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Subaru STI Performance Concept previews a bright BRZ future [w/video]

Not A Future Production Model, But A Signal Of Good Things To Come

Subaru STI Performance Concept | 2015 NYIAS
  • Subaru STI Performance Concept | 2015 NYIAS
  • Subaru STI Performance Concept unveiled at the 2015 New York International Auto Show.
  • Image Credit: AOL On
  • Subaru STI Performance Concept | 2015 NYIAS

Subaru unveiled its STI Performance Concept car today at the New York Auto Show, a BRZ-based corner carver that says as much about the future of STI in America as it does about the future of the BRZ. And while this marks the world's first official look at the STI concept, Subaru gave me a preview of the car, and a long description of its significance, on a trip to Japan last month.

The Performance Concept sends a tangible message about the motorsports heritage and engineering capability of Subaru Tecnica International. STI started life as the motorsports arm of Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries. Appropriately, the concept car uses a racing powerplant. Under the hood is the same turbocharged, 2.0-liter boxer-four that powers the BRZ GT300 from Japan's Super GT series, estimated at around 300 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque.

But the STI concept is more like the ultimate road version of the BRZ instead of a recapitulation of an existing racecar. Chassis, suspension and braking components can all be found on the Japanese Domestic Market's road-going BRZ tS, for instance. Subaru invited me to drive the tS on that same trip, so stay tuned for a report on that experience later this week.

It will pain Subaru fans to hear that this concept is not a defacto preview of a forthcoming turbocharged BRZ STI, at least not in the immediate future. STI has been charged with expanding its presence and reach in the North American market, but the process is going to roll out slowly without jumping straight to a fully realized production vehicle.

Stage one of the STI expansion will be a consolidation of parts and aftermarket support in the US. Subaru has offered a pastiche of performance products through its dealerships up to today, including the US-only Subaru Performance Tuning (SPT) parts. In the near term, the company will phase out SPT in favor of STI parts and accessories, meaning you'll be able to purchase a lot of the stuff that the Japanese market has today. And we're talking about parts that actually impact performance, not just STI-badged shift-lever knobs or gas caps.

Subaru BRZ

The STI Performance Concept does show that Subaru sees a future for its rear-drive coupe in the American market, and that it wants to cater to enthusiasts. Stage two, which will happen in roughly the next year and a half, is to bring an STI-tuned version of the BRZ to the US, not unlike the JDM BRZ tS. Selling a car like the tS stateside – that is to say a BRZ with suspension and handling upgrades, but not more power – is a simpler process than redeveloping the entire car for a turbocharged powertrain. If the timeframe Subaru discussed in Japan holds true, such a BRZ variant could show up for the 2017 model year, though probably not sooner.

Stage three, likely two to three years away, is harder to discern. But reading the tea leaves suggests that time frame is in the zone for a next-generation BRZ, which could be engineered with an STI version in mind. The cost of certifying a totally new model for US emissions and safety regulations is prohibitive for a small automaker like Subaru, but baking it into the product plan from the start reduces that expense.

The truly good news is that Subaru is committed to expanding the profile of the STI brand in the US, and that commitment is part of business plan through 2020. It means that the BRZ will be around for years to come and, just as important, STI's brand expansion is a key component of Subaru's overall mission. Which means, in turn, that STI will need product that you and I care about to meet its goals.

So, the STI Performance Concept will not morph into a BRZ STI next year. Sorry to repeat that bad news. The good news, for the patient and the willing, is that it will transform the future Subaru models for the better.

Subaru BRZ Information

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