CC Twofer: 1975 Jeep Wagoneer & 1996 Subaru Impreza WRX STI – Different Takes For Different Makes

Now that’s a power couple if I’ve ever seen one! Jeep and Subaru are two major proponents of all-wheel drive, but that’s probably the only common trait these two share, other than the number of doors, wheels and headlights.

One is a V8-powered, body-on-frame, comfort-oriented proto-SUV, the other is a flat-4 engined, low-slung, monocoque sports/rallye car. The AWD drivetrains are also very different, of course.

The Wagoneer needs no introduction, does it? Launched in 1963 and produced, with few substantial changes, for 28 years by Jeep’s successive corporate parents (Kaiser, AMC and Chrysler, in that chronological order), it arguably created the whole SUV niche by itself.

These are extremely popular in Japan. A lot of them are about, especially for a vehicle this big. Most of them are more recent than this one, though. The styling of these 1974-78 models is one of my favourites, second only to the ’63 original.

With its solid axles, leaf springs and large AMC V8 (5.9 or 6.6 litres) mated to a 3-speed slushbox, the 2-ton Wagoneer is definitely of the older generation. That’s part of the appeal. The other part is the fact that these are sturdy and reliable machines that treat their occupants well. What more can you ask for?

A spacious back seat? It’s part of the package. Loads of cargo space? You get that too. And it’s all wrapped up in Brooke Stevens’ sublime styling. No wonder these are so sought after.

Pity the back of the Jeep was nigh on impossible to capture, as it’s one of the exterior design’s best features. That’s a rear end I can really get behind. The restyled version with the Cherokee’s vertical taillights, implemented for MY 1984, is far less appealing to me. But then, the square-eyed “pig nose” models of 1979-85 didn’t improve the front end, either.

I’m sure there is some reason for the lack of 5mph bumpers, too. Those would have ruined this design, but the Jeep was spared from that ignominy. I’m guessing it has something to do with the vehicle height and class, but I’m sure the CCommunity will have a better idea. In any case, that alone makes the Wagoneer my pick of the mid-‘70s US iron.

Which is more than can be said about the Subaru. The styling is okay, I guess, but rather bland (as might be expected for a ‘90s compact) and frankly completely secondary to the whole thing. Tertiary, even.

The Impreza was launched in October 1992 as a saloon and wagon, including a high-performance WRX variant of the former that had a turbocharged 2-litre DOHC boxer 4-cyl mated to a 5-speed manual. Two years later, the WRX STi followed – with 250hp, it was getting to be a pretty fast vehicle. By 1996, power was nominally up to the “gentlemen’s agreement” 280hp, though real output was reportedly closer to 300hp.

The wagon was also available with extra vitamins and a two-door variant was proposed from 1997, including a special “wide body” version with a 2.2 litre engine. The STi was only sold in Japan initially. By 1999, it became available in Australia and a few other Asia-Pacific markets, but the lion’s share never left the JDM. Production switched to the second generation Impreza in September 2000.

This is the “standard” STi, so it has creature comforts. But there was a stripped-down, leaner variant called the Impreza WRX STi RA (more random letters = more power, just ask academics and British aristocrats) that deleted you’re A/C, power windows and the sound system. That last one was probably equally to save weight and to better enjoy the flat-4’s unique vibrato.

Not too many people seem to have used the back seat. Are WRX owners not family-oriented?

Subaru won several World Rally Championship races and titles with this car, so it’s something of an icon in enthusiast circles. Not being bitten by that particular bug, I don’t have much to say about that other than “cool, dude”. It’s a very important part of what transformed Subaru’s image and street cred, though.

One would be hard pressed to find two more unrelated takes on the AWD concept. Which one would you pick? My personal tastes orient me towards the Wagoneer, but the Impreza is undeniably impressive in its own right. In a perfect world, it would be great to add a dash of the Subaru’s dynamics to the Jeep and, conversely, to sprinkle some of the Wagoneer’s style on the Impreza. Not sure what that would look like, actually. A Jeep WRX and a ‘70s Impreza STi? Someone should feed that to their AI image generator…


Related posts:


Curbside Capsule: 1999 Subaru Impreza L – For My Cousin, by Joseph Dennis

CC Capsule: 1999 Subaru Impreza Casa Blanca – Less Than Imprezzed, by T87

COAL: 1993 Subaru Impreza L: The Allure of the Pleiades, by Matthew Streeter

COAL: 1997 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport – Driving Into Adulthood (#4), by Brian Troutman

Curbside Classic: 1968 Jeep Wagoneer – The Most Influential Vehicle Of The Post War Era – Not Just A Passing Fad, by PN

Curbside Classic: 1979 Jeep Wagoneer Limited – Unlimited Appeal, by T87

Curbside Classic: 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer – Dorian Gray Goes to Horse Country, by JPC