Since 2014, North America has been deprived of the Subaru WRX hatch. That came as a result of Subaru spinning off the WRX into its own model line, rather than being a variant of the Impreza. Subaru sells an automatic-only WRX Wagon called the Levorg in various markets, but we (I) have a better idea—a Crosstrek WRX.
This is something that’s seemed obvious for a few years now. As a brief refresher, the Crosstrek is a lifted, plastic-cladded version of the Impreza sedan. In the crossover-obsessed U.S. you won’t be surprised to learn that the Crosstrek outsells the Impreza by a significant margin. Last year, Subaru sold 34,791 Impreza sedans here, and 127,366 Crosstreks. It’s the automaker’s third best-selling car, behind the larger Outback and Forester.
Despite being offered with a manual transmission on the base two trims, the Crosstrek isn’t really an enthusiast car. It’s a pretty conventional, mainstream compact crossover, with a little bit more off-road ability than most its rivals, and looks that tell your neighbors you live an “active lifestyle.” Still, some Crosstreks have found their way into enthusiast hands. A couple years ago, I spotted a Crosstrek sporting some rally-inspired Sparco wheels, and it g0t me thinking.
“Safari” builds are popular right now—even Porsche and Lamborghini are getting into the game—and lifting a tough, rally-ready car like the WRX makes perfect sense. So couldn’t Subaru just put WRX running gear into the new Crosstrek? One suspects it could as the WRX and Crosstrek share the same basic platform, Subaru’s New Global Architecture. One also suspects that Subaru wouldn’t just put a turbo engine and a retuned suspension in a Crosstrek and call it a day. Where the WRX up to 2014 essentially was an Impreza with new shocks and a new engine, the previous and current WRX use an entirely different bodyshell and receive more extensive chassis changes.
So it’s not the most simple job in the world, but it’s far from impossible. Perhaps the simplest way of achieving the goal of “small, fast rally crossover” would be to simply lift the Levorg. Subaru wouldn’t even need to add much, if any, body cladding!
Especially with Winter months are soon arriving, I can’t be the only person to see an appeal in the a more practical, more off-road capable WRX. In fact, Subaru once made such a car—the Gravel Express. Based on the legendary GC8 Impreza, the Gravel Express combined the running gear of the WRX with the raised ride height of the Outback Sport. If Subaru were to revive this concept, it too would be a gravel-road monster. Overlanders would love it too.
Plus, a Crosstrek WRX or whatever you want to call it wouldn’t have any real competition. High-performance SUVs are definitely a thing, but only higher up in the market. Below $40,000, there’s really only the Hyundai Kona N, which is more of a lifted hatchback than anything else. It’s also not offered with all-wheel drive or a manual transmission. Subaru could own this space.
I will caveat this by saying that I am not a product planner—just a journalist with a fairly active imagination. But in this world of safari builds, Subaru has most, if not all of the pieces in place to make one of its own. Subaru is a hugely successful automaker. Why not take a risk on something like this?