The Subaru Impreza
Today, we present you the JDM rally car legend that is also a super family car : the Subaru Impreza.
SUBARU BACK IN THE DAYS
It all starts in February 1954 when a company called Fuji Heavy Industry presents a prototype called the P1.
Some time later the company changes its name and will be called Subaru and the P1 will become the Subaru 1500. The Subaru 1500 is the first Japanese car to have a monocoque structure because already at the time Subaru was concerned about safety.
But because of the difficulties of saling cars with a non consistant logistic and supplies and especially because Subaru had forgotten that it was necessary a distribution network to sell cars the 1500 disappears quickly.
It will be necessary to wait two years so that Subaru starts to get better supplies and to know how to sell its cars better.
In 1956, they took the monocoque structure of the 1500 to make the 360: a popular and cheap little car, and it's the one that really marks the birth of Subaru as a car manufacturer.
And the 360 was really ahead of its time, especially in terms of safety, Subaru did crash tests before anyone knew what that meant.
SUBARU'S LOGO MEANING
And do you know why it's called Subaru? Subaru is the name of the Pleiades, a cluster of stars in the constellation of the bull, six of which are visible to the naked eye.
This company was born from the merger of six companies which before made in the aeronautics, his boss had a lot of ambition for this new company so he gave it the name of a galaxy.
WHY TO BUY A SUBARU ?
At that time Subaru is a very small independent manufacturer and in order to distinguish itself from the other huge and not at all independent manufacturers in the countries where they came to sell cars, it will put forward three arguments:
- an all-wheel drive transmission (until now reserved for utility vehicles)
- a low price
- a boxer engine
And it works! so much so that the all-wheel drive cars will start selling better than their two-wheel drive cars which will start disappearing little by little from the catalog.
But it's boring this history course and as it's not an article about Subaru but about the Impreza we'll jump in the future: 1988.
SUBARU AND RALLY RACING
To boost its sales and its communication, Subaru decides to launch itself in motorsports except that they don't know a damn thing about motorsports so they create a dedicated division called STI : Subaru Technica International.
Does that mean anything to you? Well, I hope so! And as they really wanted to distinguish themselves from the others, they didn't choose the circuit, no no no: they chose WRC.
Why the rally ? Because it puts the mechanics to the test so it proves the reliability and it is hyper mediatized and visible everywhere in the world.
The first car that Subaru used for the World Rally Championship ( WRC ) was the Legacy RS, their flagship car at that time.
The engine is prepared by Subaru and the rest is prepared by Prodrive. You don't know Prodrive? You don't know Prodrive? Do you know Prodrive?
Prodrive is an English company specialized in the preparation of cars, they were in charge of the development of all the Subaru in the world rally championship, Ferrari and Aston Martin in the world endurance championship. Speaking of Aston Martins, they are now owned by Prodrive. So these guys had all the necessary experience in racing that Subaru needed for it's success.
Subaru entered the World Rally Championship and finished fourth in the championship in 1990 and in 1992. Not bad for a start.
It's not bad but the best was still to come with the signature of three drivers:
- Colin Mc Rae.
- Richard Burns.
- Ari Vatanen.
And to win the World Rally Championship they needed a car to match this ambition and Subaru had an idea in mind.
After many months of work, tuning and development they gave birth to the replacement of the old Legacy : The Impreza.
It is shorter and sharper but it has the same ingredients:
- Permanent four wheel drive.
- 4 doors.
- Boxer engine with a turbo.
SUBARU IMPREZA WRX ( MEAN EYE )
All the lights were green and they were ready to win everything except for one small detail: the regulations
In order to enter a car in the World Rally Championship, the manufacturers had to produce 2500 series cars for the road... For us !
The Subaru Impreza, at least in its sporty version the WRX, is a racing car that has been de-tuned to be driven without killing ourselves.
The four cylinder flat engine allows to lower the center of gravity but also reduce the roll and the stress on the chassis.
All this makes it possible to make a chassis that weighs less and in the end, it makes cars that go faster than those with a much higher center of gravity, it's simple isn't it?
But this flat engine, because of its design, has a very particular sound. Well, the only little problem with this flat engine which is full of qualities is its appetite : this engine drinks a lot of gas.
But seriously, I think that these cars are sold with leaks in the fuel system.
The history of Impreza sports cars in Europe starts in 1994 with the WRX.
It was the one that laid the foundations with its huge air intake on the enginehood, its airplane style spoiler on the rear trunk, its blue color and its golden legs.
Well ok it also existed in other colors but it was slower. I swear, its 2 liters, turbocharged boxer engine developed between 211 and 217 horsepowers.
And as the body was very light, it was very fast. It was even one of the best price/performance ratio on the market.
It went from 0 to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds.
Nevertheless, it was a great sports car and at its wheel one could say that one was driving an almost racing car.
PRODRIVE SUBARU IMPREZA 555
Anyway, you know why Subaru was blue and gold in rally? No ? Do you know Prodrive?
Well, I'll tell you : to be able to enter a rally, you needed a big sponsor. Yes, the development of the cars, the drivers' fees and so on...
All this was expensive, so you had to find a sponsor who would put his brand on your car to be able to race.
And the sponsor of Subaru at the time was State Express, a cigarette manufacturer whose pack was blue with the number 555 written on it in gold color... just like that.
And the whole world will make so much the association between Subaru and its colors that even when the contract with State Express will end, Subaru will keep the decoration.
They will just take the 555 off their car and replace it with the logo.
Was it a good idea to do the World Rally Championship with the Impreza to promote it? Yes!
The Subaru Impreza will be the manufacturers world champion in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
Three drivers will win the World Rally Drivers' Championship in :
- 1995 with Colin Mc Rae.
- 2001 with Richard Burns.
- 2003 with Peter Solberg.
Did this have an impact on sales? Yes, so much so that in people's minds there was no difference between Subaru and Impreza.
SUBARU IMPREZA 22B ( LIMITED EDITION )
To celebrate its fortieth anniversary, Subaru released a very limited edition of this Impreza: The 22B
It was produced at 400 copies, well it should have been because they cheated those smart guys. People realized it with time that there are 22B with the same number. Nevertheless, it's the most beautiful Impreza ever produced, here's why:
- First it's a coupe.
- Then it has super wide fenders.
- And the boxer's displacement has been increased to 2.2 liters, it now produces 280 horsepowers.
- Its gearbox and clutch are from the competition.
- And as it weighs only 1270 kg.
But why are they called 22B? There are many different stories that try to explain why it is called 22B but among all these stories my favorite is the one that says that 22B is the exadecimal number for 555.
It would be a kosher but also a bit geeky tribute to the time when Subarus had the number 555 on their car.
SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI ( BUG EYE )
In 2001 Subaru introduced the second generation of sporty Impreza : the WRX and WRX STI.
WRX stood for World Rally Experimental and STI you already know!
Unfortunately, it was the talk of the town when it came out, and you know why? Because it had round headlights... yeah yeah I'm serious, it was about round headlights.
And so the whole fragile community of Subaru fans there were all in tears. Subaru still wanted to sell cars, so they restyled it and released the Impreza 8.
The only difference was the headlights, they were no longer round.
This second generation Impreza has a much stiffer chassis, like two or three times stiffer than the first gen WRX and it also corrects the under-steering problems.
From now on, in an Impreza, you just have to ease off the throttle in a curve for the rear end to move into place.
SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI ( Hawk Eye )
In 2005, Subaru revises the displacement of its engines: they go from 2 liters to 2.5 liters. Upsizing, for sure !
And with the arrival of this engine, we will no longer talk about the WRX STI 8 but about the WRX STI 9.
Except that just before that and to confuse our brains even more, Subaru will release a mix between the 8 and the 9 called the 8.5.
Officially Subaru will present the 8.5 as the ultimate evolution of the 8.
Except that in fact this 8.5 will arrive at the same time as its direct competitor the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8.
I'm sorry but I can't help but think that this 8.5 is nothing more than a commercial answer to the arrival of the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8 on the European market while waiting for the WRX STI 9 to be ready. What do you mean conspiracy theory?
The WRX now develops 230 horsepowers, the STI 280 does 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds and the fuel consumption as well as the performance increases, no jealousy.
Legend says that every time Subaru moves into a city, a refinery breaks out the champagne.
SUBARU IMPREZA RB320 ( LIMITED EDITION )
The seven-to-nine WRX and STI will also get a slew of limited edition models, each one flashier than the next.
Except for the RB320, which was produced as a tribute to former Subaru driver Richard Burns, remember? The poor guy died of a brain tumor so Subaru made a car named after him.
It was a STI 9 in a beautiful black livery with a body kit that was both discreet and aggressive, just right:
- the 2.5L turbo was boosted to 320 horsepowers.
- 0 to 60 is dropped in 4 seconds 8
- it was limited to 320 copies and if my memory is good it was reserved for the British market
SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI ( STINK EYE )
2007 we arrive at the third generation of Impreza. I don't know why, but while everything was going well, Subaru thought it would be fun to completely change the Impreza's concept and make it a 5-door.
The guys who got smashed because of the shape of their headlights and now they change the shape of the car! Do you think they learned their lesson? That's bullshit! They just added a door!
This new Impreza had five doors and now it had four exhaust pipes under its rear bumper, like the supercars because the power had skyrocketed.
No, I'm just kidding, it has 305 horsepowers, which is not bad, but it's not a huge improvement compared to the previous version. On the other hand, this 5-door version has gained a lot in comfort:
- Leather seats.
- Touch screen.
- DVD player... the whole shebang.
And for once, Subaru changes its mind and offers a 4-door Impreza.
So we find ourselves on the same generation of Impreza with two forms of WRX STI :
- One called the "Club" (the five-door)
- And one called the STI S (with an S for Sedan)
Much less optioned and also a little bit less heavy and a little bit less expensive than the Club version, we find a little bit the rally spirit thanks to the STI S.
In 2010 there is Tommi Makinen who sets a record on the Nürburgring at the wheel of a WRX STI, he passes a little under the eight minutes mark.
SUBARU WRX STI
2012 marks the end of this third generation of Impreza and then nothing. Why? Because from now on, the sporty version of the Impreza will no longer be called Impreza WRX STI but only WRX STI.
This fourth generation WRX STI is more comfortable and better equipped, but aesthetically, it has become a bit too soft for my taste and if you don't feel like pronouncing this very long name, you can call it STI 13.
Because of the holes it made in the ozone layer and the lack of gasoline it caused everywhere it went, the production of this WRX STI stopped in 2018.
WILL SUBARU IMPREZAS GO UP IN VALUE ?
Definitely, these kind of car aren't made anymore, because of hard regulations. Obviously this car is a rally legend, and many Imprezas have ended up in walls (i know someone who did a front-flip in a Impreza before ending in the forest... yes he still lives)
SUBARU IMPREZA 2020 AND BEYOND
The WRX STI has been a Subaru icon for a long time, but it recently disappeared from our shores. But according to the Japanese magazine at Bestcar, this sporty sedan is preparing its comeback with a new 400-hp 2.4 liters flat-four engine.
On the road as well as in rallies, the duel between the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and the Subaru WRX STI is now a distant memory full of nostalgia. While the first of these two sports sedans seems to have disappeared for good, the second is content to survive in certain markets, with limited series. The underpinnings are now very old since they still come from the old Impreza, which was discontinued several years ago. But unlike its compatriot, which is now focusing on SUVs, Subaru is not ready to give up the game. According to our Japanese colleagues from Bestcar, the brand is actively preparing the return of its icon, even if it has been a little delayed in its development.
The marketing of the car in its native market is not expected before the end of 2021, or 2022 at best in Japan. But the WRX STI would finally benefit from the latest in-house platform, which should improve its agility. The 2.5 turbocharged flat-four "EJ25" used at home and the 2.0 "EJ20" used in the archipelago would be replaced by a much newer 2.4 flat-four, which many media outlets also claim will be used in the upcoming Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ. This time, the power output would rise to 400 hp, instead of the previous 300 hp. As for the all-wheel drive system dear to the brand, it would obviously remain de rigueur. Resolutely family-oriented with its length close to 4.65 m, this WRX STI could therefore hope to challenge the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 and Audi RS3 Sedan... for those who will accept to assume its still not very discreet look, announced by the Viviz Performance concept of 2017.
WHICH SUBARU IMPREZA IS BEST ?
Well if you ask me, i will always go for the lightest, for the meanest look... i would always go for the first generation of Impreza WRX. To be fair there is a bit of nostalgia here, i won many races in Gran Turismo, Need for Speeds and many others games, i saw this car on rally podiums by the late 90's and early 2000's. I don't even mention that it is Bunta Fujiwara's weapon of choice after his AE86.This car is litterally a piece of my childhood... Maybe one of yours too.
Anyway, if one day you have the opportunity to drive a Subaru, ask the owners, they are usually nice. And if ever during your test drive the owner falls asleep, you never know for example if he took a blow in the back of the head from you and take a strong turn, you arrive at full speed you jump on the brakes and in the middle of the curve, ease the gas pedal : the rear will place itself, put the gas back you will make a cross the right wheels like a rally driver. It is a nirvana a Subaru !
And if not, you can also do this on your game console, it's maybe more prudent and if you find that the original power is a bit low, there are excellent tuner shops who will give you 200/300 more horsepowers. Don't believe me? A friend of mine has an old WRX in a station wagon that quietly puts out 600 horsepower and must weigh 1300 kg max, that's crazy!
That's it, I hope this new article will be more interesting for you, I loved to tell the story of this car, cheers!