Letter From The UK: Days of Thunder Gone Forever

If ever this writer needed a reason to move lock, stock, and barrel to the United States it is this: In Europe, very soon, the Subaru WRX STI will be no more. Thanks to the mealy-mouthed misery-mongers that dictate our European lives, the good old Scooby Doo (It’s a British thing. Cockney rhyming slang: Scooby Doo/Subaru) with its 2.5-liter boxer engine is finding it harder and harder to meet euro-emissions regulations in its current guise.

My all-time favorite car will no longer be imported here. It will, however, continue to be sold on your side of the pond so don’t be surprised if, like Eddie Murphy, I announce I am Coming To America.

I am bereft. I am so upset by this news that I have turned to poetry for solace and have written this Haiku:

Please stop all the clocks
My Scooby is gone baby, gone
Driving passion done

Never say that Automoblog doesn’t bring you true culture.

The Last Week

Over the years, your correspondent has driven all the versions of this iconic car, brought to the fore via the World Rally Championship in the hands of the late, great Colin McRae. Just recently, I spent a happy week with the last of this legendary line.

Much driving ensued. Vast quantities of fuel were consumed and many miles were covered in typically British weather. The main images show the actual vehicle after a run through some fast country roads (cover photo above and one below). This is a car that can leave you breathless. Not especially powerful, the (relative) lack of horsepower is made up for by a level of grip that laughs in the face of our muddy, broken roads and hairpin corners. I had a wonderful time but now that time has passed.

Soon, America, your time will come. I give you another year at best before you too say goodbye to this fabulous free-spirited samurai of the road. Then you’ll know how it feels to see the essence of automotive passion disappear like lifeblood sucked from the world by the authoritarian vampires of state, only to be replaced by some sterile substitute. True Blood for the road.

Subaru Viziv Concept. Photo: Subaru UK Ltd.

Will Lightning Strike Again?

No. Sorry to be so blunt but I can’t sugarcoat this. Subaru is offering up the Viziv, currently in concept form as an addition to the range and it, like all new vehicles from the Japanese company, will be based on the Subaru Global Platform. I have learned there may be a replacement for the WRX STI based possibly on this car or on the, in Europe at least, rather lacklustre Impreza hatchback.

Whatever comes next, the true horror will be under the hood. I can scarcely bring myself to write this without a wave of nausea sweeping over me, but whichever model is selected to provide the performance version it will be sure to have a smaller engine and could even be – a hybrid!  I know, I know. End of days.

Here’s the evidence: Chris Graham, Managing Director of Subaru UK said: “I’d never think it’s the final, final edition [of the WRX STI]. We don’t yet have any dates from Japan for a relaunch, but I think we could see it as a hybrid.”

And It Gets Worse

That same executive is on record as saying – the heretic – they may also be dropping the manual six-speed gearbox across the brand. All Subaru cars will be driven through an automatic, more than likely the current “Lineartronic” slush box because it is compatible with the “Eyesight” safety system but which, in my opinion, would be hopeless in a performance car. Perhaps this will not be so bad for you as it is for me, as I believe Americans are rumored not to like to drive stick.

No stranger to the thrills of driving, Automoblog feature columnist Geoff Maxted is confronting the end of an era – the loss of the Subaru WRX STI, or “Scooby.” The performance car, which will no longer be available in Europe, is Maxted’s most beloved. Photo: DriveWrite.

Days of Thunder

One of my great loves, on television and never witnessed live alas, is American NASCAR motor racing. We do not really have its like here and this is my point. The sight of hugely powerful, more or less recognisable vehicles thundering around an oval, fender to fender, is to this writer the essence of what we love about cars. No fancy fripperies, no over-regulation, just automotive power and driving skills. In a sense this is what the Subaru WRX STI means to me. Imagine how you would feel if NASCAR was suddenly banned or had the Nissan Leaf as the mandatory race car.

That’s what the loss of the Scooby means to me.

Geoff Maxted is a motoring writer, photographer, and author of our Letter From The UK series. Follow his work on Twitter: @DriveWrite

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