40 facts for 40 Winters of All-Wheel Drive
1972: The Subaru Leone becomes the brand’s first All-Wheel Drive model, as part-time All-Wheel Drive is introduced to the estate derivative. The Leone has already been on sale as a coupe and saloon since 1971.
1977: Subaru UK is named the official distributor of the marque in Britain. In the same year, it is reported that foreign-manufactured cars are outselling British-built ones for the first time in the UK’s history.
1978: The Leone-based Subaru BRAT– Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter – is launched as an All-Wheel Drive pick-up.
1979: The second-generation Subaru Leone goes on sale globally, featuring a part-time, dual-range All-Wheel Drive system on all models with a manual transmission.
1980: Subaru’s involvement in the World Rally Championship begins, as Noriyuki Koseki, founder of Subaru Tecnica International (STI), enters three versions of the Subaru Leone into Group A in the 1980 Safari Rally of Africa.
1981: Subaru becomes the first Japanese manufacturer to introduce an automatic transmission to an All-Wheel Drive system, in the Leone.
1983: The world’s first four-wheel drive kei car (the special vehicle category created by the Japanese government to encourage consumers into smaller cars through lower tax and insurance) is launched – the All-Wheel Drive Subaru Rex. A turbocharger is made available as an option for the 544cc engine three months later. Throughout its life, the Rex is badged the Subaru Mini Jumbo, 600 and 700 in Europe.
1984: The third-generation Subaru Leone is launched, available with part-time All-Wheel Drive and pneumatic ride height-adjustable suspension.
1985: Permanent All-Wheel Drive is introduced to the Leone with both manual and automatic transmissions.
1986: Part-time All-Wheel-Drive makes a return on the third-generation Subaru Rex. Margaret Thatcher officially opens the M25 London Orbital motorway.
1987: The Subaru Rex gets optional full-time All-Wheel Drive and a rear-axle limited-slip differential for greater traction.
1988: Having been on sale for a year, the Subaru Justy gets its own All-Wheel Drive system to help keep owners of the new city car moving in tough conditions.
1989: The all-new Subaru Legacy is launched, offering All-Wheel Drive as an option across the model range. The Legacy quickly becomes one of Subaru’s most popular vehicles.
1991: The Subaru SVX (or Subaru Vehicle ‘X’) performance coupe is launched, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Subaru offers buyers a choice between two All-Wheel Drive systems, ACT-4 (active torque split) and VTD (variable torque distribution). ACT-4 models are front-wheel drive, but can transfer up to 50 per cent of the 3.3-litre engine’s power to the rear wheels if the front wheels start to slip. VTD models benefit from permanent All-Wheel Drive, with a 36 / 64 front / rear torque split.
1992: A watershed moment in Subaru’s history, as the brand launches the replacement to the Leone – the first-generation Impreza. 1992 also marks the year in which the Church of England voted to allow women to become priests.
1993: Subaru scores its first World Rally Championship victory when Colin McRae wins the Rally of New Zealand with his Subaru Legacy. With a Prodrive-developed Impreza waiting in the wings for the 1994 season, this is the last time the Legacy is entered in the WRC.
1994: The second-generation Legacy is introduced with permanent All-Wheel Drive standard across the model range in the same year as the first UK National Lottery takes place.
1994: A new derivative of the Legacy range is launched later in the year, the Outback – featuring permanent All-Wheel Drive and increased ride height.
1994: The Subaru Impreza, showing early rallying promise, takes its first WRC victory, Carlos Sainz winning the 1994 Acropolis Rally in Greece. Subaru wins twice more during the season and takes second place in the constructors’ championship behind Toyota.
1994: Subaru introduces the ‘STI’ brand to its passenger cars – models are upgraded from standard WRX derivatives, often featuring blueprinted performance-tuned engines, transmissions and suspension set-ups.
1995: Subaru wins its first WRC constructors’ championship with the Impreza – and Colin McRae makes it a double, placing first in the drivers’ championship. Subaru goes on to win the constructors’ championship three years in a row, from 1995 to 1997.
1997: The first-generation Subaru Forester is launched, one of the world’s first ‘crossover’ SUVs. The Forester’s permanent All-Wheel Drive system can send up to 50 per cent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels, and a raised ride height makes it a highly capable off-roader.
1998: The third-generation Subaru Legacy is introduced, again with permanent All-Wheel Drive as standard. In the same year, the Union Jack dress worn by Spice Girl Geri Halliwell is sold at Sotheby’s for £41,328 – almost twice the price of the third-generation Legacy.
1998: At the same time as the launch of the latest Legacy, Subaru also introduces a new Outback model – no longer a derivative of the Legacy range, but a vehicle in its own right. Permanent All-Wheel Drive and a raised ride height highlight the Outback’s potential to go anywhere.
1999: Subaru UK launches the special edition Impreza ‘RB5’, celebrating Richard Burns’s return to the Subaru World Rally Team.
2000: Subaru launches the second-generation Impreza, once again with permanent All-Wheel Drive. British enthusiasts are among the first to see the now-iconic car when it appears at the 2000 Birmingham Motor Show.
2001: Richard Burns wins the 2001 WRC drivers’ championship in the new Impreza.
2003: Subaru shows the B9 Scrambler concept car at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show. A futuristic two-seater electric hybrid roadster with All-Wheel Drive, the Scrambler has a range-extending 2.0-litre Boxer engine and self-levelling air suspension.
2003: Subaru launches the second-generation Forester, following successful sales of the previous model. To this day the Forester is one of Subaru’s best-selling models in the UK and overseas.
2003: Subaru driver Petter Solberg wins the WRC drivers’ championship in the Impreza.
2003: The fourth-generation Subaru Legacy is launched. As well as permanent All-Wheel Drive, the new Legacy receives the first five-speed automatic transmission made by Subaru.
2006: The Subaru B9 Tribeca mid-sized SUV is launched in the UK.
2007: The third-generation Impreza is launched in the UK, this time as a five-door hatchback. The Impreza remains one of the few cars in its class to offer permanent All-Wheel Drive across the range.
2008: The third-generation Subaru Forester is launched with greater ride height than the previous model, ensuring it remains one of Subaru’s most capable models on the road and off it.
2009: The third-generation Subaru Outback is launched – again, with greater ride height. Robust body cladding also helps the car over tougher terrain.
2009: The new Legacy, in its fifth iteration, arrives on UK roads – unique in its class for offering All-Wheel Drive as standard throughout the range.
2010: While the Impreza is no longer available in the UK, the Subaru performance saloon lives on as the WRX STI is launched on British roads...
2010: ...and later in the year Tommi Mäkinen drives the WRX STI around the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7min 55sec – a lap record for a four-door saloon which still stands today.
2011: The All-Wheel Drive WRX STI smashes another high-profile lap record, as British rally champion Mark Higgins sets a time of 19min 37sec around the Isle of Man TT course – a new course record for a car.
2012: Subaru launches the XV into the highly-competitive compact crossover market. Only a few months after its launch, the XV is already winning plaudits for its ability to tackle harsh conditions and tough terrains.