The rally king returns!
Subaru is preparing for a big 2021 with the launch of not one, but two, new performance cars. First up comes the updated BRZ in the third quarter, but the bigger deal for WRC and hot hatch fans is the arrival of the new-generation WRX.
Subaru has spent the best part of a decade trying to elevate the WRX from a sporty version of the Impreza small car to its own standalone performance car. Back in 2015 it officially ditched the Impreza nameplate and began calling it only the WRX; even though it remained based on the Impreza sedan.
For 2021 the WRX will be even more different, while still based on the same Subaru Global Platform that underpins most of the brand's models, the new hero model will get unique styling to separate it from the Impreza. It will also pack more performance to ensure it keeps up with the newer competition from Volkswagem (Golf R), Hyundai (i30 N), Ford (Focus ST) and Honda (Civic Type R).
Subaru has been teasing a bolder, more aggressive look for the new WRX for years. The 2017 Viziv Performance Concept gave us an early taste of what we can expect. While that's now several years old and more exaggerated than what you'll see in showrooms, Subaru is believed to be putting the finishing touches to a new concept that will be much closer to what you'll soon be able to drive.
While Subaru Australia's spokesman couldn't confirm any details of the new model, our sources have indicated to us the new WRX will borrow plenty of styling cues from the already-revealed 2021 Levorg wagon. Not only that, but the WRX is expected to offer a wagon version of its own, reviving the Sports Wagon of the first generation WRX; at least in spirit if not name. But expect the hero model to be a four-door coupe-style body in keeping with the tradition of the WRX.
As mentioned earlier, the new WRX will sit on the Subaru Global Platform, the modular underpinnings that are lighter and stiffer than the out-going Impreza-based platform. Having driven the latest Impreza and been impressed with its handling, it provides a solid foundation for the WRX to turn up the power.
So Subaru will be replacing the WRX's traditional 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine with a larger, more powerful 2.4-litre flat-four turbo. It's tipped to make as much as 215kW which is a meaningful boost from the current model's 197kW.
It's also expected the new model will continue with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT won't appeal to enthusiasts but the two-pedal option is key to expanding the sales appeal in the auto-loving Australian market.
Naturally the WRX will continue to be all-wheel drive, which is another trademark of both the model and the brand.
New WRX STI coming soon too
The new WRX is expected to arrive in the fourth quarter of the year (barring any pandemic-induced delays) but if it's not fast enough for you then you'll have to wait for the new WRX STI that's due to lob in the second half of 2022.
It may be worth the wait too, with rumours from Japan suggesting the company isn't just looking to out-perform the likes of the 213kW VW Golf R and 228kW Honda Civic Type R, but is hunting the 310kW Mercedes-AMG A45.
It's believed Subaru is aiming to wind the boost up on the 2.4-litre flat-four to extract a whopping 298kW of power and 490Nm of torque. That's an impressive upgrade from the current STI's 2.5-litre engine that makes 221kW/407Nm.
The arrival of the BRZ, WRX and WRX STI in the next 18 months may not be the end of Subaru performance upgrade either. As we reported last week Subaru is reportedly working on a smaller, Toyota GR Yaris-sized turbocharged, all-wheel drive baby hot hatch that could bring the brand back to the World Rally Championship. Which could help the brand usher in another boom period on both the special stage and in the showroom.