This year Subaru celebrates fifty years of selling cars in the U.S., a milestone the automaker is celebrating with limited edition 50th Anniversary models available across the entire lineup. We (with the help of Subaru) are going to take you on a walk through the past to reminisce about Subaru’s contributions to the automotive world.
Way back in 1968 Subaru made its U.S. debut with the ‘Cheap and Ugly’ Subaru 360. Believe it or not, the 360 was one of the most fuel efficient vehicles ever to grace U.S. roads boasting 66 mpg and selling for a mere $1300! It was $300 dollars cheaper than the ever-popular Volkswagen Beetle and 1000 pounds lighter.
In 1969 and 1970 Subaru introduced the first ever front-wheel-drive Japanese vehicle to the U.S. Marketed to rural America as a capable companion for rough rural roads, the FF1 was driven by a horizontally opposed, 4 cylinder, 1088cc engine. Available as a 4-door sedan, wagon, and 2-door coupe, it is efficient and affordable at just under $1700.
In 1973 the FF1 is replaced with the Leone (Italian for ‘lion’) Series. The Leone was available in DL and Gl trims and was focused on establishing the Subaru brand. Powered by an EA Boxer engine, the Leone topped out at around 62 mph. Hmmm? We thought lions were faster.
Subaru 4-WD Wagon
The first four-wheel-drive passenger car ever sold in the United States, the Subaru 4-WD Wagon helps establish the automaker as the leading 4WD niche marketer. Today’s Subarus are all wheel drive and are noted for their ability to navigate difficult terrain and adverse weather conditions.
The Subaru BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) was introduced in 1977 and became an instant cult classic. The four-wheel-drive, open-bed vehicle is targeted to younger consumers in the Southern U.S. and follows the coupe utility concept of the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero.
Subaru XT Coupe
The XT Coupe was available in both front-wheel and four-wheel drive configurations depending on model year and was a giant step forward for the Subaru design team. The wedge-shaped coupe was dubbed ‘the ultimate in jazzy design’ by the New York Times and helped the automaker overcome its ‘cheap but ugly’ reputation in the U.S. market.
The Subaru Justy was introduced in 1987 and was the first car sold in the U.S. with an electronic continuously variable transmission (ECVT). It was the first Japanese mini-car offered in the U.S. and was available with full-time 4WD in the DL and GL models.
The Subaru Legacy (introduced in 1989) is the first Subaru built on American soil and marks a clear attempt to position the automaker as more upscale. Available in both a 4-door sedan and 5-door wagon, the Legacy relied on Subaru’s traditional boxer engine and was offered in front-wheel and four-wheel drive configurations.
The 1992 Subaru SVX is the automaker’s first foray into the luxury performance coupe market. Driven by a 3.3 liter, six cylinder engine, the SVX Coupe still retains a cult following today. A souped up version of the SVX won the Alcan Winter Rally in 1991, being the first to cross the finish line on a round trip race from Seattle to the Arctic Circle.
In 1993 Subaru introduces the Impreza. Available as a compact sedan and sport wagon the Impreza was initially available with a 1.8 liter boxer engine in both front-wheel and four-wheel drive configurations. The Impreza would eventually provide the foundation for the venerable WRX and WRX STI models.
The 1995 Subaru Outback is the World’s first sport utility wagon, a precursor to the SUV’s that would go on to rule 21st century American roads. With the exception of small differences in trim and a raised suspension, the Outback shared almost all of its components with the Subaru Legacy. Today the Outback is one of Subarus most popular vehicles.
Introduced to the U.S. market as a 1998 model, the Subaru Forester was one of the first crossover SUVs. Sharing the 2.5 liter DOHC boxer 4 cylinder with the Outback and built on the Impreza platform, the Forester was touted as ‘SUV tough and Car easy’. With its higher stance and 165 horsepower, the Forester quickly became a staple in the Subaru lineup.
Subaru Impreza WRX
In 2001 Subaru introduces the all new Impreza WRX sedan and sport wagon at the North American International Auto Show. The Impreza won the World Rally Championship later that year and again in 2003, quickly earning its place in the eyes of enthusiasts and setting a new standard for compact performance cars.
The Subaru Baja, introduced at the 2002 North American International Auto Show, was a beefed up version of the Outback with an open bed. In 2004 a turbocharged model was added to the lineup, offering 210 horsepower and an updated suspension.
The Subaru Tribeca was introduced ion 2005 and represents Subaru’s first seven passenger vehicle. The Tribeca was offered in a base model and the Limited model, which added a moonroof, leather interior, roof rails for enhanced cargo carrying and a premium audio system with six-disc in-dash CD changer.
Subaru XV Crosstrek
Making its debut in 2012, the XV Crosstrek was introduced as an all-new crossover SUV. In 2014, Subaru added a hybrid model, a GPS system and smartphone integration to all trim levels. The Crosstrek comines bold design with a highly capable chassis for both offroad and city driving.
The 2013 Subaru BRZ is the automaker’s first rear-wheel-drive vehicle in decades and is co-developed with Toyota. With RWD, 2×2 seating, a lightweight chassis, and a $26,000 starting price, the BRZ brought an affordable sport coupe to the Subaru lineup.
In 2017 the Ascent becomes the newest addition to the Subaru lineup. The three-row, family-friendly SUV has seating for eight and is the first Subaru to offer Subaru EyeSight Driver Assist as standard equipment.