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Subaru WRX: What's the behind the model name?

Subaru's WRX nameplate has been around for over 30 years, and is expected to be refreshed with a new-gen version.

Okay, starting at the beginning let’s give this little turbocharged, all-paw icon its full name and then deconstruct it from there.

We’re talking about the Subaru Impreza WRX. So what’s it all about?

Let’s start with Subaru: In its mother-tongue of Japanese, the word Subaru means 'unite'.

And that’s significant because it ties in with the familiar six-star logo that you see on the grille badge of Subarus.

The stars are actually part of the Taurus Constellation, are called the Pleiades Cluster and lie about 380 light-years from Earth (quite a close cluster by astronomical standards).

So how does 'unite' tie up with a star cluster?

Because the six stars represent the five companies that combined to form a sixth, Subaru’s parent, Fuji Heavy Industries.

So what of Impreza?

The WRX attacked its first full season of the World Rally Championship in 1994. The WRX attacked its first full season of the World Rally Championship in 1994.

While a lot of people think it’s a twist on 'impressive', in fact it seems that a more likely explanation is that it’s a take on the Italian word 'impresa', meaning badge or motto.

More broadly (and sticking with the Italian language) it denotes an 'enterprise' or 'undertaking', and an impresario is somebody who organises and finances business ventures, traditionally within the theatre industry.

So, to WRX.

The STi cars featured stronger engines with forged pistons, a bigger intercooler, carbon-fibre strut braces and a raft of driveline beef-ups. The STi cars featured stronger engines with forged pistons, a bigger intercooler, carbon-fibre strut braces and a raft of driveline beef-ups.

This is a lot easier to fathom as it stands for World Rally eXperimental and was the fruit of a joint venture between Subaru and British-based motorsport funsters, Prodrive International.

Designed to win rallies, the WRX road car was a happy side-effect, brought about by the need to homologate the basis of the competition weapon.

The WRX attacked its first full season of the World Rally Championship in 1994 and the curve was a steep one with the car claiming the title in 1995 with none other than Colin McRae at the helm and fellow Scot Derek Ringer screaming the pace notes (Nicky Grist didn’t team with McRae until the 1997 WRC season).

Those rally cars were, of course, based on the STI version of the WRX, so that’s the next step in this journey.

STI stands for Subaru Tecnica International, fundamentally Subaru’s motorsport arm, and they formed the basis of some very serious road cars as a direct result.

Even in the early days of STI models, the cars featured stronger engines with forged pistons, a bigger intercooler, carbon-fibre strut braces and a raft of driveline beef-ups.

There was also a very interesting Japanese-market version of the first-gen STI, called the RA.

STI stands for Subaru Tecnica International, fundamentally Subaru’s motorsport arm. STI stands for Subaru Tecnica International, fundamentally Subaru’s motorsport arm.

A stripped-out version of the STI, the RA ditched air-con, power windows and even ABS in the hunt for performance.

Why RA? Well, it’s actually an homage to Subaru’s previous rally tool, the Legacy (Liberty in Australia) which offered up the original RA model.

In that car’s case, RA stood for Record Attempt.

Back in 1989, STI took four specially prepared Legacies and, with the FIA watching, ran them on an oval track in Arizona for 18 long days, racking up 100,000km in the process and topping out at almost 139 miles-per-hour (224km/h).

In the process, the cars set a new world speed endurance record and STI was on the map.

And the road-going Liberty RA was the production-based fruit of all that.