SAM’S SLOT: Which Japanese icon are you talking about?
Many sporty saloons exist in today’s world. Many come from the European motoring industry and they are usually successful. We see manufacturers like Mercedes, BMW and Audi producing cars that you can use both on the school run and on a track day. These are the vehicles that seem to dominate in the sports saloon market, but not so long ago other contenders were in the mix. One of those contenders is in my mind rather underestimated. The Japanese manufacture known as Subaru makes one of the best cars to grace the motoring world, the Impreza WRX.
In 1992, Subaru released the Impreza WRX with four-wheel-drive, 237hp and a five speed manual gearbox and chose the name to stand for “World Rally eXperimental”. The standard version, known in Japan as the Loyale, was successful and when the upgraded WRX model was introduced it sold well and was an instant hit. The Japanese car firm also released a stripped out version of the Impreza WRX known as the Type RA. It came with no air conditioning, no anti-lock brakes, and manual windows and was aimed at the racier customer. In Europe the car was launched as the Impreza Turbo 2000 and the Impreza GT. It came with a slightly lower horsepower of 208 but was still a force to be reckoned with. In 1994 Subaru introduced the STI version of the Impreza WRX. This car had an even more powerful engine with 250hp. With this model WRX’s were taken straight off the production line and then the new STI were put on. The car was incredibly quick and was able to corner tremendously due to its superb symmetrical four-wheel-drive system which gave the car excellent balance. All Imprezas were fitted with a flat-four boxer engine, giving the car a lower centre of gravity, allowing it to corner even better.
Rallying was where the Impreza WRX rocketed in terms of popularity. When the British motorsport company Prodrive teamed up with Subaru they decided to build a car for the World Rally Championship. From 1990 to 1993 Subaru used the Legacy model and had some strong results. In the 1993 season, British driver Colin McRae took Subaru’s first ever win at the New Zealand Rally. After the win, the Subaru Legacy car was replaced by the Impreza. In 1994 the Subaru came second in the Manufactures Championship with Carlos Sainz second and Colin McRae fourth in the Driver’s Championship. Then in 1995, Colin McRae won the Driver’s World Rally Championship in his blue and yellow Subaru Impreza. Subaru also won their first Constructors Championship and went on to win two more Constructors titles in 1996 and 1997. Richard Burns in 2001 and Petter Solberg in 2003 both won Driver’s World Championships for Subaru sparking more interest in the Impreza model.
Luckily enough my Dad is the owner of a 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX. I have always seen the Impreza as an excellent piece of engineering, however it wasn’t until I went in my Dad’s car that I fully understood how good it was. My Dad purchased the car from a friend earlier this year and it has been faultless. We used the car for a Scatter Rally in February and the car performed excellently. We even had to negotiate a flooded road, but the car trundled through with ease. However, many seem to think of Impreza owners as “boy racers”. They are popular with street racers and late at night you can easily find the owners of Imprezas performing donuts in the local supermarket car park.
The truth is the “boy racer” label is unfair as the Impreza WRX is a fantastic car. It has superb balance and it handles wonderfully. The only issue I can really spot with this car is that there isn’t enough leg room in the back for those of us born with the gift of height.
Subaru still produce the WRX, but the Impreza name was dropped in some markets in 2007 when the third generation of the car was released. In 2017 the fifth generation model will be launched.
The Impreza WRX is a rather special car, offering an incredible amount to the driver and evoking the sort of excitement not many cars have. Subaru engineered this vehicle perfectly and should be proud to have made such an iconic car.