-generation Subaru WRX had all performance car fans eager to see what the WRX STI would bring. Rumors from Japan indicated that the new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine would be tuned to produce a very powerful 295kW to pit the WRX STI against Audi RS3s and Mercedes-AMG A45s.

Learn more about the Subaru WRX

But alas, the rumors were just rumors (although there was no official confirmation of when Subaru decided to scrap the STI, so development or plans could have started) and a sports sedan from 295 kW inspired by the rally remains a dream.

While this announcement doesn’t mean the end of STI models (and I’ll talk about that later), it does mean the end of an era that began in 1994. This was a time when Subaru was widely known as a “farmer automotive brand” because of its all-wheel-drive Brumby and Liberty models.

In the 1990s, Subaru used their forgettable Impreza sedan as the basis for their World Rally eXperimental car and the WRX was born and became unforgettable. In 1994, the first version Subaru Tecnica International, with a more powerful engine and a more precise chassis, arrived on the scene.

In no time, Subaru and the WRX STI became heroes in the performance car landscape with its relatively affordable yet very fast sports sedan. It helped that the brand and the car were linked to some of the coolest and most successful rally drivers in history, including Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz, Richard Burns, Petter Solberg and eventually Australian Chris Atkinson.

However, as the brand’s reputation improved and sales increased, Subaru began to give the distinct impression that it wanted to abandon its rally-inspired image. Whether this is true or not is the signal sent by the brand, especially in Australia.

How else to explain Subaru Australia’s decision to end its Australian Rally Championship program just two years after Molly Taylor won the title. Sure, the WRX STI she drove might not have been a new model, but when Subaru pulled the pin at the end of the 2018 season, the STI still had at least four years of sales left.

Although the local rally series is not a huge marketing program for Subaru, Ms. Taylor is undoubtedly one of the country’s most high-profile and marketable racing drivers, as evidenced by her worldwide success in the Extreme E championship, not to mention the fact that Subaru kept her as a brand ambassador.

Holden maintained its involvement in V8 Supercar racing until the very end because while it didn’t save the brand, it was core to its identity and management knew it. Rallying with the WRX STI is at the heart of Subaru, and yet it has abandoned the sport locally and globally.

In hindsight, that should have been a wake-up call for the WRX STI’s future, but the thought of ditching it altogether never seemed to cross anyone’s mind. At least any Subaru or performance car fan, as this was obviously an idea that Subaru management had had for some time.

There is a silver lining to this dark cloud, however, because at the same time Subaru killed off the WRX STI, he confirmed the badge had a future with his statement: “This announcement ushers in an exciting new era of exaltation of performance. ; with Subaru Tecnica International (STI) focusing on bringing forward new technologies for future Subaru models.

The “new technologies” indicate a strong possibility that Subaru will revive the STI badge for a future electric-powered performance car.

At the 2022 Tokyo Auto Show, Subaru unveiled the STI E-RA concept, a car that looked more like a Le Mans prototype than a rally car. But underneath its sleek body would be a 60kWh lithium-ion battery pack and four electric motors that Subaru says will produce 800kW.

Although the next Subaru STI is highly unlikely to be an 800kW supercar, the STI E-RA serves as a testbed for this technology and will almost certainly lead to a production performance car in the not too distant future. distant. What form that takes is a mystery for now, with either a self-driving model or an electric version of the WRX the two possibilities.

Which is a positive sign for Subaru and its fans, because it’s important that while brands need to evolve, it’s dangerous to completely lose touch with your past. Subaru today wouldn’t be where it is without the WRX STI, so it should also play a role in its future.

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