The WRX's little brother
There's 4 things you usually hear when contemplating purchasing a Subaru Impreza:
1)“You should buy an Evo instead.”
2)“Do you really need a car that powerful?” (Usually from your mother).
3)“You'll get terrible fuel economy!”
4)“Why didn't you buy the Evo?”
In regards to the first and fourth comment, yeah, the Mitsubishi Evolution is a fantastic car but this isn't a purchase where I only weigh up which car looks better on according to a piece paper that a dealer just handed me. This is about where my heart lies. The same kind of feeling when you are dating someone who is very much out of your league and you find yourself staring at him or her and thinking, “wow! How did I get this lucky?”
To the second comment, “do you really need such a fast car?” Yes. Yes I do.
The third comment and a very important factor in buying a car for many people, fuel economy. Although, in this particular case is irrelevant. You don't generally buy a Subaru for its economy, you buy it because it's a fantastically made car that will last you many, many years of happy motoring (with proper servicing). To myself it's not about how many miles per gallon, it's about how many smiles per gallon. This is where the Subaru Impreza RS really shines.
Being the 2002 RS variant, this model unfortunately did not arrive with a turbocharger but it did have 0.5L bigger displacement than the base model (and the WRX!) and was good for 223nm of torque. These are just numbers on paper though. What this translates to in the real world is you, four mates, the boot filled with tents and a few cartons of beer and a nice easy road trip with no hint of struggle from the power train.
This along with the immense grip from being all-wheel-drive brings great advantage when driving your favourite “twisty-bits,” driving in wet conditions or when you're on the drag strip racing some higher-powered RWD cars. The symmetrical AWD along with the 223nm of torque from the 2.5L four cylinder have caused a few shock reactions from passengers when taking off from a standstill. An example being, “Is this a 6-cylinder?” Then comes the shock that yes, a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder can indeed still put a smile on your face. For those who like numbers, 0-100km/hr in 8.9 seconds.
Subaru loves safety. This particular car came with a 4-star ANCAP rating thanks to dual-airbags (driver/passenger), antilock brakes and electronic brake force distribution. Subaru's give you a physical sense of safety. They don't need special traction control and electronic stability (although, sometimes they are an added bonus). This feeling is made salient when it starts raining cats and dogs and everyone else on the road suddenly appears to have forgotten how to drive. You still feel as if you are the calm center of the universe.
Racing seats (from the WRX) and a huge momo leather steering-wheel sitting in front of you really set the tone of this car. You can be sitting in peak-hour traffic and still feel that special. It makes you feel 5-years old again, watching your first rally stage. Don't be fooled into thinking this car is stripped of all luxuries though! It boasts climate control, cruise control and electric windows all around. The Impreza really gives you a sense of racing car but without the sacrifice of creature comforts
Absolutely brilliant car if you are looking for something sporty but not yet ready to commit to the turbocharged version (the WRX). This makes it an excellent option for “P-platers.” All of the fun and sportiness without the worries of applying for an exemption to drive a turbocharged vehicle (here in Queensland, at least). Even without the bonnet scoop of the WRX it still has an attractive exterior, with its big (and very functional) fog lights, rear spoiler and body kit as standard. This car passes the, “if you can park it and walk away without turning back to look at it, you've bought the wrong car” test with flying colours.
While fuel economy is not on par with most 4-cylinders, for it's application the 10l/100km with a mix of freeway and city driving is not terrible and is definitely livable.
Now, the ultimate question: if I went back in time three years and was standing in the dealership, would I buy it again?