If you’re looking to make a reasonable business case for Subaru reversing its decision to axe the STI, you’re going to have a hard time (more on the industry’s perspective on that below). However, now that the 2022 WRX is as high as you can go, anybody with the said intention will find allies in the Internet’s rendering artists, which can easily demonstrate how much the world still loves the STI. That would be the 22B STI in this case, with the legendary Scoobie having been brought to 2023 design standards.
Back in the 1990s when Subaru gained rallying fame, which led to the first Impreza WRX (World Rally Experimental) street car in 1992 and the OG Impreza WRX STI two years later, the (car) world was arguably a simpler place.
Why did Subaru kill off the STI?
Nowadays, carmakers are not just striving to move from internal combustion machines to EVs. They’re also working to integrate a technology company-like business model and see their products leaning more on software developments that give the makers more control and increase profits. In between these new trends and the perpetual rise of SUVs, Subaru found little room for a new STI.
The axing announcement, which was made earlier this year, took quite a few people by surprise, especially as the WRX and the STI were supposed to be in their second standalone generation (no longer just Imprezas with factory-installed performance parts).
And there are a lot of examples of Subaru fans that have shown the automaker how important the STI is to them. Examples range from owners home-brewing STIs out of 2022 WRXs to vlogger Emelia Hartford, who build a detailed 22B tribute dubbed Tomato.
What is a Subaru 22B?
Returning to the 1990s timeline mentioned above, Subaru managed to take home the WRC title in 1995, 1996, and 1997 (bonus for that last year welcoming the first WRC rules in lieu of Group A regulations). To celebrate that, Subaru Tecnica International introduced the 1998 22B STI creme de la creme model.
A JDM special, this made full use of the STI’s coupe shape (another long-lost element) by offering a widebody, as well as a larger 2.2L turbo-four boxer, mated to a close-ration five-speed manual.
And while the motor officially made 280 hp to honor a 1988-established agreement between Japanese carmakers to cap the max output at that level, it produced more than that in the real world. Rallying-inspired goodies? Of course, there was a driver-adjustable, electronically-locking center diff and an adjustable rear wing, but you could still have climate control.
Subaru only built 400 examples of the 22B STI for Japan, with 16 reaching the UK, 5 going to Australia and 3 being prototypes. A handful was imported to the U.S. under the show or display rules as you can’t legally drive one in North America under standard conditions right now. As such, 22Bs are six-figure cars, heating auctions like few other JDM machines.
The 2023 Subaru STI 22B
Having grown up an STI fan, digital artist Marouane Bembli (aka The Sketch Monkey) decided to build on the current WRX, turning this into a 2023 STI 22B.
As such, the first step for his rendering was to give the machine a coupe form. With that covered, Marouane introduced what some would call a standard fix for the present WRX, namely having the factory black cladding (e.g. wheel arches) color-coded.
Out went Subaru’s more practical-appearing lower rear valance, with the pixel master dreaming up a lower diffuser and generally making the posterior appear wider.
Of course, the rally-like STI graphics had to show up on the side of the car and while the gold is present around the wheel area, the hue isn’t used for the wheels themselves. And you can see it all happening the clip below, which also involves the artist taking us through the various STI generations while providing certain design insights.
Nevertheless, if you’re seeking a real-world, modern-day iteration of the Subaru 22B, British motorsport specialist Prodrive may have you covered.