Saturday, February 25, 2017

Version 7 STI Seats - 99 Impreza

My '99 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Coupe may be my rallycross car, but I still like to keep it looking nice.  While I usually focus my racecar funds on making it perform better, splurging a little to make it turn heads is always fun.  This time around I decided to change up my interior.  I had been running JDM Version 6 seats and decided to go a different route.

The goal for this car aesthetically is to blend some bits together from my favorites.  The Impreza P1, RB5, and 22B are all favorites of mine, so I've tried to emulate features from those cars on mine.  I tracked down some Version 7 STI seats (which resemble the 22B and RB5 seats) and got some help from Zealous Interiors for matching JDM Blue Door Cards to tie it all together.  The result has me smiling every time I get in the car!

There were a few hurdles to jump with this changeover.  The Zealous Interior door card inserts are great quality and come pre-cut, so it took a lot of trial and error to get the panels lined up just right.  I still haven't attempted the rear panels, which I will have to remove to do properly.  When the new suspension goes on this car, the rear seats will come out anyways... so I'll do them then.  With a little patience and a second set of hands, I was able to set the front door cards pretty well without too many hiccups.  Luckily, the Alcantara cleans up easily so I was able to wash up a few minor mistakes.

The seats themselves needed some modification, too.  While all Impreza seats between 1993 and 2007 are interchangeable between cars, the height of the rails and brackets can vary from model to model.  These JDM Version 7 Seats are out of a 2002-2003 or "Bugeye" STI and sit much too high in the car.  Because the height adjustment on the Japanese drivers seat is on the passenger side in the US, we had to get the whole seat lower.  Using USDM Impreza seat rails, which sit the entire seat nearly two inches lower, we swapped the Version 7 seats onto these rails and brought the seat back to a a much better driving position.

There are still a few more bits I want to track down and add to the interior, but these seats have really transformed things in here.  They're very comfortable for someone my size (5'11" and 225lbs) and look fantastic with the matching door cards.  I'm incredibly happy with how these turned out!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mid-Cycle Refreshes

I've written before about Subaru Generational Changes that generally act as the blueprint to when models get replaced with a new design.  However, the automotive industry likes to throw around the word "new" in lots of different situations that can seem misleading sometimes.  For the 2018 Model Year, Subaru has three models that are due for their "Mid-Cycle Refresh" that I'll go over.

Before I get started, a Mid-Cycle Refresh typically happens when after a Subaru model has been mostly unchanged for 3 years.  In it's 4th year of production, Subaru makes a few changes to the interior, exterior, and options to update it.  These changes stick around on the car the following year and then, as per that 5-year Cycle that nearly every Subaru follows, the entire model is redesigned and changed.  As an example, the 2012 Subaru Impreza marked the start of it's 4th Generation design.  It received it's Mid-Cycle Refresh in 2015 (new front bumper and some interior changes) and was replaced by the 5th Generation Design in 2017.  Imprezas built in that 4th Generation can share nearly all of their parts between 2012 and 2016 (5 model years).

As of this article being written, the Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, and Subaru WRX/STI are all due for a Mid-Cycle Refresh.  This makes sense since they were all redesigned as 2015 models, so the new 2018 models mark the time for a refresh.  In the case of the Legacy and Outback, these changes mostly bring aesthetic revisions to the front end and interior.  The new bumper skin on each model is more aggressive and have redesigned headlights to go along with them.  Inside, both vehicles receive a new radio display that is very similar to the new 2017 Impreza released at the end of last year.  The new Harman-built radios utilize Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for improved smartphone integration.  The displays are also larger and look nicer than their 2015-2017 counterparts.

While the 2018 WRX and WRX STI retain the current radio offering, the rest of the redesigned items are similar.  A new front bumper for both the WRX and WRX STI sharpens the exterior look along with new wheels and new brakes available on both.  The WRX can get a Sport Package that upgrades stopping power and the WRX STI receives larger Brembo brakes (as well as 19" wheels to house them).  Inside there are a few aesthetic revisions, including a leather wrapped center console lid (JDM versions had this standard before).  The console display has also been updated to be similar to that of the 2017 Impreza display.  Gauge cluster designs are slightly different and there's a factory option for STI models to get Recaro front seats.  The WRX looks to retain it's headlight housings that have separate turn signals below them while the WRX STI's turn signals are now integrated into the headlight housings.

These Mid-Cycle Refreshes signal that 2018 and 2019 will be the last two years of these designs before the Legacy, Outback, and WRX/STI make their way to the Subaru Global Platform in 2020.  Not all Subarus have followed this cycle to a "T" though.  The obvious exception has been the Subaru BRZ, which didn't get a notable refresh until 5 years into it's age.  Also, the 2008-2014 Subaru WRX STI managed to have a refresh in 2011 but hung onto it for a longer period of time, so the formula isn't a guarentee.  Granted, both the WRX and BRZ are lower-production cars that don't get as much of the market's attention as the mainstream Impreza, Crosstrek, Forester, Legacy, and Outback.  Time will tell for the enthusiast models, but for everything else, this is a easy way to measure what's ahead for Subaru.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ride like the Champ! METHOD MR501 Rally Wheels

When Subaru Rally Team USA partnered up with Method Race Wheels, it wasn't just Higgins and Drew doing the winning.  These tough rally-bred wheels are available to the general public to purchase online and through a network of distributors.  From street racers to privateer rally teams, these wheels have been making the rounds.  I had been thinking about a set for my 2016 WRX STI for awhile and finally decided to pull the trigger on a set of MR501 wheels.

The MR501 Rally wheel was their first designed for rally racing. Originally developed as a high-offset 15” gravel wheel, the 501 drove Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew to a Championship the very first year the used them.  SRT USA famously ran through a stage with no tire on the rear drivers-side wheel and still managed to pull out a stage win in 2014.  The wheels have been battle tested and, as a result, have proven their worth.

It seemed fitting to mount these wheels to my "Higgins Blue" WRX STI, so I finally ordered a set for mine.  These are MR501s in 18x8 with a Titanium Finish wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.  The wheels also have a wider offset than the OEM wheels so they fit more flush with the side of the fenders without any rubbing or contact issues.  Each Method wheel includes it's own lug nuts, lug key, hub-centric ring, and Allen-Wrench-Fixed center caps.

The matte finish and cast "METHOD" logo on the wheels are striking and really give this car a tough look.  While this car might not see competitive stage miles, it really helps continue the #75 Theme I have going on this car.  The extra offset also gives me a bit more "bite" through the corners and makes these sticky tires grip even more, so it's even more enjoyable to drive.  I'm ecstatic that I finally have a set to run on my WRX STI and am very happy with how they turned out!