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New Subaru WRX STI cancelled due to short lifespan: report


Information sourced from Subaru America has suggested that even if the current generation WRX was given an STI version, it wouldn’t have lasted long

A Subaru spokesperson has told US publication Road and Track that the cancelled 2022 WRX STI super-sedan was axed due to concerns around return on investment thanks to the car’s predicted short lifespan.

The cancellation was announced over the weekend, with Subaru citing a decision to refocus its STI sub-brand on emerging electric technology.

Subaru WRX 2022 driving
The new-gen WRX STI was killed off because it would have lived a short life, says Subaru America

But Dominick Infante, the director of corporate communications at Subaru of America, has told Road and Track even if a new-generation WRX STI was released it wouldn’t have lasted long.

“If we designed (a new STI) now, it would have a very limited shelf life,” he said. “The regulations are changing so quickly that it kind of wouldn’t make any sense.”

Chasing Cars understands that Infante is referring to shifting environmental regulations which affect Subaru’s ability to sell high-emission vehicles in many markets, including the soon-to-be-launched WRX and now-canned STI varaint.

Tightening emissions regulations believed to be a factor

While Australia does not currently tax the emissions of vehicles on our roads, major markets like Europe and some areas of the United States utilise strict emisisons criteria that the WRX STI may have struggled with – threatening its financial viability.

Producing new combustion-powered performance cars is becoming harder with inbound regulations like the ‘Euro 7’ emissions standard said to be so strict that Audi CEO Markus Duesmann declared he was unable to justify that brand’s development of a new generation of combustion engines.

2018 Subaru WRX STI spec.R WR Blue rear
The outgoing WRX STI is likely the last we’ll see with a combustion engine

Hard limits on ‘fleet average’ emissions – the total emissions of all vehicles sold by a manufacturer in a given year, divided by the total number of cars sold – means that carmakers are usually able to sell only a very small number of high-emission vehicles annually in Europe.

High-emission vehicle sales effectively need to be offset by higher sales of low-emission or fully-electric vehicles to drag a brand’s ‘fleet average’ CO2 emission figure down.

Failure to comply with these tough European regulations has seen several manufacturers face huge fines issued by the European Union.

Future WRX STI plug-in hybrid or EV could happen

The second-generation standalone WRX saw the introduction of 202kW/350Nm 2.4-litre turbo-petrol boxer four that replaced the 2.0-litre 197kW/350Nm of the same type.

While a bump in power and claims of a more usable power band have been welcomed, the switch to the newer FA24 engine actually worsened fuel economy when tested by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

A tuned and heavily boosted version of the FA24 was expected to replace the iconic yet aging EJ25 in the new-generation WRX STI, but without an increase in efficiency, this could have proved difficult.

Subaru WRX 2022 FA24
An upgraded version of the 2.4-litre WRX engine was expected in the STI version

However, there is no doubt that the cancelled WRX STI would have been rapid. With the 221kW/407Nm outputs of the outgoing model likely to be upgraded closer to that of the Ford Focus RS, which produced 257kW/440Nm from a smaller 2.3-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine.

Blair Read, Managing Director Subaru Australia, was keen to emphasise that this was not the end for the STI brand or the WRX.

“The prospect of what the Subaru Tecnica International engineering team can do with an electrified platform ensures an exhilarating future for Subaru fans, and we look forward to sharing with you what STI reveals next,” he said.

Subaru’s investment in electrification could see the WRX STI reborn as either a fully-electric model similar to the Cupra Born hot hatch or even as a plug-in hybrid – a path pursued by Mercedes-AMG to strike the right balance between performance and efficiency.  

Subaru STI E-RA Concept 2022
The STI E-RA Concept features four electric motors making over 800kW of power

Earlier this year Subaru debuted the STI E-RA concept at Tokyo Auto Salon, a fully-electric car that is likely to provide the basis for electric performance for the brand.

Under the skin the concept featured four Yamaha-built electric motors, one at each wheel, that produced a combined power output of over 800kW, or 200kW per motor.

With even half this output, the benefit of instant torque due to the electric motors, and the same torque-vectoring abilities as the concept, an electric WRX STI could be seriously fast.

If engineers decided to opt for a plug-in hybrid setup, the WRX STI could be fitted with an updated version of the 197kW/350Nm 2.0-litre found in the previous WRX coupled with a 200kW/300Nm electric motor on each axle.

Such a setup would not only allow for supercar-rivalling performance but also electric driving range that would likely be inexcess of 60km, enough for most to commute to work and back in silence.