Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Future Cars: Crystal Ball Gazing the New 2014 Subaru WRX

Ladies and Gentlemen, what you see here could potentially be the all new Subaru WRX, but before I elaborate, allow me to take you for a short trip back to the past: Cast your minds back to the early Nineties, when Will Smith's stardom flourished from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and the Ford Taurus was actually America's bestselling car (…and what a distant achievement that was).

It was 1992 when Subaru revealed its newest compact car - the Impreza; a vehicle that I initially described as being a soulless rolling bar of soap. Its dull lines and horrid half-grill (Japanese market) conjured up thoughts that the designers had fallen asleep at a Vanilla Ice Cream conference.

Fortunately, the launch of the AWD and Turbo'd WRX helped boot this mediocrity out of the door; an actual grille, body-kit and bigger wheels brought huge improvements in aesthetics (and performance). Today, it can be said that the styling of the first generation Impreza WRX appears timeless in a classic Japanese-like sort of way.

The 2000's brought a new generation of the WRX; bigger and bolder. Some say the boldness aspect may have gone too far; those bulging bug-eyed headlights in particular were a love it or hate it affair. The Impreza was facelifted for the better in 2002, as those round headlights were exterminated and normality set back into the design.

However, it wasn't until the 3rd generation was launched in 2007 that some more noticeable changes started to occur; for example the doors lost their trademark frameless windows due to Subaru wanting to improve NVH levels. The basic shape moved away from the silhouette that began with the first generation, into that of a rounder, more fluid design that was more handsome, if not still a little mundane. The sedan arguably was the biggest visual departure from its predecessors; the odd upright cabin and side 3rd quarter window harking back to the generic sedans of the 1980's.

It wasn't until the current, fourth generation model, that Subaru got part of its styling mojo back; the crispier bodywork (the XV in particular) and better-looking front fascia has made it more visually competitive against rivals like the Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Honda Civic. However, at launch, the next WRX was noticeably absent; as it stands, production of the 3rd Generation WRX still continues, and will do so until the next one is revealed.

Word on the street is that, the upcoming WRX will differ greatly from the base Impreza. How big of a difference it will be has yet to be seen, but it is mooted the separation could be similar to Nissan dissecting the GT-R away from the Skyline body that it had previously been based on. Spy shots to date haven't revealed anything radical in terms of design for the WRX - test mules have so far shown the standard Impreza sedan with new running gear.

Since Subaru is still keeping us guessing, I've drafted up my take on how the next WRC-fighter could possibly look. Sure, it doesn't appear as a huge departure from the standard car, but things have been massaged to set it apart more than ever. For example, most of the body panels have been redesigned with rallying in mind - cue the expanded wheel-arch flares for a wider track. Those Forester-inspired vertical air intakes help with cooling, as do the vents behind the front wheel arches - even ducts below the narrowed headlights have a functional purpose.

Yet the showroom version needs to appeal to buying punters as well as being functional for racing; those aesthetics need to be sleek, aggressive and confident. To express this, the headlights have been given dynamic LED lighting spanning the outer edges, whilst the depression in the roof panel mimics that of the hood scoop. As one looks across the side profile, they'll notice the door skins now have more expressive character lines compared to the donor sedan and WRX trademark spoiler stays to aid with aerodynamic downforce and visual punch.

So, overall, this proposal finds the middle ground without losing too much of its Impreza identity - if it were to break away completely and morph into a smaller, more dedicated body, as suggested by some, then wouldn't it be treading on the toes of the BRZ? Regardless of how the final product will appear - I say bring on 2014!

By Josh Byrnes
Renderings Copyright: CarScoop / Josh Byrnes

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