Dy­lan Camp­bell

Motor (Australia) - - CONTENTS -

HONDA DID IT with the Civic Type R, Subaru with the BRZ and now Toy­ota is poised to do some­thing sim­i­lar with the Supra. Re­turn to the top of the class, I mean, whether it’s hot hatches, pure driv­ing fun or pow­er­ful straight-six rear-drive thrills. (And yes, I know there’s a dis­con­cert­ingly high per­cent­age of BMW parts un­der the new Supra’s skin but no­body who’s wrung the neck of a BMW B58 straight-six would ever want to swap it with a 2JZ, as ven­er­a­ble as it is.)

But my heart longs for the come­back of an­other leg­endary Ja­pa­nese per­for­mance brand and that’s Subaru Tec­nica In­ter­na­tional. ‘Come back, you say? They haven’t gone any­where!’ I beg to dif­fer. Sure, the cur­rent WRX STI is a tur­bocharged all-wheel drive thrill-a-minute and a to­tal blast around a track, but when peo­ple praise it for its ana­logue feel in an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal age, what they’re re­ally po­litely say­ing is that the car is an old nail. Fur­ther ev­i­dence of this is when the car grad­u­ally goes down in price as the years tick on, to keep it at­trac­tive to cus­tomers in the face of no real me­chan­i­cal progress.

This is true of the cur­rent STI – and it of­fers a prop­erly an­ti­quated driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence com­pared to, say, a Ford Fo­cus RS, an­other turbo four-cylin­der all-wheel drive with shop­ping trol­ley DNA – and that car has just been put out to pas­ture! While I’m chuffed to the gills that the WRX STI is still around – nat­u­ral se­lec­tion has iron­i­cally and re­gret­tably claimed the Mit­subishi Lancer Evo­lu­tion – I’m also a bit sad to see the STI get its quad tailpipes and rear wing so thor­oughly handed to it by even front-drive cars like the Civic

Type R. The game has moved on big time.

And where is the tur­bocharged BRZ STI? I feel like a sim­ple­ton for still want­ing such a thing but imag­ine a low-boost set-up, a bit more brakes, a bit more grip, a bit more damper, and you’ve got the mak­ings of an out­stand­ing sports car that doesn’t de­part too far from the sim­ple-fun ethos of the base model car. The af­ter­mar­ket can do it – Tune­house in Syd­ney has a low-boost turbo kit for the BRZ that works re­ally well – why can’t STI?

There is a new WRX com­ing, and a new STI, and Subaru has pre­viewed as much with the var­i­ous it­er­a­tions of the VIZIV Con­cept we’ve now seen. The STI ver­sion, with its squinty eyes, 22B-in­spired pumped guards and sleek rear wing, hints that the brand hasn’t given up the turbo four-cylin­der, all­wheel drive fight. There’s even talk of hy­brid pow­er­trains for this car, al­beit still some years away. Like, 2023 away.

This might seem like an eter­nity but it has the po­ten­tial to leapfrog STI back to the top against the next gen­er­a­tion of hot small per­for­mance cars also to sport 300kW-plus hy­brid sys­tems, such as the next Mercedes-AMG A45 and Ford Fo­cus RS. Be­fore the Toy­ota 86 and Subaru BRZ, dur­ing that painful pe­riod after Japan seem­ingly killed off all its sports cars or turned off the R&D taps for the ones that were left, I had lit­tle re­main­ing con­fi­dence in Japan’s abil­ity to build cut­ting edge sports cars that could again com­pete against the Eu­ros. But I am glad to be wrong – the 86/BRZ is the best of its ad­mit­tedly spe­cial­ist kind, the Civic Type R is un­doubt­edly the best­driv­ing hot hatch right now and the Supra is sound­ing like a proper thing. Buoyed by the bril­liance of th­ese new Ja­pa­nese per­for­mance cars, here’s hop­ing bright pink be­comes some­thing to be feared in the rear vi­sion mir­ror once again.

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