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Crosstrek to open new-model frenzy for Subaru

Busy 2023 for Subaru launches with Crosstrek, Solterra, Impreza – Forester to follow

14 Feb 2023

FOLLOWING the arrival of its new-generation Crosstrek small SUV in mid-to-late March, Subaru Australia will focus on the mid-year launch of its first EV – the Solterra – and the sixth-generation Impreza hatch, due before Christmas, as well as an updated MY24 BRZ, a range of 50th Anniversary special editions, and several new model variants.


Subaru Australia has also dropped a heavy hint that the next-generation Forester medium SUV will break cover before the year is out, ahead of market introduction in 2024.


The first launch of 2023 is the turbocharged Outback XT, which officially debuts alongside the MY23 Outback range this month, followed by the Crosstrek that will begin to appear in showrooms in April.


Unlike the hybrid-only Japanese Crosstrek and petrol-only North American Crosstrek, the Australian line-up will consist of both 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol and 2.0-litre petrol-hybrid versions, though GoAuto understands that a newer-generation hybrid drivetrain will replace the existing set-up “in the short term”, meaning a likely debut in 2024.


Speaking to GoAuto at the Outback XT launch, Subaru Australia managing director Blair Read confirmed that Subaru Australia would launch with a carry-over hybrid drivetrain in the Crosstrek “but you will see change in that product over its lifecycle” – alluding to forthcoming advancements with Subaru’s hybrid system, as well as the possibility of a 2.5-litre Crosstrek variant making it to Australia.


Much like the WRX’s surprise appearance at the new-generation BRZ launch last January, the Crosstrek made a static media debut at the Outback XT launch, which Mr Read said is a strategy Subaru Australia will maintain going forward.


While he refused to divulge what the surprise guest – or guests – will be at next month’s Crosstrek launch, the gap between Crosstrek and the electric Solterra’s “mid-year to second half” arrival leaves a window for Subaru Australia to start introducing its 50th Anniversary special editions.


At an end-of-year media event, Mr Read said the Japanese brand has “some pretty exciting plans around some special editions (to mark 50 years of Subaru in Australia as an official importer) which we think will be really, really appealing to the Australian public, as well as some different variations on existing products”.


The “variations on existing products” points to the imminent ‘Wilderness’ versions of Forester, Outback and Crosstrek, which will be manufactured for Australia at Subaru’s Japanese production source.


Yet Subaru is remaining tight-lipped about what these special editions might entail, even though several new additions to the Japanese Subaru line-up may provide strong hints.


The first of those is the Forester XT-Edition, which was unveiled just before Christmas to commemorate 50 years of all-wheel drive Subarus (the original Leone 1400 4WD wagon appeared domestically in 1972).


An intriguing variation on the current Forester Sport, the XT-Edition features swathes of black-out paint treatment (including grille, garnishes, mirrors and roof rails), metallic-black 18-inch alloys and a blacked-out interior treatment, as well as an LED cargo light and tailgate lamp.


Its new Geyser Blue paint colour, which is the signature hue from the US-market Forester/Outback Wilderness, points to the future Japanese sourcing of models in this previously North America-only colour.


The feature that will not make it to Australia is the Japanese XT-Edition’s 130kW/300Nm 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine, which it shares with the JDM Forester Sport.


Variations in this department will involve the almost-certain inclusion of the existing Forester’s 136kW/239Nm 2.5-litre petrol flat-four, or the outside possibility of the Outback XT’s 183kW/350Nm 2.4-litre turbo-petrol flat four finally making its way under the Forester’s bonnet.


If and when the latter happens, it is likely Subaru Australia would instead work around the JDM Forester STI Sport grade that was revealed last August as a distinctive range-topper for the Forester range, built around both cosmetic, interior and suspension upgrades.


Where the XT-Edition favours matte black for its body treatment, the STI Sport blends both matte- and gloss-black finishes (but no Geyser Blue paint option – just white, silver, grey or black) and wears a pink ‘STI’ badge on both the front grille and tailgate.


Its wheel size remains 18 inches, clad with 225/55R18 tyres, but their five-spoke design is unique, and so is the ‘shadow-chrome’ super-black finish. The STI Sport’s suspension has been upgraded with STI-tuned Hitachi Astemo SFRD dampers up front, and STI-tuned rear dampers.


Inside, the STI Sport gains Nappa leather upholstery in black/Bordeaux red with red stitching, with a similar trim treatment permeating the cabin, combined with the same mixture of matte- and gloss-black as the exterior, and dark headlining. There’s also an STI logo on the tachometer.


Subaru has already confirmed that the Solterra EV will only be offered in Australia in all-wheel drive form, with pricing expected to be announced towards the middle of the year.


Even so, Subaru Australia says the level of interest in its first electric vehicle has “exceeded expectations”.


The latter half of the year will see a model-year update for the BRZ – involving yet-to-be-announced changes for MY24 – and 2023 will be rounded out by the sixth-generation Impreza, due before Christmas.


Subaru is still six months away from announcing a detailed Australian Impreza line-up but it will definitely be hatchback only and CVT automatic only. The 115kW/196Nm 2.0-litre direct-injection flat-four is also a definite, but Subaru Australia has not ruled out a potential hybrid version, or a belated return of the much-loved 2.5-litre Impreza RS.


When asked specifically about reviving the Impreza RS, Mr Read implied that it would be a natural progression for the Australian Subaru line-up to include an Impreza RS model.


“I think you’ve seen from what we’ve done with XT, WRX has got an RS and a GT, (so) we’re fans of those iconic nameplates, and I think customers are too,” he said, without confirming anything about an Impreza RS’s potential powertrain.


Subaru Japan launched the domestic market version of its latest Impreza hatch at the 2023 Tokyo Auto Salon in January, showcased by an STI-parts-equipped version painted in the new Impreza hero colour – Sunblaze Pearl (a deep metallic orange). It is a subtly sporty and sinister look that would perfectly complement a variant such as a 2.5-litre Impreza RS.


Beyond this year, however, the biggest news for Subaru concerns the next-generation Forester. According to Mr Read, Subaru has invested heavily in this crucial sixth-generation version of its best-selling model, and a preview of its all-new design is likely to emerge before 2023 wraps up.


“All I can say is that once we see new-gen Impreza towards the end of this year, it’s Forester’s time. Being the number one seller by volume (for Subaru both globally and in Australia), you can probably put two and two together and work out that it’s going to bring its A-game,” he said.


Indeed, despite being pushed hard by Outback, the Forester was once again Subaru Australia’s best-selling model in 2022 – closing out the year with 10,637 sales (and a strong 1586 units in December).


Subaru itself finished the year in eighth place with 36,036 sales, beating Isuzu Ute and Volkswagen. But in December 2022, Subaru Australia achieved 4.6 percent market share and was just 363 sales shy of Hyundai. 



What’s coming from Subaru in 2023:


Outback XT




Anniversary editions








Forester reveal




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