Practical family car that could leave street urchins unmoved
It is the cheapest way to get a hot car on the road, but as Frederic Manby found this one can be docile to drive if needed.
AH, Bisto. The thrill of a plane jane Japanese Subaru supersaloon with WRX and pink STI badges and four exhaust pipes disturbing a rump which otherwise could pass unnoticed. There’s not even a spoiler on this one to alert the street urchins.
This is the 320R, the latest in a series of dazzling compact saloon cars from Japan. Its peer is the Mitsubishi Evo and was once the Nissan Skyline before that model went through a Kafka metamorphosis and emerged as the GT-R, the fastest car on the planet bar a few which I haven’t tried.
The 320 means 320ps which is 315.58 brake horse power. The torque is a massive 450Nm or 331.65 lb-ft imperial. The standard STI gives 296bhp and 300lb-ft. The 320R costs the same. I do not know what the R stands for. Perhaps it is R for racing or rapid.
The 0-62mph figure, the one the lads need to read, is 4.9 seconds so there are cars which are quicker over that distance but none of them in this price category (£33,000) which a normal driver could drive so rapidly on an A to B route, say Alnwick to Berwick; or Ambleside to Bowes.
That is supposing there wasn’t a 60mph speed limit on most country roads but there is, so fun with your 320R, which is limited to 158mph, is best enjoyed on a racing circuit.
Let me tell you about the front. It is low and wide and stretches over the wheels. The face is packed with detail. Lots of air intakes and half way along the bonnet there’s a monster big enough to gulp up a passing passerine.
It hangs unfashionably far beyond the front wheels but as this car is all-wheel-drive and has a low centre of gravity it probably doesn’t matter. This is the view that captures eye contact. Anyone, even Mr and Mrs Bus-User will realise that this car is a mover, more than a contender, a something of dynamic ability. It has a selectable differential to maximise grip. It has a turndial to moderate its responses, from Intelligent to Sport to Sport Sharp. The default setting sends 59 per cent of torque to the rear wheels for a potential oversteer bias. Note, too, that 58 per cent of the weight is at the front. Keen drivers can adjust the feedback to suit their style and ability.
Anyone can drive it. There is no nasty snatch, no snappy throttle, no grabby brakes, no dodgy visibility, no awkward posture. Instead this is a roomy and practical four-door
The headroom in the cabin is as impressive as is the luggage deck under that stumpy ugly boot.
car for anyone. The headroom in the cabin is as impressive as is the luggage deck under that stumpy ugly boot. The seats have vented suede or suedette panels with leather sides and the Recaro “buckets” in the front are supportive and comfortable.
There is a fair amount of hard plastic but they have spent money on the performance bits, the mighty engine, the big brakes, the alloy pedals, that adaptable traction system, the strong 18 inch wheels with 245/40 Dunlop Sport 600 on the demonstrator. Against this onslaught you may offset its compromises. It has a lot of road roar (expected) and a thirst (ditto).
The official MPG figures from Subaru are 20 urban, 33.6 extra urban and 26.9 overall. CO2 is 243g/km. On a long legal mostly flat motorway and dual lane run it returned 22mpg. At 70 it is relaxed at 2,500rpm. On a mixed route at lower speed it showed 28 miles a gallon – much what you’ll get from a diesel 4x4 school run kids truck. The tank holds 13.2 gallons.
It is a blunt and brutal hangover from the last century’s super saloons from Japan. You will not be disappointed. There are classier cabins but Subaru has spent the money on performance.
There is no other saloon in its price bracket to match the 320R’s ability. Audi’s nearest rival is the S4 quattro, which is slightly more powerful, cleaner, about as quick but nudging £39,000 – albeit with a higher quality cabin.
BMW’s nearest challenger is the rear-drive 335i, down on power and pace but silky smooth and £35,540.
Verdict: This Subaru is for the serious “petrol head”. They are strong cars, built to win rallies and races and have a rarity appeal lacking in the Germans. It is also a practical and roomy family car.
OPEN WIDE: The front is full of air intakes to cope with the performance, but the Subaru is a practical and roomy family car.