- Published: Tuesday, 29 March 2016 07:39
The all-new Subaru Impreza has handsome looks, but what's under the skin is more important than ever...
THE COVERS HAVE been lifted off an all-new Subaru Impreza (not in Singapore, but at the New York motor show), and they revealed a bigger car with more sculpted looks than the current one.
But what the 2017 Impreza really shows is Subaru's strategy for the next nine years, as the niche carmaker pins its hopes for growth on the new Subaru Global Platform that it will build all its cars on.
First, the Impreza shows what Subaru will retain: "boxer" (that is, horizontally-opposed) engines and its much-vaunted "symmetrical" all-wheel drive system.
There's a new design language that Subaru calls "Dynamic X Solid" which has given the new Impreza flowing but sculpted lines with taut creases. The overall look isn't dissimilar to the "Kodo" design that has served Mazda well lately, but the Impreza hangs onto Subaru's hexagon-shaped grille and slim "hawkeye" lamps.
Hexagons (or at least, six-sided shapes) are hinted at throughout the new Impreza's cabin, too, judging from this pic.
While the new car doesn't look particularly posh inside, it's at least neat, with the button count kept low by a large touchscreen system in the middle of the dashboard.
Analogue instruments remain but there are two smaller colour screens to relay various driving info, including a centrally-mounted display, like a slimmer version of the one in the Levorg.
The new platform underpins a bigger car; the new Impreza sedan is 41mm longer and 38mm wider than before. The wheelbase, now 2,670mm, has grown by 25mm. For comparison, a Mazda 3's wheelbase is 2,700mm.
Other benefits of the new platform include:
70 percent increased rigidity in the Impreza
Thanks to the use of "several" high strength steels, the body is significantly stiffer. That also helps to improve crash energy absorption by 40 percent over the previous model.
That's "noise, vibration and harshness". Subaru says the new Impreza suppressed them to a level "not seen" in its class. The company probably meant "not heard".
Lower centre of gravity
Together with a new suspension design, that apparently delivers a leap in the handling department. Body roll has been reduced by 50 percent, and straight line stability has been improved. The rear uses double wishbones, however, which tends to eat into boot space.
Subaru says stability is important as it intends to incorporate self-driving tech in stages with its next-gen cars, starting with traffic jam assist and moving on to features like automatic lane-changing and even self-cornering.
Till then, the new Impreza will give us the first taste of what the brand's car will be like, as the Global Platform spawns other sedans and wagons (like the next Legacy range), as well as crossovers and Sports Utility Vehicles (the next XV, Forester and Tribeca).
You'll probably get your first glance of it in early 2017, at the next Singapore Motor Show — that's speculation on our part, though, for some markets are getting the car before the year is out.
Subaru says the Global Platform can accommodate hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full-electric drivetrains if need be, which should future-proof the company for the foreseeable future as it seeks to grow its global sales to 1.1 million cars in five years.
That would make it still smaller than where, say, Mitsubishi Motors is today, and is far short of the six million that Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne claims is the minimum annual production volume a carmaker will need to survive.
For Subaru, the challenge ahead is not whether it can transform itself from a small player to a big one, but whether it can prosper in a changing landscape inhabited by giants.
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