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.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST -

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.

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