Subaru Corp. will not offer a new-generation WRX STI using the current car’s architecture – though it hasn’t ruled a return for the badge in electrified form down the track.
It means a nameplate dating to 1994, across four generations, goes into deep freeze.
In sad news for rally enthusiasts worldwide – quite possibly still mourning the death of the Lancer Evo – Subaru says it simply couldn’t make a new STI work in today’s context. In other words, it needs to cut its overall emissions.
Somewhat unusually, a company statement went out on various market-specific press sites, but not on its global press site (at the time of writing anyway).
“Subaru Corporation will fast-track their investment in future performance technologies, today confirming there will be no STI variant for the new generation Subaru WRX,” said Subaru Australia.
“This announcement paves the way forward for an exciting new era of performance exhilaration; with Subaru Tecnica International (STI) focusing on bringing forward new technologies for future Subaru models.
A similar statement on Subaru’s US media site added: “As the automotive marketplace continues to move towards electrification, Subaru is focused on how our future sports and performance cars should evolve to meet the needs of the changing marketplace and the regulations and requirements for greenhouse gasses, zero emissions vehicles, and Corporate Average Fuel Economy,” the company said.
“… A next generation internal combustion engine WRX STI will not be produced based upon the new WRX platform.”
The news means the new-generation WRX sedan and wagon – the latter sold overseas as Levorg – due in Q2 will have to fly the flag in Subaru’s performance line-up, alongside the second-generation BRZ coupe.
The company did, however, suggest the nameplate might return on something electrified, be it BEV or hybrid in lieu of the famed turbocharged flat four.
“Subaru Corporation is exploring opportunities for the next generation Subaru WRX STI, including electrification,” it said.
Subaru recently teased its performance EV plans with the Solterra STI concept, based on its forthcoming Toyota-twinning electric SUV. It also revealed the manic STI E-RA concept, an 800kW quad-motor racer with proprietary four-wheel torque vectoring system.
Subaru may in the interim look to expand its STI Performance Parts range, stating: “Whilst there will be no STI variant for the new generation Subaru WRX, loyal Australian Subaru fans will be able to continue their love for STI through STI inspired performance and styling parts, special limited edition vehicle offerings, and follow STI’s journey into future performance technologies…”
The WRX STI was part of golden era of Australian and world rallying success that contributed to the ‘Rex family’s loyal fan base.
First generation: 1998 – 2001 (in Australia)
Perhaps the most iconic WRX STI of all, the 1998 Impreza WRX STI 22B was a special edition to commemorate Subaru’s 40th anniversary.
Featuring a larger 2.2-litre engine and widebody based on the WRC winning rally car, only 425 examples were produced (24 for export outside of Japan, five for Australia), making it extremely desirable.
The level of interest in Impreza WRX STI justified a one-off production run of 400 limited edition two-door coupes for Australia in January 1999, which was virtually an instant sell-out.
That prompted the decision to follow-up with 400 four-door Impreza WRX STI sedans in October 1999.
Second generation: 2001 – 2007
Convinced that there was a place for the STI variant to become an ongoing part of the Impreza WRX range, Subaru Australia committed to the second generation, and it launched as an ongoing variant in December 2001.
Third generation: 2008 – 2014
Third generation Subaru WRX STI, which launched in February 2008, offered a second choice in the range, with both entry-level and spec.R variants.
Fourth generation: 2015 – 2020
Launched in April 2014, Subaru WRX STI for the first time offered a rear spoiler delete option, combined with its highest power output of 221kW. On launch, it was also subtly distinguished from predecessors by not carrying the Impreza name.