The Subaru Crosstrek is a sensible, high-riding Impreza that can be moderately enjoyable to live with, so long as you opt for the six-speed manual and not the CVT model. What it isn’t — at least not normally, anyway — is a rally car.
However, the Crosstrek does in fact have a bit of a sporting pedigree, as it turns out. Back in 2016, Vermont SportsCar built a Crosstrek rally car for Subaru Rally Team China, competing in the China Rally Championship. Called the VT15XV, this machine was heavily based on the VT15r WRX STI used in Rally America’s Open Class in 2015, which makes complete sense given the similarities these models share.
The Crosstrek, known in China simply as the XV, was chosen in favor of the WRX because Subaru doesn’t sell the WRX in the country. The turbocharged flat-four inside the VT15XV produced 360 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque, and the whole car weighed 2,640 pounds. Given the Crosstrek’s body style, the rally version almost ends up resembling the WRX STI hatchback Subaru used to sell in the late aughts.
Jon Fogg, an engineer at Vermont SportsCar, said that aside from the VT15XV’s World Rally Championship-spec paddle-shift gearbox, the rest of the build was “pretty much identical” to the WRX STI that Subaru Rally Team USA was operating at the time. You can find out more about this curious Crosstrek in Subaru’s video below:
The VT15XV was a successful car, helping its driver Han Han win the China Rally Championship drivers’ title in 2016, as well as securing the manufacturer’s championship for Subaru in 2017. Han Han, a well-known novelist, musician and filmmaker in China, has a number of motorsport accolades to his name, including several China Touring Car Championship trophies. I admittedly knew nothing about Han Han until writing this, but I’m very intrigued; is there anything this guy can’t do?
So this Crosstrek has quite the history, then. Considering the production car’s copious plastic cladding and preference for fun, outdoorsy color options, I sometimes forget that Subaru’s compact crossover is really an Impreza at heart. And so, when a Crosstrek goes under the knife and comes out a rally car, the result is both familiar and yet, amiss. It’s like a peek at a parallel universe where the WRX isn’t recognized as the brand’s true high-performance off-roading flagship, and that distinction is reserved for a different nameplate. Not necessarily objectionable, but subtly jarring and a little bit eerie.