Subaru Im­preza

Evo - - ART OF SPEED - By

Sand sim­ple. For starters, no car has ever been quite so happy to hand out hid­ings to ma­chin­ery be­yond its price bracket. The RB5 ce­mented that per­cep­tion with a third- place fin­ish at ecoty 1999, see­ing off a BMW M5, an As­ton Mar­tin DB7 and a Nis­san Sky­line, amongst oth­ers. Things had changed lit­tle eight years later, when an STI Type UK met a Gal­lardo Su­per­leg­gera on the roads of Snow­do­nia ( evo 115) and made the V10- en­gined su­per­car work very hard in­deed. The lat­est Im­prezas are a tad mal­nour­ished com­pared with their com­pe­ti­tion, there’s no deny­ing that, but over the years the per­for­mance has nearly al­ways been ad­dic­tively po­tent.

And then there’s a cul­ture – all the va­ri­ety and the pedantry – that serves as a con­fus­ing but equally fas­ci­nat­ing mi­cro­cosm for those on the out­side. So nu­anced is the Im­preza back cat­a­logue that it’s pos­si­ble to be­come hope­lessly en­snared in the fog of Type RAS, PPP 250s, V3 Type R V- Limit­eds and, who could for­get, WRX STI S201s. And when tracts of a per­son’s driv­ing life are lost to the cult of Scooby, the wider four- wheeled world, with all its mouth- wa­ter­ing temp­ta­tions, can cruise by un­no­ticed.

A re­li­gion to some, then, fit­tingly the Im­preza has its own sym­bol­ism. The hon­est sil­hou­ette of the orig­nal has proved far from sacro­sanct, evolv­ing from sa­loon to hatch­back and back again, so it isn’t that. The wing, you might have no­ticed, has also ‘ ma­tured’, so that’s out. And the WRC con­nec­tion, once so strong, is now dead in the wa­ter. But a mas­sive scoop built threat­en­ingly into the alu­minium bon­net? Pretty much un­changed.

The scoop feeds an in­ter­cooler mounted high at the back of the en­gine bay. This isn’t an ideal po­si­tion for an in­ter­cooler, but for the orig­i­nal Im­preza Turbo’s quad- cam boxer it suf­ficed. With 75 per cent of the in­take sus­tain­ing the in­ter­cooler and the rest shuf­fling air to the turbo, the 1994cc en­gine made 208bhp; Pro­drive later teased out 276bhp for the ra­bid P1.

Im­prezas be­came even faster, but the in­ter­cooler re­mained in situ. And while the scoop grew with time, this wasn’t al­ways the plan. The rea­son it lurches like Hoku­sai’s Wave on some sec­ond- gen cars, for ex­am­ple, is be­cause Subaru ex­ecs were for­bid­den from fly­ing in the wake of 9/ 11. Be­cause of this, they never made the jour­ney from Toyko to Nor­folk to green- light Peter Stevens’ less os­ten­ta­tious but more aero­dy­namic pro­posal for the post-‘ bug­eye’ facelift. Al­legedly Stevens was a bit peeved, but pre­sum­ably not as peeved as he would have been had Subaru been left to de­sign the rest of the car…

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