Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Why the WRX STI needs the Focus RS

One look through a Subaru enthusiast page, blog, or social media outlet and you'll see debates and claims and comparisons and endless speculation about the WRX STI and it's newest coming rival: the 2017 Ford Focus RS.

I'm not here to add to the noise about this anticipated matchup.  There's plenty of that already!  What I'd like to touch on is why, regardless of which is actually better, that the 2017 Focus RS is more important than a internet brawl.  It's a much-needed breath of fresh air in a niche segment that has gone stale for almost a decade.

Subaru's dinosaur: the EJ25
To understand that, we need to look at the longstanding rivalry between the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.  While this battle seemingly ended when Mitsubishi pulled the plug on the Evo in 2016, the matchup had died off long before that.  Through the years before, the Impreza and Lancer traded punches both on and off the track.  Both of these cars saw their last major revision in 2008 with the 3rd Generation WRX STI and the 10th revision of the Lancer Evolution.  After that, the changes were minimal until Subaru changed bodystyles for the 4th Generation in 2015 while the Evolution hung on until the line ended. 

With the Evo a thing of the past and the rivalry left to the history pages, Subaru has had little incentive to push further development of the WRX STI.  While the car still has great performance and a new chassis courtesy of the 2015 redesign, the guts remain mostly unchanged.  It is the last car to still feature a EJ-series engine under the hood (all other Subaru models have switched to newer FA and FB engines) and the driveline is nearly identical to it's previous versions.

So let's go back to the Focus RS.  This contender is just what Subaru (and other manufacturers) need to get back in the game.  More power?  Check.  Clever differential?  Check.  Hot Hatchback?  Oh yes!  This car is the breath of fresh air that the WRX STI needed... but there's more to it than that.  There's a whole slew of cars that have gone stagnant that the Focus RS looks to challenge.  Whether or not it's "better" is irrelevant, as this car brings the spark back to arms race for others to one-up this fire starter. 

I'm guilty of the banter myself.  "Oh well it makes 350hp but the 0-60 time is the same as the 305hp WRX STI" and so-on.  Even when the car is released and drivers can start objectively comparing and testing this new kid on the block to their Golf R, their MazdaSpeed3, their BMW, the important thing is that this car will challenge others to be better again.  Regardless of whether you like the Focus RS or not, it will make the car that YOU like become better (eventually) and that's what makes this car important.

Me?  I already bleed Subaru a bit too much to wander from it.  Sure, being brand-loyal might not be a good thing to stick to, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I was excited to see this Focus RS come out.  It's a great accomplishment from Ford and bringing this level of performance to the table is going to be good for the All-Wheel Drive sports sedans and hatchbacks that it looks to challenge. 

No comments:

Post a Comment