These reveries and chimeras have, in successive iterations, become a bit more ... realistic, or at least closer to the realm of possible. Witness the Viziv-7 shown last year at the L.A. Auto Show, quite clearly a near-production-ready preview of the brand's forthcoming three-row, seven-passenger crossover — and a long-expected replacement for the ghastly, Hercule Poirot-faced Tribeca from some years back. So what are we to make of the latest Viziv, the Viziv Performance Concept, just unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show?
A muscular, flare-fendered, four-door sport sedan, the VPC is, in Subaru's own words, intended to "deliver enjoyment and peace of mind" to its customers while evoking a design philosophy of "DYNAMIC x SOLID." [Subaru insists that it is not yelling, merely being emphatic.] The vehicle is also meant to integrate the latest in driver-assistance technology, built around Subaru's EyeSight distance cruise control and collision prevention system. It is surprisingly attractive, for a Subaru, which is to say, more than simply functional and unpretentious and rugged with a smattering of premium materials. It looks kind of French.
"We utilize traditional Subaru shapes like the flared fenders and the hood scoop," says Mamoru Ishii, general manager of the design department's product planning division. "But we wanted to enhance the three-dimensional sculptural forms, to express more of the shadows."
So it looks like a Subaru. But it also looks kind of ... fast. So is this thing the new WRX? Size and stature wise, that supposition would make sense. Especially since that model is now a wholly separate vehicle line spun off of the Impreza platform some years back and that the next generation is expected to reappear, in novel form and with its own identity, for the 2020 model year, making a conceptual appearance now timeline-proper.
"It's a design study for a sport sedan, and WRX is one of them," says Ishii. "It's not so far from the next generation." Not so far away, but not so close.
Given these obvious hints, we wonder a bit about the focus on driver assistance technology. Sure, it seems like computer assistants can be a useful tool for teaching a racing line, or for providing a fun, roller-coaster-like top-speed tear. But the very idea of a self-driving Subaru has always seemed a bit anathema to us. The brand is known for owners that venture off-road, take actual (not solely virtual) adventures and purchase vehicles with manual transmissions at higher rates than any other marquee.
"This is driver assistance not self-driving," Ishii says. "Driving by a driver is still very important to us. So we don't think it contradicts what we are doing right now."
We suppose that we are willing to accept the implications of these answers if they include more than 300 hp and attractive design. And should our autonomous future ever arrive, maybe our next-next-gen WRX will Isle of Man TT itself around the muck and peat, while we guzzle Teelings Irish Whiskey from behind the "wheel."