Subaru's been building its Viziv family of concepts for more than four years now, adding everything from virtual track cars to boxy, seven-seat SUVs. Prior to this week's debut of the Viziv Performance Concept, however, the Viziv family lacked a sedan. Subaru makes up for lost time, showing a hard-bodied four-door molded around boxer-inspired, AWD performance. We're betting that more than one Tokyo Motor Show attendee will experience a sudden, hard-to-resist urge to jump inside, speed away from the floor of the Tokyo Big Sight and find some tacky track or loose dirt.
In case you forgot since the last Viziv (we definitely did), these "vision for innovation" concepts demonstrate Subaru's ideas on the "future of making cars that deliver enjoyment and peace of mind to its customers." No secret, the Viziv Performance serves enjoyment by letting the driver put sharp, boxer-motivated power to the street while looking good inside a bold, sleek sports sedan.
To get in the right frame of mind, Subaru designers looked for inspiration from other Subaru sedan models that embody spirited, brand-engineered performance, namely the Impreza, Legacy and WRX. Like those three Subaru staples, the new Viziv runs a boxer engine and symmetrical all-wheel drive, but it's really a design study at heart, so the specs stay in the shadows to let the styling tell the story.
Like a bulldog wearing a spiked collar, the Viziv Performance shows strong contrast between large, defined muscles and sharp lines and corners. Even without the extra pop of the thin, carbon flares just over the tires, the powerful fenders bulge out, flaunting the car's athleticism.
Below the icy-blue body, carbon fiber components wrap the lower edge, adding a series of sharp angles and neat lines. The open-octagonal flares connected by side skirts, the sharply drawn front bumper, the massive rear diffuser and the exhaust surrounds all lend to the angular drama hovering closest to the ground.
The Viziv Performance resembles the WRX most closely, with its the aggressive stance, hood scoop and front grille/air intake layout, but its styling does tie more subtly to the Legacy and Impreza. The car is close to an inch and a half (38 mm) longer than the WRX, its 182.3-in (4,630-mm) length very close to the Impreza. The 2.4-in/61-mm-longer wheelbase and design of the cabin lend some of the presence of a larger, Legacy-like sedan.
Chatter out of Tokyo suggests there's a good reason that the Viziv Performance looks most like the WRX: it could be a preview of the next WRX design. We can believe that in a loose, general way, but we're not so confident that the new concept is a particularly useful barometer.
Maybe Subaru does want to take the WRX bolder, but the Viziv Performance feels like too big a leap from the current WRX (and everything else in Subaru's line-up). A lot of its boldest, most striking elements – the big fenders with contrast flares, the distinctive face, the narrow "hawk eye" headlights – look like they were made entirely for the auto show floor and seem likely to remain there. And looking at past WRX transitions, the present WRX is probably a closer preview of the future version. Perhaps the Viziv Performance will inspire a little front-end rearranging or fender puffing, though.
The Viziv Performance also serves to preview a next-gen driver assistance suite that Subaru plans to ready for 2020 or so. The system will be built around Subaru's advancing EyeSight camera technology, radar and precision navigation hardware to help drivers navigate and control the vehicle.
The Viziv Performance Concept is on display now at the Tokyo Motor Show, where Japanese automakers have pulled out the stops in presenting wild concept cars. We'll be putting together a full gallery of all those concepts, but in the meantime you can take a look at debuts like the Honda Sports EV Concept and Yamaha Cross Hub.