Toyota owns 20% of Subaru, and the two Japanese carmakers are working on several joint projects. One will be unveiled online in April 2021, and the partners released a preview image that asks more questions than it answers.
Posted on a dedicated page of Subaru's Japanese website, the photo shows the caption, "Let's make ever-better cars together!" accompanied by an image of each company's logo. We're presumably looking at the front end of a car. Scrolling down reveals that it will be presented by the head of Toyota's go-fast Gazoo Racing division.
What immediately comes to mind is the long-awaited next-generation 86. Subaru unveiled the second-generation BRZ in late 2020, and we can't wait to drive it, but we haven't seen Toyota's version of the car yet. Unverified reports claim that it has been delayed until 2022 at the earliest to give engineers time to differentiate it from the Subaru model. If they're true, the coupe isn't what Toyota and Subaru will jointly unveil in April. It also seems slightly odd that Toyota would ask for Subaru's help in presenting the 86 to the world, let alone underline the connection.
Design cues fuel our doubts, too. While we don't know what the next 86 will look like, we've seen enough of the new BRZ to tell that its hood line doesn't quite match the one seen in the preview image published by the two brands. Of course, that's assuming what we see in the photo is what will be presented online in less than two weeks.
If it's not the 86, there are several other possibilities positioned all over the probability spectrum. Rumors that echoed across the internet in early 2021 claimed Toyota and Subaru were pooling their resources to design a rally-bred hot hatch with all-wheel-drive and a not-insignificant amount of power under the hood. On the Subaru side, this project could spawn the first WRX STI hatchback in several years. On the Toyota side, it might morph into a born-again Celica; the company renewed its trademark for the decades-old Celica nameplate in January 2021, after all.
We've seen next-gen WRX test mules out and about, so the model is around the corner, but nothing seriously suggests there's another Celica on its way. Unfortunately we are skeptical, though we can't rule it out entirely.
Moving away from the enthusiast-friendly side of the scale, a joint project that's been confirmed is a RAV4-sized electric crossover that will ride on a new platform. It will be sold by both brands, and each variant will wear a specific design. We doubt this is what's being previewed, however. First, we don't think it's quite ready for production. Second, it would be very odd for Toyota to ask its GR performance division to present a battery-powered people mover.
Keep in mind that carmakers don't always announce their projects in advance. Toyota and Subaru could surprise us by showing something that's not even on our radar. All of our questions will be answered on April 5, when the mystery models make their global debut online. Before then, Subaru will show a more rugged evolution of the Outback called Wilderness; it will be introduced online, too, during a presentation scheduled for March 30.
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