Subaru is one of the largest and most prominent automakers in Japan, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that judging by their Malaysian presence. Currently, their line-up consists of the XV and Forester - exceptional vehicles in their class, for sure, but hardly the last word in variety.
That’s all about to change in 2022 as TC Subaru boss Glenn Tan confirmed the arrival of at least 4 new models, tripling the local distributor’s selection within just 12 months. Even more, interestingly, these soon-to-launch cars aren’t just aimed at the mass market.
In a brave but entirely praiseworthy move, the majority of new models headed our way will make the ears of car enthusiasts perk up as performance-oriented all-wheel and rear-wheel-drive cars are now confirmed to be joining the roster.
Pricing, launch windows, and final specifications are all a matter of speculation at this time, but the prospect alone is worth getting excited about. Of course, we’ll keep you updated as news continues to trickle down about the arrival of these new-to-Malaysia models, but for now, let’s have a quick broad-strokes refresh about the Subarus we’ll be seeing in showrooms in the coming months.
This is by far Subaru’s most recognisable nameplate and one that’s synonymous with its rallying heritage. Though it's a shame that the Japanese automaker hasn’t returned to the WRC since its 2008 exit from the sport, the WRX lives on.
Where previously it was a performance offshoot of the Impreza, the WRX has since 2014 spawned as a separate model, at least in classification. Technically this, the VB, is the 2nd-generation WRX, and is built on the same Subaru Global Platform as the rest of their line-up.
Upon its international debut, the VB made waves for seemingly all the wrong reasons. Its styling was widely criticised, and not just for its overuse of SUV-style grey cladding, while its upsized 2.4-litre flat-four turbocharged engine produced an unremarkable 271hp. Rumour has it that the incoming WRX STI will push that past 400hp, but we're not there yet.
Still, early impressions from abroad paint the all-new WRX as a very competent fast AWD four-door saloon to drive, especially with the 6-speed manual over the ‘tuned’ Lineartronic CVT option, which is great news to an automotive market as barren as Malaysia is at the moment for anything performance/enthusiast-oriented.
Though the Toyota 86 (GT86, GR86) is the more recognisable as a brand unto itself, the majority of the credit for the twins belongs to Subaru (BRZ). In this second-generation rear-drive coupe, they’ve somehow managed to push the envelope with regard to accessible thrills.
In 2021, unfortunately, these two Japanese bastions of uncorrupted driving enjoyment remain in an uncontested arena with more and more automakers opting to wind down their sporty vehicle efforts in favour of less aspirational offerings. The upshot is that this has not diluted Subaru/Toyota’s pursuit.
Naturally, we can’t wait to drive one, and some skepticism does lurk, wondering if this all-new BRZ can recapture the 'everyman performance' magic that its predecessor managed to condense so adeptly. From all accounts so far (yes, from abroad), it does that and more.
It’s still a lightweight, responsive, mostly pure analogue machine but one that seeks to remedy previous shortcomings. Under its bonnet lives a larger 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated flat-four pushing 228hp and 250Nm, so there’s more grunt to be enjoyed throughout the driving experience.
Apart from a cabin that’s been thoroughly overhauled to be as up to date as (mostly) anything else on the road, the BRZ is also much better resolved from an aesthetic sense, as well - though that’s entirely subjective. We’ve so far heard no rumours of UMW Toyota being in a particular hurry to get the GR86 onto our shores, so local distributors TC Subaru should have this corner of the market all to itself for a good while yet.
This is the biggest surprise arrival for 2022. We had thought that the previous-generation Levorg and its chilly reception here had left a sour enough taste in TC Subaru’s mouth that introducing another wagon - of any sort - would be out of the question.
To start off, yes, there is a wagon version of the WRX, but it is only called such in very specific markets. Australia and New Zealand, in this case. Announced months prior and now due to arrive Down Under and in Middle Earth at around April 2022, we are expecting that regional rollout to coincide with ASEAN’s.
In other parts of the world, such as its home market of Japan, the car is branded Levorg, though clearly this Impreza-based estate is attempting to draw more comparisons with the WRX.
As we’ve expressed our love for the body style many times before, we can’t wait for any kind of wagon to join the local new car market, but here it should offer buyers a pretty comparable (if not identical) experience to the 4-door WRX, but with added practicality and a sexier silhouette, evoking the Legacy Tourers and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution XI wagons of the past.
The same FA24 that powers the BRZ returns here, albeit with a turbocharger that takes power to 260PS, just slightly down on the WRX saloon. Unfortunately, there won’t be a manual option (yet), with power reaching all four wheels via Subaru’s ‘Performance’ CVT.
Bolstering the already solid line-up of SUVs comprised of the XV and Forester in Malaysia, the Outback completes the trio by sitting at the top of the food chain. Based on the 7th-generation Legacy, it’s the brand's largest, most luxurious, and most capable all-paw machine they offer.
It will put up a very tough fight against other larger high-riders such as the Mazda CX-9, Peugeot 5008, and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, especially if priced right, but absolutely demolish other rivals when it comes to genuine off-road prowess.
Despite being offered in markets such as North America with a turbocharged 2.4-litre petrol or 2.5-litre turbodiesel, incoming Malaysia-bound units will likely share a data sheet with the Thailand-spec Outback, which is powered solely by a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol with 188PS.
Its rugged exterior is offset by the rather plush cabin appointments, too, which brings together soft leather upholstery, an 11.6-inch central infotainment touch display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Support, and an 11-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system.
TC Subaru has remained quiet these past few years with their line-up slowly being whittled to the XV and Forester. Admittedly, with what the brand’s Malaysian presence lacks in variety, both those models are very impressive vehicles that continue to be front-runners in their class.
That said, it’s clear that monotony is about to be broken for Subaru in a big way with 2022 promising two versions of WRX, an even more well-rounded and exciting two-door rear-drive coupe, and a return of the brand’s flagship SUV.
Sure, our market is playing catch-up in terms of the spectrum of new Subarus, but by the end of the year, TC Subaru’s selection of cars will have effectively tripled, which is an ambitious undertaking regardless.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.