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Subaru "propeller" grille to change

The Japanese brand's controversial aircraft-inspired grilles, as featured on the Impreza and Tribeca, will disappear from the radar. Subaru's parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, chose to use the propeller corporate face on the current model as a pointer to its aeronautical history.

But Subaru spokesman David Rowley concedes the new face, introduced to Impreza last September, has had mixed reviews, even though sales have not declined.

Rowley says the propeller face has not been applied to the facelifted Liberty and Outback, due out next month, and it won't make it back for the forthcoming Impreza, scheduled for release next year.

"It's fair to say the design will not appear on future Subarus,” he says. "We had always said the aerospace theme could be applied in a variety of ways, like the way it's been presented on the Impreza and Tribeca.

"Fuji Heavy Industries said it would evolve over time. But it has not really been applied to Liberty and Outback."

Subaru's chief designer, Andreas Zapatinas, has resigned, effective the end of last month, but it is believed he was fired.

Rowley says Zapatinas was not responsible for the propeller theme: the Impreza and Tribeca designs were well advanced when the former Alfa and Fiat designer joined the Japanese carmaker.

Rowley says the first Zapatinas design is the next Impreza, due next year.

He is also tight-lipped about whether the company will return to another core plank of Subaru's brand image, rallying, in Australia. "We are still weighing up a variety of motorsport options on the domestic scene," he says.

Meanwhile, Subarus are to develop multiple personalities, with a new computer management system called SI-Drive (Subaru Intelligent) to appear on top-of-the-range Liberty and Outback models next month.

The system works with engine, gearbox and electronic throttle control to produce three switchable driving modes: Intelligent mode for better fuel economy, Sport mode with sharper throttle response and gear change points set at higher revs, and Sport Sharp mode for maximum acceleration. There is also an extra "Eco" gauge and a graphic torque curve monitor.