Subaru is on a roll.
Not only because the automaker can sell in the States just about every car it makes (the Pleiades star cluster may as well be on Colorado’s state flag), but also because the once-niche automaker can legitimately claim major-player status with at least two segment leaders — and another on the way.
First unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in hatchback form, then again in Los Angeles in sedan guise, the new Subaru Impreza concepts show more than sleeker sheet metal for the automaker, they also show the company’s direction for global production.
What we know: Subaru’s next Impreza will be built on a new global architecture that could eventually underpin the entire lineup — save for maybe a second-generation BRZ, if such a thing were to ever happen — if it can be stretched enough from the Impreza concept’s 105.1-inch wheelbase to something that resembles the Outback’s current 108.1-inch wheelbase.
We also know the automaker is taking seriously its challenge to deliver on better looks for its cars. Both Impreza Sedan and Hatchback concepts are lower and wider than current production models, and the sedan’s aggressive roofline peaks around the driver and passenger before ducking down into the trunk and into the decklid spoiler.
Despite having a longer wheelbase by an inch, the car is also shorter in length by an inch too. The Impreza Sedan Concept pushes its tires further toward the corners with shorter overhangs and a stockier stance.
Even the sharper, C-shaped, hawkeye headlamps (which probably won’t make all the final version) show willingness for at least a whisper of flair in its cars. But what we don’t know about the Impreza could indicate a much more interesting future for the automaker.
Subaru kept quiet the details regarding the new Impreza’s powertrain. Its current mill, a 2.0-liter boxer four was introduced in 2012 in the current-generation Impreza. That engine, dubbed FB in the automaker’s internal codes, now lives in Forester, Crosstrek, WRX, and Impreza models with favorable fuel economy figures — albeit with slightly underwhelming performance in naturally aspirated guise.
That’s the favorite pick for new Impreza power.
But, Subaru’s longtime competitor in the States Volkswagen announced earlier this year that it would move the Impreza’s closest hatchback competitor toward a smaller-displacement, turbocharged unit, and it’s not hard to imagine Subaru doing the same thing soon.
Volkswagen’s new engine for its Golf and Jetta, a 1.4-liter turbocharged four that produces 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque is within spitting distance of the current Impreza’s power figures (148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet). Smaller displacement and force-fed induction are the wave of the future, and Subaru’s no stranger to turbocharging its engines — its first turbocharged car in the U.S. was more than 30 years ago.
Announcing the new Impreza alongside a new engine wouldn’t be groundbreaking for Subaru — it would nearly be tradition after doing the same thing last time around.
Although, there are signs to indicate that a small, force-fed four could be waiting until later. Subaru’s last-generation four-cylinder engine — dubbed EJ in internal codes — has lived long enough to get its own driver’s license, vote, and even buy beer. The EJ engine was first introduced in 1989, and a version of it still lives on today in Subaru’s WRX STI. In terms of powertrain development, Subaru takes the pit master approach: slow, low, and long.
Nonetheless, whatever Subaru has in store for its new Impreza — and what’s under its hood — we’ll find out in a few months. The production model is almost surely headed to the New York Auto Show in late March. Coming off record sales years (plural) and collecting awards, Subaru certainly has the momentum.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.