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Five Design Details on the Subaru VIZIV Performance Concept

Boy racer no more

With blistering performance belying their plain-Jane looks, affordably priced Japanese sport-compacts like the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Evo have long helped San Fernando Valley, California bad boys blow the toupees off Porsche-driving dentists once the lights turned green.

Though the Evo is no more, Subaru's VIZIV Performance Concept that made its debut at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show indicates that the WRX's styling shortcoming is about to change.

Sure, as news editor Conner Golden pointed out recently, Subaru has teased us before and failed to deliver. But Subaru has begun to coin cash far beyond its traditional snow tire and Birkenstock niche markets. And as a Subaru representative told me a few years back, "We badly want SoCal."

So, my bet is that the Subaru VIZIV Performance Concept is coming to production. And here are five things that struck me about it:

1. The face, aggressive yet elegant: At first glance, I was tempted to dismiss it as Mustang-derivative. But after seeing weird Halloween-mask attempts at "facial aggression" in the same hall, like the Mitsubishi E-evolution Concept and the Lexus LS+, I began to appreciate the elegant geometry at Subaru. If you've got good bones, you'll never need a facelift.

2. What were they aiming for? Subie says its design direction was "Dynamic x Solid," which is apparent in the sharply flared front fenders, sleekly sculpted waist, and chunky hips at the back that lend an element of booty to the butt. With the 2011 Impreza, Subaru engineers and designers went through contortions to move the A-pillar forward an inch or so to create a larger glass surface and more spacious interior feeling. Looks like this has been incorporated in the VIZIV.

3. Safe at any speed: Subaru made sure to play down the "boy racer" image, stressing that the VIZIV is about "Enjoyment and Peace of Mind." In other words, safety. So there was lots of talk about its rigid body structure and EyeSight driver-assist technology.

4. But will it go, and corner too? After exhausting his safety spiel and stressing this is a design and not a performance concept, what the Subaru rep finally said roughly translates as, "don't worry, we'll give it guts to match its looks." Say, a low-center-of-gravity turbo-charged Boxer powerplant that generates "over 300 hp" along with symmetrical AWD.

5. Is that a rocket thruster on the back, or what? Below the back bumper, smack-dab in the middle and flanked either side by twin growly-looking exhaust pipes are three glowing red hexagonal rings. Perspective makes it seem like they lead deep into the car's fiery bowels, but what are they? Subaru explained that's it a rear fog lamp but also a design element. I like it.