Subaru has confirmed its all-new WRX will make its world debut at the Los Angeles motor show next week (November 20), and now motoring.com.au can reveal the higher-performance STI version will break cover at the Detroit show in January.
Our sources have also exposed the key specification differences between the WRX and STI, a Holiday Auto magazine rendering of which is pictured here, and the news is not good for those expecting more power or the fresh, aggressive look of the well-accepted WRX Concept car that appeared at the New York show in April.
In fact, the biggest and most critical new development for the next-generation WRX and STI performance sedans, which for the first time will wear different four-door bodyshells from the Impreza sedan upon which they’re based, is their new ‘Axle Forward Layout’ chassis configuration.
Unrelated to the Aussie rules competition with which it shares its name (AFL), the new architecture was previewed on the Exiga concept car at the 1997 Tokyo show and is expected to give the new WRX and STI even better handling, balance and stability.
The main difference between Subaru’s current all-wheel drive layout and the new AFL is the positioning of the clutch and front differential.
With the clutch and diff effectively switching places, the front axle is now located further forward than before, meaning the engine can be positioned lower and further back in the chassis, thus optimising front-rear weight distribution.
This modification also permits the wheelbase to be lengthened, which also serves to enhance interior space and allows for a revision of the suspension components.
The 2014 WRX will also employ a new torque distribution function. The current WRX STI incorporates a front-rear torque vectoring system with centre diff control, but all new WRXs will be fitted with an additional torque distribution set-up that independently adjusts brake pressure on all four wheels.
Our source tells us this new technology uses a revised brake control system that electronically manages and restricts torque being fed to the inside tyres when turning into a corner, thereby pulling the car into the corner and reducing understeer.
Now to the juicy part: the engines. Given the WRX and STI are global cars, powertrains will differ between markets. Australia will get the same engine as the car’s biggest market, North America.
The WRX will be powered by a revised version of the current model’s EJ25 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine, pumping out 195kW of power and 330Nm of torque – around the same as the outgoing model (195kW/343Nm).
The STI, on the other hand, will employ the same engine but with tweaks to bring its outputs to 224kW and 393Nm, making it marginally more powerful than the current STI (221kW) and putting its torque peak between the existing model’s two different outputs, depending on transmission (350Nm auto, 407Nm manual).
Naturally, Subaru will also differentiate the WRX from its more powerful STI brother via a more aggressive body kit, including a more prominent rear wing and wider body panels. More importantly, extra underbody rigidity enhancements will also lift the STI’s cornering ability to new levels.
In its wisdom, Subaru has decided to do away with the base WRX for Japan and Europe, which is where the Levorg comes in. The Levorg is a wagon concept that will also be unveiled on November 20 – at the Tokyo show.
In markets that get the WRX STI’s most powerful engine (Japan and Europe), the 243kW 2.0-litre boxer four (FA20DIT), Subaru has created a sports wagon to replace the aging WRX.
Company bosses felt that the brand needed an injection of something completely different and the Levorg is that car. It will be powered by an entry-level 1.6-litre turbocharged boxer engine producing 125kW/255Nm and the turbocharged 2.0-litre boxer generating 221kW/400Nm.
Whether Australia will get the Levorg further down the road is still undecided. Subaru bosses in Japan know that Australia is one of its strongest markets with a client base that seems happy with the current range of products.
So for the time being at least, we can expect to see the WRX land in showrooms in March, with the STI following in May. Watch this space.
Words by Peter Lyon