• Jul 13th 2010 at 4:57PM
  • 60
Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept - click above for high-res image gallery

As the old saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And while many of us look at a Subaru and describe the brand's styling as "awkward" or "quirky," owners of the competent, all-wheel drive conveyances tend to show unconditional love. More recent, Subaru designs like the Legacy or Impreza are less "outside the box" than past efforts, but some hardcore Subaru fanatics look at the change in styling as an aesthetic neutering. Still, sales have improved immensely over the past few years, as Subaru has not only survived the Great Recession, but thrived. So what's in store for the future of Subaru styling?

In a recent interview with AutoWeek, Subaru's new design boss Osamu Namba claims that the Japanese automaker is looking to ditch its odd designs once and for all, with cleaner lines that appeal to a wider audience. Namba joined Subaru back in 2008 after spending a decade heading his own design firm, and he's said to be working on the next-generation Impreza; his first production Subaru. But to see where Subaru's design direction could go, look no further than the Hybrid Tourer Concept from the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. The Namba-designed concept is a totally new look for Subaru, with clean, modern lines and an aesthetic that's far less challenging than past models.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Subaru design staff is to improve styling without alienating its loyal audience. While some critics may mention that the Hybrid Tourer Concept would rub Subaru owners the wrong way, the Japanese automaker is hoping that those loyal fans will continue to love their products because of their all-wheel drive, boxer engine and entertaining driving characteristics. Head over to AW to read over the interesting article about Namba and the future of Subaru design, and make sure to weigh in on the poll below.

Will a new design direction modeled after the Hybrid Tourer Concept sit well with hard-core Subaru fans?
I like my Subarus just the way they are 3219 (31.8%)
A three-humped camel looks better than the typical Subaru 2006 (19.8%)
I'd like to see a new design direction but not like the Hybrid Tourer Concept 3141 (31.0%)
I love the Hybrid Tourer Concept; sign me up for one right now 1753 (17.3%)

[Source: AutoWeek]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like the looks of the current Subarus, but they should abandon their slavish commitment to the boxer engine. It doesn't provide the benefits they once claimed (lower hoodline), and they sound rickety even when new.

      Subaru's dogged use of the boxer design is a silly as Mazda's commitment to the rotary engine.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The boxer's benefits go far beyond a lower hoodline.

        The flat engine's low profile gives the whole car a lower center of gravity, for better handling and stability, something the Forester has been noted for when compared to its competitors. It's inherently more rigid, making it more durable and an ideal basis for a diesel engine. It's symmetrical, so it directly integrates with AWD quite elegantly. And it does allow a much larger gap between the engine and hood, so meeting those new EU pedestrian-crumple-zone rules is easier. It also makes it easier to design a front crumple zone around it for car-to-car collisions.

        The rotary was always beset by drawbacks (durability, fuel consumption), and Mazda clearly limited their commitment to it some 30 years ago. It's a cool idea with few moving parts an amazing smoothness, but it's never been as elemental to the core philosophy of a brand the way the boxer and AWD successfully define a Subaru.
        • 5 Years Ago
        How many diesel boxer engines are there? Only Subaru's, I think. I don't believe the boxer engine is more rigid, not when the engine block is split into two pieces.

        That lower center of gravity claim may be true mathematically, but Subarus have never been known for their handling. Audi produces a fine-handling, safe AWD car with a conventional engine.

        Porsche has offered the boxer design only for their rear-engined cars, and it makes sense with the body style in the 911, not to mention it being easier to cool back in the days when the boxer was air-cooled. They don't offer only one engine design for all of their cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        As much as I am a fan of the Rotary engine, Subaru has had a much more successful approach with the boxer engine. Mazda learned their lesson with putting a rotary engine in more than one vehicle in their line up and was more successful with it being a specialty engine in a specialty car.

        Subaru has only made the boxer engine better over the years as well as their AWD system. Also, I'm pretty sure the most claimed benefit of the boxer was low center of gravity, not low hoodline.

        If you think that Subaru should give up on the boxer engine, then you must feel the same for Porsche.

        I like engines that aren't what everyone else is using. I like that BMW hasn't given up on the Inline-6 or Porsche and Subaru not giving up on the boxer engine. Mazda probably will never get the Rotary right, but I'm still glad they're trying to make it better.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I find the current crop of Subarus outside of the Forester and STI to be bland to painfully ugly. The Hybrid Tourer seems to be a positive step, but it also seems derivative and could easily become boring.

      Frankly I think they were wrong to ditch the upside-down Alfa motif. It just needed some time, but it was distinctive and with some Italian massaging could've even been attractive. The 06-07 Imprezas and Tribeca were IMO better looking for it. Plenty of people who were initially naysayers came around - after it was too late.

      Speaking of Italian influences the best looking Subaru to date was the SVX, why they couldn't evolve the Giugiaro design language is beyond me and a damn shame.
        • 5 Years Ago

        "The new stuff just looks like a freaking sebring"

        oh snap! lol!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I too loved the aeronautically inspired 05-06 grills. It was distinctive, classy, and modern. I wish they'd have stuck with it... it was really iconic. The new stuff just looks like a freaking sebring.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JZeke You didn't like the styling of the 05-07 Legacys? They were classy and understated and styled really nice.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Subaru actually did extend the Guigario-penned SVX language across the line.

        And they they completely dumped it.

        If Subie would just stick with something for their design language, rather than waving in the breeze, they wouldn't have this problem.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As a subie-lover myself, I could care less about what they look like, as long as they aren't straight up embarrassing. I've never bought a subaru for its looks anyway.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Except that they don't look or feel that good on the inside, anymore either. The new interiors look like a hard plastic kiosk in the mall.

        I won't spend $30K of my hard-earned cash on something that I cannot stand to look at when I raise the garage door, or walk toward on the parking lot at work, after a hard day.

        I don't care if other people like it or not, but it had damn well better look good to ME.

        And expecting a good functional car, which Subaru is decent at (although they could stand to keep moving forward on that front, just a bit. Languishing never helps anyone.)

        ... for such a competent car to LOOK DECENT, is not too much to ask. If Kia can look decent, then Subaru has no excuse.

        Steel can be stamped into good design or bad design, and either can be fitted to the chassis. I'd just as soon it be good design, it might HELP SELL SOME CARS, and keep people happy with them while paying the bank note.

        The Hybrid Tourer is kinda gimmicky, and could be better. The headlights are above the wheel wells, which is TOO HIGH for a car with a boxer engine under the needlessly high hood-line.

        I'll buy a new Subaru, when Subaru builds a car that is as competent, and as good looking as the two Subarus I already have, which are the two sleekest car's they've built to date. SVX and BL/BP type Legacy (2005-2009 in the US). There may be faster, and rarer Subarus than those... but none better looking.

        If they combine the best qualities of those two cars, into one new GT coupe, with a manual gearbox (my Legacy GT has), and a smooth as silk H6 engine (SVX)... and good looks... I'll start prepping the finances for that purchase right now. But that ain't happenin'.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Exactly. Who cares what it looks like when you're sitting inside. All I need to do is point my hoodscoop where I want my car to go and hit to "go" pedal and row some gears.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They don't need to pull a Hyundai and do a complete revamp... they have an audience, there's no need to change much. If anything, they need to streamline their image - one thing I've never liked about Subaru as a company is that each model looks different, they all have (until recently) different grills, interiors and design elements. While the cars alone may look fine, it doesn't do much for the company as a whole.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "The hard-core fans will keep buying it even if it's ugly."
      Well, er, not this one. I've had a late-80s GL wagon (so cool in its simplistic boxy utility, but slow) and a late-90s Forester (literally butt-ugly but far more fun to drive). I keep returning to Subarus because where else will I find an AWD wagon with a manual transmission? The Impreza has always looked like it was designed by a 12-year-old gamer boy, the new Forester is meh, and the new Outback is just more Subaru-ugly, especially up front, and a serious step back in drivability. So now I'm looking at used 3-series and A4 wagons (used, since their manuals are gone or disappearing) and the Jetta Sportwagen--but VW reliability is a serious obstacle.
      • 5 Years Ago
      One of the things that people like about Subaru's is that they are distinctive from mainstream cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd love to see a return to the unquirky but understated and elegant previous-generation Legacy. And to the little hallmarks of Subaru design like frameless door glass (I know, wind noise... but people drove pillarless hardtops for years and didn't notice it, and that was with bodies far less rigid than today's) and the wraparound glass on the D-pillars like Legacy wagons always had until the current one.

      If quirky means we'll never see a Tribeca nose again, hooray. If it means bland or trying too hard to appeal to too many people, boo. What would be nice is to know—at a glance and for generations of cars to come—what a Subaru looks like. Legacys used to have that kind of continuity. Imprezas too, to an extent (though three dramatically different nose jobs on a single generation suggests they didn't have a real sense of their own design language). Without both a mix of respect for one's heritage and an eye to the future, a brand does not have an identity, only a look. Subaru, study your greatest hits, take a step back, and then simply ask yourself your old US tagline, "What makes a Subaru a Subaru?"

      I'd hate to see any more brands oversimplify their design language into a parody of a single styling cue. Like Chrysler thinking everything needs to look like a Wrangler to be a Jeep...anyone there remember the timeless Grand Wagoneer? Or GM thinking two round taillights are Chevrolet's heritage (maybe that of the Corvair, the Corvette, and a few years of their low-line full-size models). Or Ford blasting that three-bar grille up to cartoon size on the Fusion, and then putting a Subaru grille on the Taurus.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I completely agree, the last-gen Legacy was a superb car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Couldn't have said it better myself. I love my '99 Legacy wagon, it'll be a sad day when it dies. (That is, if it dies.) The GC8s are some of my favorite Subies ever, along with the BP Legacys. As of now they don't make a new car I'd be interested in buying.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Where's the option for "I liked the old subaru" I'd say with the current Tribeca, Legacy, and Imprezza, their designs are circling the drain.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Things too keep in mind, Osamu Namba drives an Alfa, which are gorgeous cars, and I've got it from a very good source (I worked for Subaru for two years) that the 2012 Impreza has many of the same lines as the Hybrid Tourer. My source is also a very big Alfa fan, and if he tells me it's going to look good, it will look good.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Interesting, since Andreas Zapatinas, Subaru's former design director who totally screwed up their design language with the "propeller" grille that looked cute on the Be1 but was a nasty pig nose on the Tribeca, came from Alfa. Many felt he just turned Alfa's traditional grille upside down when creating that thankfully short-lived look for Subaru.

        Also interesting how much the new Giulietta looks like a 5-door Impreza! I'm not a huge fan of where Alfa's styling is going. Too plump and bugeyed. They really had some magic going in the last 10 years, from the Brera concept (lost in production) to the 159. Let's hope your friend is right for Subie's sake!
      • 5 Years Ago
      They need to change something, the new impreza looks more dated than the model it replaced.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agreed. 05-06 looks newer, better, faster than current version. Hate current version. SMASH!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Same thing with the Legacy, I think the model it replaced was much sportier looking, the current is really bland and dated.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I want Subaru to go back to the direction of my old GC8.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The "quirky" styling they're talking about here has prevented me from ever even beginning to consider a Subaru. I like the idea of a new design strategy - even if the vehicles don't look "original". I cannot care less if my car looks original or not.

      Sal Collaziano
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