One of the biggest gripes leveled against Subaru's WRX STI is the fact that its engine is old. The Japanese automaker's same, basic EJ flat-four has powered STIs since the early 90s. While Subie-purists still appreciate the tried-and-true boxer (if it ain't broke...), the car's detractors are often quick to point out how dated it seems especially in the wake of fresh and fanciful competitors like the all-wheel drive Ford Focus RS and newly-turbocharged Honda Civic Type R.
If a new report is to be believed, it sounds like Subaru is addressing the complaints head-on. According to a report by Dutch auto publication AutoRAI translated by Autocar, the next-generation of Subie's iconic rally-car-for-the-street will probably come with hybrid power. Subaru Europe sales and marketing manager David Dello Stritto told AutoRAI that the current STI's 2.5-liter turbo engine "can simply not exist in the future." The report says that its replacement powertrain will likely be of the plug-in hybrid variety. How's that for progress?
Such a radical change in the STI lineage won't come quickly, though. "There will really be a new WRX STI in the future, but it takes time," said Dello Stritto. "We’re not giving up on 'fun to drive'. The new Impreza delivers this fun in a different, more sensible, CO2 emissions-compliant way." A previous report pegged the next-gen WRX STI to arrive in 2020.
While the Subaru exec didn't explicitly confirm the next STI as a plug-in hybrid, he stated that "Subaru is looking carefully at market developments and makes its future plan with this information in mind," referencing the ever-tightening emissions regulations that aim to make the internal combustion engine obsolete in the next several decades. In other words, if the next WRX STI isn't a hybrid, the one after it sure as hell will be.
Traditionalist STI fans may decry this news 'til the cows come home, but considering how not-lame hybrid performance cars have been so far, I'm optimistic. Just think of it as a four-door, budget Acura NSX instead of an all-wheel drive, gold-rimmed Prius.