Vision Quest
Behind the WRX and WRX STI Designs with Daisuke Tokano

12/16/2016

Version 13.3

To breathe life into the design of the WRX and WRX STI, Subaru drew on the talents of a man who, through years of bottom-up experience, is familiar with the vehicles and brand down to its soul. Today, Daisuke Tokano is the lead designer of the WRX and WRX STI. His career began, however, at Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. (FHI) in 1999 designing small exterior parts. Then one day, his sketch of a Subaru World Rally Car for an upcoming video game won a competition. This single sketch opened new opportunities and landed him a job overseeing Subaru World Rally Car designs from 2005 until the last Subaru entry in 2008. During that same time, he led the design of 2008 and later generation WRX/WRX STI models.

Small hexagons in the Subaru grillwork echo the shape of the front grille.
Small hexagons in the Subaru grillwork echo the shape of the front grille.

Refined Designs 

Tokano lives in California and works at the Subaru Advanced Design Studio, which oversees the early design stages of Subaru vehicles. It took 20 staff members four years to complete the WRX/WRX STI project, he says. 

When Tokano began sketching the WRX, his goal was not to create a flashy supercar that screamed speed. Instead, he wanted an understated sports car that could go fast, but was also practical. “There were discussions of having a lower roof line and creating a coupe-like design, but we figured that’s not the Subaru way,” he says. “We can keep it sporty without sacrificing the cabin space, and that’s the beauty of design.”

Daisuke Tokano, lead designer of the Subaru WRX and WRX STI, is sketching.

All in the Details 

All aspects of the design of the WRX are infused with meaning.

Draw a horizontal line from the Subaru badge in the center of the grille toward the C-shaped, horizontally opposed lights, and what do you see? If you’re a performance fan, you'll likely see the designers’ intention: The C-shaped lights subtly define the pistons, and the face as a whole signifies the boxer engine. 

Careful observers also will note the shapes that make up the front grille: The signature hexagons can be found throughout the natural world in the form of honeycombs and water crystals. “We tend to feel secure, the thinking goes, when we see natural shapes," says Tokano. "For Subaru, every design element is deliberate, and nothing is an afterthought. Therefore, all aspects of the design of the WRX are infused with meaning, from the Subaru logo to the texture of the dashboard.”

It’s a result that’s possible only when a vehicle is the vision of a creative dynamo such as Tokano, who, after years of working on all aspects of Subaru vehicles, inherently knows the design cues down to their most intricate incarnations.

Daisuke Tokano, lead designer of the Subaru WRX and WRX STI.