The rule is simple when it comes to Japanese cars: the more letters and numbers after the name, the better the car. A Civic Type RR is better than a Civic Type R, a Mazda RX-7 Spirit R Type A is better than a Mazda RX-7, and a Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing: Masters of Nurburgring is better than a Yaris. Now one of the most famous JDM monikers is set to return for this week's Tokyo show, as Subaru has confirmed it will show an STI E-RA concept.
STI is of course familiar to most, but RA was always kept for the silliest of Subarus. We think it means 'Record Attempt', but the internet also suggests 'Race Altered', 'Rally Application' and 'Racing (Group) A'; regardless, all hint at the kind of cars 'RA' was founded on - the hardest, fastest, most focused Subarus out there. As rare as they were brilliant to drive, the RA Imprezas were adored; see this one for proof, more than 15 years old and for sale at £35k...
So you would hope that the 'RA' tag isn't being used lightly by Subaru. All it will say about the concept for now is that it previews 'motor sports vehicles for the carbon neutral era', which really doesn't give away much at all. Is it electric, or merely electrified? The 'E' in the name seems a fairly clear indicator to a battery assisted powertrain, but nothing more is confirmed yet. Expect more by the end of the week. Also on the Subaru stand will be the WRX S4 STI performance concept, a similarly upgraded BRZ - which might be useful in previewing a faster GR86 - and the new GT300 race car, also based on the latest Boxer engine, Rear-wheel drive, Zenith sports car. Told you the Japanese did a good acronym.
Another manufacturer famed for them was Mitsubishi - see how much a Lancer Evo TME, MR FQ or RS might cost these days. For Tokyo 2022 it's resurrecting another legendary name, with a Vision Ralliart Concept. And, well, it's exactly what might be expected from a fast car concept right now: it's a plug-in SUV with some very dubious add-ons.
We think there's an Outlander PHEV under the 'bold, muscular styling', but this appears a very different beast to the ones we're used to, seemingly driven only by those after cheap company car tax. As well as the front and rear bumpers 'with functional beauty', broader tracks and a diffuser 'reminiscent of a race car', there is talk of some meaningful changes as well. Or enormous brakes with six-pot calipers behind the 22-inch wheels, at least. Mitsubishi also mentions powertrain tweaks 'adopted to elevate acceleration, cornering and braking to a higher level.'
You might scoff, but a souped-up Ralliart SUV is going to be a much easier sell in 2022 than a four-door saloon or five-door hatch. And the return of fast Mitsubishis in any form has to be welcomed, surely. With Toyota having also previewed its wares ahead of Tokyo alongside these two, it's shaping up to be a decent show to kick the year off. We just need an MX-5 concept that Mazda will never build and it really will feel like business as usual.
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