Lion from the cold: 50 years of the Subaru wheel car

Lion from the cold: 50 years of the Subaru wheel car


It was a lion that completely changed the world of motor vehicles. If all-wheel drive is still common today for cars that are particularly confident on slippery and snowy terrain, the Japanese brand Subaru laid the groundwork for this in an impressive way with the Leone (Italian for lion) in the winter of 1971/72. . After all, one of the snowiest places in the world is located in the north of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

Subaru shines with all-wheel drive prowess

About 37 meters of fresh snow falls there on average throughout the year, almost twice the amount measured on the Zugspitzblatt. White power with destructive effects, as evidenced by the frequent destruction of overhead power lines in Nippon. 50 years ago, this was the reason responsible electricity supplier, Tohoku Electric Supply Company, tendered a major order for 4×4 vehicles – with surprising results. None of the regular road racers have won the endurance test in the mountain ice chamber, a good 250 kilometers northwest of Tokyo.

Instead, the Subaru Leone Station Wagon 1400 AWD won out, a comfortable front-wheel-drive station wagon with a rear-axle drive that can be engaged via a dog clutch. A car that pleased Tohoku Electric employees, who are used to bad business cars, but also appealed to families. So Subaru released an entire range of Leone models that turned the 1960s small car specialist into a global trend-setter for all-wheel-drive vehicles. Whether it’s a legacy sedan, an Outback crossover or the Forester as the pioneer of SUVs, Subaru was the first 4×4 to sell millions. It goes without saying that this should also work with Stromern today.

It has been successful with the Impreza WRX STI

Sports entertainment should never be missed, as Subaru showed from the mid-1990s with the Impreza WRX STI, which had a World Rally Championship registration for many years, and is currently being shown with the Stromer STI E-RA Concept aimed at the future. . With electric motors delivering 200 kW/272 hp to each wheel, this bullet offers the conditions to display the fireworks of the best times at the Nürburgring, pumping adrenaline and at the same time a dirt-free way to celebrate Subaru’s 50th all-wheel drive. anniversary. However, Subaru’s high-end all-wheel drive sportsters have only been allowed to make an impression when the box office bells ring later. In the 1990s, for example, champions of Subaru’s venerable disease protests sped up sales of a street-wise version of the impreza that was built to last. The Legacy series, almost forgotten in this country, also owes its shooting career, which started in 1989 as the world’s best-selling 4×4 to this day, to impressive record tests and appearances at campaign rallies.

Neither Dutch 4×4 pioneers and sports car manufacturer Spyker in 1903, nor English luxury brand Jensen in 1966 with the four-wheel drive Gran Turismo FF, managed to combine pulse-pounding emotions with style. the business you work for. All the early 4WD starters failed. The VW subsidiary Audi, which achieved a high technical form in 1980 under the leadership of Ferdinand Piech, had a completely different character. With the sporty coupé quattro, the Ingolstadt company demonstrated the positive impact that rally skills can have on the sales success of an all-wheel drive product. However, the popularity of Subaru’s 4×4 range, which has sold more than 20 million units to date, ultimately did not even surpass Audi’s quattro range.

A rough start in Europe

However, the road to becoming a millionaire was not easy for Subaru either. After the initial success of the Leone in Japan and the United States, Subaru got off to a rough start in Europe. It all started in the mid-1970s in the Benelux countries, which at that time acted as a test market for all Asian manufacturers. But the combination of Far Eastern design, boxer engines and manually adjustable all-wheel drive struck a chord with Swiss mountain dwellers and hunters on a second test in 1979.

In Germany, too, from 1980 onwards foresters and farmers especially initially had an interest in Leone, which has now been sold in the second generation. Perhaps it was also because the interesting lovers of 4×4 avant-gardists such as Subaru coupes and Brat life pick-up (even the President of the United States Ronald Reagan used it on his ranch) was not offered in Europe. However, when the sound of the off-road vehicle about early 4×4 travelers from Suzuki, Nissan or Toyota reached its peak in the mid-1980s and Audi included avant-garde and quattro models, Subaru finally also benefited from an all-wheel drive . movement.

With the agile Justy minivan, the Libero van with a curious roof – six seats at a height of 3.42 meters – and the folding headlight of the futuristic coupé XT, the Japanese put exclamation points. In particular, the XT with a jetfighter-style cockpit, new permanent four-wheel drive and powerful boxing shone like a star in the sports car sky, matching Subaru’s Pleiades logo.

The Subaru Legacy was the fastest production station wagon

From then on, many Subaru models had a special character. First there were the powerful turbo variants of the L series, followed in 1991 by the aggressive Gran Turismo Coupé SVX directed by Giorgetto Giugiaro with a 169 kW / 230 hp 3.3-liter six-cylinder boxer. It continued with the Impreza WRX STI with an output of up to 221 kW / 300 hp and the hot-blooded legacy wagons with twin turbo six-cylinder boxers delivering up to 206 kW / 280 hp: At 270.532 km/h, registered in the record, the protected Legacy was ranked as the fastest production station wagon in the world in 1998. The Subaru B9 Tribeca crossover, launched in 2005 and named after the New York district, was based on the American belief that “moving cannot be replaced by anything, except by moving more”. However, it remained a less successful solitaire, like its six-cylinder boxer, which grew to 3.6 liters.

Instead, since 1995, Subaru has been experiencing with the Outback just how far crossover station wagons with off-road capabilities can go. In fact, the Outback originally inspired even Scandinavian premiers Volvo and Saab to create crossover models, while Saab used Subaru’s expertise in badge-engineered models such as the 9-2 X. The Subaru Forester has been more successful since 1997. all-wheel drive and off-road vehicle, work tool and family friend: With these many qualities, the Forester made the SUV segment continue, which was still young at the time, and at Subaru it is a brand icon par quality.

Subaru also has to deal with the power supply

While all-wheel drive technology at Subaru was becoming more and more sophisticated – the X-Mode electronic system of brake intervention and engine management has been available since 2014 – full hybrids have long been reserved for non-European markets. Only the so-called e-Boxer presented in 2019 in Impreza, XV and Forester models introduced electrification of the drive train, but the Outback flagship did not benefit from this. Instead, the all-wheel drive battery-electric Solterra, which Subaru developed together with Toyota, will also be launched in Europe in 2022. A flagship project for Subaru, so that the all-wheel drive brand can continue to shine in the future.