A last­ing im­pres­sion

The all-new Subaru Im­preza’s ad­vances go be­yond its body

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents - WORDS BY JA­SON ANG PHOTOGRAPHY BY AL­FRED MEN­DOZA SHOT AT BRIDGETOWNE

The Ja­panese car­maker de­buts the Subaru Global Plat­form with this ride. Im­pres­sive, as al­ways.

Most car­mak­ers, when they in­tro­duce an all-new model, first hype up the ve­hi­cle’s looks. They cite an in­ter­est­ing el­e­ment here, a taut line there. They re­veal a new wheel de­sign as if they’ve rein­vented, well, the wheel. The lat­est car is an order of magnitude bet­ter than the old one, they say. Never mind if it’s just a mid-cy­cle facelift.

Subaru isn’t most car­mak­ers. Just be­fore launch­ing the all-new Im­preza, the com­pany re­leased teaser photos—of the car’s chas­sis. This plat­form would be the ba­sis of nearly all of its up­com­ing ve­hi­cles. Promised are ad­vances in safety, pack­ag­ing and han­dling.

Of course, this frame comes with the most im­por­tant fac­tor: a com­pletely new body. Noth­ing too un­usual here—the next Im­preza dis­plays clas­sic sedan pro­por­tions and fea­tures. The per­ti­nent pieces are there, as if they were items on a check­list: sen­si­ble-look­ing face, beady head­lamps, LED day­time run­ning lights, body creases on the sides, door-mounted mir­rors for bet­ter vis­i­bil­ity. In con­trast to many de­signs nowa­days, the grille is sim­ple: a small trape­zoid, af­forded a touch of sporti­ness with the wing­like Subaru logo clus­ter, and black wire-mesh insert. There’s also a pro­nounced air dam molded as part of the front bumper. Al­loys are the stan­dard 17in units on the top-of-the-line 2.0-liter vari­ant.

Per­haps the big­gest chal­lenge that will face Mo­tor Image’s sales­peo­ple is that the front looks sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous car’s at first glance. Then you look again, and the new car seems to squat closer to the ground. It is lower, by 10mm. You get to the side view, and you see that the new car looks longer. The rear marks the big­gest dif­fer­ence, with the hor­i­zon­tally ori­ented tail­lights help­ing to make the Im­preza look wider.

It’s all neat and pre­dictably un­der­stated, if per­haps lack­ing a bit of piz­zazz. In the com­peti­tors’ looks depart­ment, there’s one big chal­lenge, and it wears a big H badge. The new Civic rewrote the rule­book where styling is con­cerned, and Honda came up with a com­pact sedan that’s edgy and dra­matic. Once you

‘THE CAR­MAKER RE­LEASED TEASER PHOTOS OF THE NEW CHAS­SIS’

see a Civic, your eyes can’t help but lock onto it. By com­par­i­son, the Im­preza plays it safe.

The car con­tin­ues the con­ven­tional but hand­some theme when it comes to the in­te­rior. It’s as gray as Bat­man’s wardrobe in here, with some matte-metal­lic in­serts to break the monotony. The shapes, though, look en­gag­ing. Vents, steer­ing-wheel spokes, and gauge clus­ter all share an­gu­lar de­sign cues. At the cen­ter is a large 8in touch­screen that con­trols the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. Con­nec­tiv­ity should be ex­cel­lent, given that the sys­tem in­cludes both Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto soft­ware. You can pipe in your calls or fa­vorite sound­track via Blue­tooth.

There’s about an inch more space be­tween the Subaru’s axles, and in­deed, rear knee room has ben­e­fited from this. Pho­tog­ra­pher Al­fred Men­doza, aka Size 14, could fit in the seat be­hind the driver’s perch when the lat­ter is ad­justed to his driv­ing po­si­tion, with­out be­ing un­com­fort­able. There’s plenty of foot space un­der the front seat, but the floor isn’t com­pletely flat, what with the trademark Subaru drive­shaft bump in the mid­dle. It’s def­i­nitely roomier, with Subaru’s Amer­i­can arm claim­ing that the new Im­preza has the big­gest pas­sen­ger space in its class.

With the large key fob in our pocket, we push the starter but­ton. The re­sult is mostly si­lence, as the 2.0-liter boxer-four fires up. The en­gine is re­port­edly 80% new, with the changes aimed to­ward de­liv­er­ing bet­ter torque and fuel ef­fi­ciency. Power is a rel­a­tively mod­est 154hp, with 196Nm of torque. The en­gine is mated with a CVT that has also been re­vamped, with a wider spread of gear ra­tios for improved ac­cel­er­a­tion. Off the line, the Im­preza won’t scorch the pave­ment. Take­off is de­cent, though, with a no­table in­crease in low-end torque. The fa­mil­iar pad­dle shifters are there be­hind the steer­ing wheel, should you wish to order up a lower gear ra­tio.

You’ll have to wait till about 2020 for Subaru to come up with a WRX ver­sion. The stan­dard Im­preza sedan,

and even its XV de­riv­a­tive, was never noted for its ac­cel­er­a­tion. Where Subaru does shine is in its han­dling and cor­ner­ing. This is mostly due to the en­gine’s 180-de­gree V-an­gle, with the mass of the en­gine align­ing with the car’s bumper. The low-mounted en­gine gives Subarus a more planted feel around cor­ner. The new Im­preza goes lower still—it’s reck­oned to have a cen­ter of grav­ity 5mm lower than the pre­vi­ous model’s. Our ma­neu­ver­ing is limited but the han­dling still pro­vokes a smirk or two.

The other half of the Subaru han­dling equa­tion is the sym­met­ri­cal all-wheel drive, with ma­jor drive com­po­nents mounted on ei­ther side of the car’s

‘THE BIG­GEST IM­PROVE­MENT IS IN RIDE QUAL­ITY AND COM­FORT’

cen­ter­line. All Im­prezas will of course have all-wheel drive as stan­dard.

When Subaru first launched the hatch­back ver­sion of the Im­preza, the ques­tion was: Where is the sedan? Now that the sedan is tak­ing a bow, the in­evitable query would be: Where is the hatch? The short an­swer: Nowhere, for now. The Philip­pine mar­ket will only get the sedan, and in top-vari­ant form at first. The sleek-look­ing hatch­back will be sac­ri­ficed in fa­vor of the taller XV ver­sion, per­haps to be seen later in the year.

Where the Im­preza de­liv­ers the big­gest im­prove­ment is in its ride qual­ity and com­fort. The pre­vi­ous car had a firm ride, and whether you found that de­sir­able or not would de­pend on your age and per­haps the con­di­tion of your back. The new car seems to ab­sorb bumps with more com­pli­ance. The chas­sis is key to this fea­ture: Its rigid­ity is up 50% com­pared to the out­go­ing model’s, thanks to joints that are both glued and welded. The Im­preza makes first use of this plat­form, but it will also be the ba­sis of big­ger, more lux­u­ri­ous ve­hi­cles like the next-gen­er­a­tion Le­gacy and Out­back, and an up­com­ing seven-seat cross­over. The Subaru Global Plat­form is also meant to take al­ter­na­tive-propul­sion as­sem­blies, like a ga­so­line-elec­tric hy­brid pow­er­train.

The lat­est Im­preza is not so much a pretty wrap­per for what is un­der­neath a mun­dane prod­uct. What we’ve con­stantly felt with the new car is that Subaru has spent the most ef­fort on what lies be­neath, on a new plat­form that can de­liver the goods both on good roads and bad, and in all weather con­di­tions. All it takes is a cor­ner or two to ap­pre­ci­ate that.

En­gine: 2.0-liter H4 Power: 156hp @ 6,000rpm Torque: 196Nm @ 4,000rpm Trans­mis­sion: CVT SUBARU IM­PREZA

The tiny de­tails are a de­light once you no­tice them

Cen­ter of grav­ity is even lower this time around. You will feel the change As al­ways, the Im­preza of­fers a driver-cen­tric cabin. Let’s hit the road

Al­loys aren’t a crazy size, and that’s some­thing we ap­pre­ci­ate very much This car begs to be driven around cor­ners swiftly. Any tak­ers?

Those who have grown to love the edgy lines won’t be dis­ap­pointed

You get the fa­mil­iar de­sign cues with some sur­pris­ing new de­tails

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