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How Did This Happen?

March 29, 2007

The Subaru Impreza WRX.  Behind the wheel, it is a revelation in handling and performance, with firm, communicative steering, a screaming flat-four, turbocharged boxer engine, and one of the best all-wheel drive setups of any car, anywhere.  But as great a drive as it is, the WRX has never been what you could call pretty.  Sure, it has something of an ugly, quirky beauty to it, but that ugly, quirky beauty turns away as many buyers as the driving experience attracts.

Thus, it would make sense that Subaru decided to put its focus on design when developing the all-new 2008 Impreza.  Carry over the components that made the last generation so memorable, and wrap them in a sleek new design that would appeal to a mass audience.

At least, that was the plan.

For comparison purposes, here is a 2004-ish WRX STI, complete with rally-tastic gold rims.  Obviously, it is not going to win any beauty contests, but it has a look all its own, and not necessarily a bad one.

Impreza_sti

And here is the new Impreza WRX, which is set to debut as the New York Auto Show.  The Impreza that is supposed to be a major step forward in design.  If by step forward, they mean drawing inspiration from the Kia Spectra5, well, they nailed it.  By any other measure, though, this thing missed the ball.

I’ll give Subaru credit for going the hatchback route, but it has been done far better by Mazda, Volvo, Volkswagen, and others of the past few years.  And that grille…good God.  Whoever thought that grille was the way to push the design forward should be taken into an elementary school cafeteria and made to stand there while all the kids point and laugh at him.

08_impreza_wrx

I know something of the layers and layers of approvals it takes to finalize a car design, and it boggles my mind that, somewhere along the way, no one stepped back and said "wait, this really sucks".  Because, well, it does.

Especially in light of its main competition, the Mitsubishi Lancer, and its high-performance, rally-bred variant, the Evolution X.  Where the previous Lancer and Evolution models were boxy and bland beside the quirky Subarus, this new generation is sharp, creased, angular and aggressive.

Mitsu_protox

Anyone care to guess which is going to prevail in the marketplace?

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