The Subaru WRX could be split off from the Subaru Impreza family of compact hatchbacks and sedans as early as 2014, according to a report from Motor Trend published this week. The president of Subaru, Ikuo Mori revealed that the company was planning on launching a “new sporty car” within the next three years while addressing company shareholders, and with the “Toyobaru” FT-86-based coupe hitting the streets well before that date, speculation abounds the Mori was referring specifically to a dramatic change in how the WRX nameplate is presented to potential buyers.
Fueling the expectation that the next-generation Subaru WRX will not be sold under the guise of an additional Subaru Impreza trim level is the fact that sources within Subaru, as quoted by Motor Trend, have described the development of the upcoming WRX model as being completely divorced from the Impreza platform. The Subaru Impreza itself has just recently undergone a redesign, and although the current Impreza does offer both an Impreza WRX and an Impreza WRX STI edition this would seem to be the last time that the sporty rally-inspired performance car and the compact commuter will share any components.
There are several compelling reasons for Subaru to create a distinction between the affordable Impreza and the athletic WRX and WRX STI models. First of all, the move would allow Subaru to stop “over-engineering” the Impreza in order to accommodate the upgraded suspension and drivetrain parts required to give the WRX the required amount of power and agility. This would make the compact car more affordable to produce, giving Subaru the chance to institute more competitive pricing.
At the same time, moving the all-wheel drive Subaru WRX to its own unique platform would also allow it to benefit from not having to share components with the more pedestrian Impreza, meaning that more aggressive chassis and engine technologies can be employed without having to worry about fitting into the “design box” represented by the entry-level model. This is even more true with regards to styling, as a departure from the Impreza would facilitate the introduction of a much more radical exterior design, perhaps on a shorter wheelbase and with more dramatic weight savings adding an extra dose of handling and acceleration to the already quick Subaru WRX package.
Would a smaller Subaru WRX, possibly a coupe or a two-door hatchback disconnected from the vehicle’s traditional Impreza rally history be as successful amongst its target market? Given that the vehicle is still pegged to receive a powerful forced-induction four-cylinder (either turbocharged or supercharged, but at 1.6-liters smaller than the current 2.5-liter unit), it would seem that the Subaru WRX will still be able to appeal to drivers interested in a performance bargain with an MSRP under $30,000. If anything, a more tightly-focused Subaru WRX sporting roughly 270 horsepower (with 300-plus ponies reserved for the STI edition) would go a long way towards reinforcing Subaru’s high performance credentials without impacting sales of the more vanilla Impreza, which has emerged as the brand’s most important model.