Friday, February 08, 2008

Whoever designed the new Subaru WRX needs to be…

…strapped down, like Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange’, with devices holding their eyes open, while they watch slides of stylish vehicles morph into hideous shapeless lumps of metal.
- Malcolm gets re-educated

Then they can watch them in reverse, and re-educate themselves about industrial design that belies the true nature of a car with the heritage (albeit short) of the Subaru Impreza WRX.

Even the first model we received in Australia in the mid-1990’s, with the flat bonnet and boot lid, slab sides and slightly pushed guards was a better looking car. The second model we got was an improvement on this again.

- First generation Australian WRX

They got fairly wide acclaim too as a fire-breather.

- Victorian and NSW police got a few

And although the last model looked like a Hyundai Excel when Wheels magazine released ”spy pictures”, once Subaru refined it the WRX came out looking like a rocket sled, and went like one too.

- Latest generation Australian WRX

Somewhat reminiscent of the change of the Skyline model from R32 to R33, the new Subaru looks vastly dull by comparison. The R32 Skyline was an angular, angry car, true to its nature. It was no bespoke weapon, it just was a weapon. And it looked like it.

- R32: weapon, R33: overblown pig, R34: style and power

The Skyline maintains a constant design feature that WRX has yet to decide on. You know what this is, without even reading a badge.

- Iconic round taillights

So too the last two WRX incarnations, but not this one. Granted, a weapon it is, but it will hardly cause anyone walking past it parked at the shops to stop and stare at it, wondering if it goes like a scalded cat. Its just another bland hatchback with a scoop plugged onto the front. The insipid downward curve of the bonnet towards the drooping grille line, the streaky headlights perhaps the strong point, yet the whole front end is nowhere near the strong face of previous models.

- WRX old/new comparison

Even in STI guise, it’s not a patch on the last model. You want a car like this to flex its muscles, not wear a cheap suit. Aside from the flared guards and slightly wider look, its not really a visually intimidating vehicle. Give the car a tail, that should help in making it look threatening even if its not even moving. The new WRX lacks all of these things.

- new WRX STI, horror story in 3D

A car of this nature needs to grin, to bare its teeth, and not just smile sweetly. Or maybe even stick its nose in where its not wanted.

- Noses. Is the new WRX really as good as any of these?
(left to right: Audi A4, BMW M3, Mistubishi Lancer, Honda Odyssey, Aston Martin DB5)

Even the Honda Odyssey looks better coming up behind you than the new WRX.

Ricers of the world are probably celebrating. At last, with their Honda Civic’s and Toyota Corolla’s and Yaris/Echo’s, with fake scoops and bodywork, they now have a car that can actually look better than the WRX. Even the Civic, a car very easily over-riced with even minimal work, can look better than the WRX.

- Riced out Civic: better looker

You want better looking cars? Mazda 3 for one, and the MPS widens the gap. Ford Focus is another, especially in XR5 guise. The Holden Astra Coupe also beats it in the design stakes.

- top to bottom: Mazda 3 MPS: Ford Focus XR5: Holden Astra SRi

Ford, Mazda, Holden and Honda are producing vehicles with consistent noses at the moment, aside from a few exceptions. The Impreza nose doesn’t keep consistent with any of the other Subaru models, and I hope they don’t change the Liberty/Legacy nose to suit the Impreza. That would be a crime.

- left to right, top to bottom:
Ford Focus, Mondeo, Falcon
Holden Astra, Vectra, Commodore,
Subaru Liberty, Outback, Forrester

At least Subaru gave the horrid Tribeca a facelift recently to bring it more into line with the rest of the range, style-wise.

- Tribeca, god-awful to something far better

I hope they weren’t trying to toughen up the nose. It hasn’t worked. Some examples of tough noses:

- left to right: BMW M3: Aston Martin DB6: Honda Integra Type R: Mistubishi Lancer Evolution IX: Ford Mondeo: Toyota Corolla: Toyota Aurion: Aston Martin DB9: Honda Prototype: McLaren MP4-23

It’s saying a lot when the Toyota Corolla gets a mention above the WRX.

Naturally, all this is criticism from a personal point of view. Some of you may like it (as Mr. T would say, "I pity the fool!"). I don’t think it inspires confidence in its performance as much as it used to.

- Wheeeeeeee…..

When I see one do this and look as good, then I might change my mind. Until then, the Subaru design team can stay strapped into their chairs and watch industrial design loops.

Insert tagline here…

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