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New York show: Short countdown to next WRX

Rex appeal: The Subaru WRX concept revealed at the New York motor show brings sharp coupe styling to the iconic nameplate.

Next-gen Subaru WRX imminent following the reveal of a wild concept in New York


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29 Mar 2013


SUBARU’S long-awaited next-generation WRX performance flagship is just months away, with the production version expected to be revealed by the end of this year.

And given the BRZ coupe took seven months to go from production debut to Australian launch, a similar time frame for the WRX points to an arrival in local showrooms around mid-2014.

Speaking in New York, Subaru America president and COO Tom Doll said the production version was “close”, and conceded that a November motor show reveal was “possible”, hinting at a potential world premiere at LA motor show.

It is also worth noting that the Tokyo motor show will take place at the same time as the North American event this November.

The concept revealed in the Big Apple overnight is just a styling preview, in similar vein to the pumped-up BRZ STI concept from the 2011 motor show, which was tamed down by the time it was unveiled in production form at Tokyo a fortnight later.

Like the BRZ show car, the WRX concept is obviously an extreme version of what will end up in showrooms.

Strip away the carbon-fibre roof, 20-inch alloy wheels, massive racing brakes, aggressive rear diffuser, tiny door mirrors and air intake-like headlights and it is possible to get a measure of what the showroom STI model might look like.

Tame down the chunky flared wheel arches – which at the front lead into huge air vents – and the base WRX starts to materialise.

Whether the production model will retain the four-door concept’s swoopy coupe-like roof line remains to be seen.

Apart from confirmation the new WRX will maintain the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive layout of its predecessors, no mechanical details have been announced and Subaru’s global deputy general manager for corporate communications Masashi Uemura declined to comment on technical details.

However Mr Doll confirmed the new WRX will share the Impreza platform and be offered with a manual gearbox, while automatics will use a CVT with paddle-shifters.

He also quashed rumours the new WRX would be a hybrid – although he said the electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission of the XV Hybrid also revealed at New York would provide a welcome torque boost.

“It will have a manual transmission because a performance driver likes to be able to shift the car,” he said. “If you put a CVT in it you can have paddle-shifting.”

Various rumours about drivetrains have circulated but it looks likely the WRX will use a higher output version of the direct-injection 2.0-litre turbo engine of the latest Forester XT.

“In the future I think you can probably guess that with the 2.0-litres that are in the current Impreza, a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is coming,” said Mr Doll.

Although Subaru looks set to position the WRX more firmly as a standalone sportscar, further distancing it from the Impreza with which it has long been associated – the Impreza name was dropped from performance models in 2010 – Mr Doll revealed some panels would still be shared.

We are trying to stip the WRX and STI brands off and away from the Impreza to try and get their own unique styling and their own unique driving attributes,” he said.

“They share some (panels) but we are trying to create, as you can tell by this car here, its own style and its own definition as opposed to taking it from the Impreza model and saying it is just based off the Impreza.”

He also confirmed the WRX would not be produced as a hatchback this time around as “performance cars are more defined in the sedan segment”.

But due to the popularity of hot hatches in various markets around the world such as Europe and Australia, it is unclear if Mr Doll was talking in the context of his native North American market.

“For the new generation we are moving away from the five-door style,” he said. “Because performance cars are more defined in the sedan segment.

Mr Doll said the new WRX will deliver BRZ-like levels of handling and drivability but in a more powerful, all-wheel-drive package.

“We learned with the BRZ that it is not just about 0-60 it is really about drivability, handling and fun and what the BRZ taught us, you are going to see a lot of those positive attributes built into the next generation of our production cars.”

The WRX concept’s wheelbase is a significant 115mm longer than the Impreza at 2760mm while the 4520mm body length is 60mm shorter than the Impreza sedan, lending it short overhangs and a purposeful stance to go with its low (1390mm), wide (1890mm) and sleek shape.

Subaru fans will be glad to see the iconic WRX bonnet scoop has been retained – unlike the latest turbo-petrol Forester XV – but it has become even more integrated with the bonnet than on the current model.

The concept is painted in a new colour called WR Blue Pearl III that has a metal-flake look but provides a clear link to the classic WRX hue and Subaru’s rallying livery.

Flourescent yellow highlights on the badge, fat quad tail-pipes and brake callipers give the concept some sparkle without resorting to the use of chrome.

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