2008 SUBARU IMPREZA 2.5I
Used Car - 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i in Barre, Vt
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2008 Subaru Impreza ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
All-new Impreza and Outback Sport bigger, more refined.
The Subaru Impreza lineup is redesigned for 2008, getting bigger and more refined in the process. A four-door sedan body style remains, but a four-door hatchback replaces the previous generation's wagon body style. Base Impreza and Outback Sport models return, as do the high-performance WRX and even higher performance WRX STI. This report covers the Impreza and Outback Sport; another NewCarTestDrive.com report covers the related WRX and STi models.
Impreza and Outback Sport use a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine teamed with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 170-horspower, enough power for everyday needs and enough oomph for good passing punch. We drove it in the mountains of Colorado and found it up to the task, but it had to work hard up steep grades partly due to the thinner air at high altitude. Drivers who want more power should consider the turbocharged Impreza WRX, which is surprisingly civil in behavior.
The Impreza powertrain is competitive with anything in the compact class, but some rivals offer six-speed automatics that improve fuel economy. The Impreza's fuel economy is on par with other all-wheel-drive compacts, but it suffers compared to front-drive rivals. If fuel mileage is your main concern, the Impreza is not the best choice among compacts.
All-wheel drive adds handling stability and traction on slippery roads, however, and we found it kept us safe on a snowy ski trip. Even a minor wreck costs more than a tank of gas.
The Impreza also has a handling advantage versus several competitors. Advanced suspension geometry, a platform built to host the high-performance WRX models, and a low center of gravity thanks to the boxer engine all add up to crisp handling with little body lean in corners. And yet, the Impreza also offers a comfortable ride.
Inside, the Impreza is nicely appointed, with a look and feel that would be appropriate for a car costing thousands more. The gauges are easy to read, and there is plenty of storage space for small items. The front seat has enough head room and leg room for tall drivers, and visibility is good to all corners. The back seat is impressive for a compact car, with enough leg room for tall passengers provided the front seats aren't set too far back.
The Impreza sedan has a decent trunk, but buyers looking for more utility will want to choose the hatchback. The hatchback's rear seats are split 60/40 and fold flat to open up a useful cargo area with a flat load floor.
In short, the Impreza is a lot of car for the money, and its standard all-wheel drive makes it an excellent choice for buyers who want an extra measure of security and stability in inclement conditions.
The 2008 Subaru Impreza is offered in four models: 2.5i, Outback Sport, WRX, and WRX STI. This report covers the 2.5i and Outback Sport, which come with all-wheel drive and a horizontally opposed 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The 2.5i is offered as either a four-door sedan or four-door hatchback. The Outback Sport is only a hatchback. The flat four in the 2.5i and Outback Sport models makes 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It comes mated to a five-speed manual transmission and a four-speed automatic transmission is optional ($1000).
Standard equipment on the 2.5i sedan ($16,995) and hatchback ($17,495) includes cloth upholstery, air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, height-adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, 80-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with four speakers, outside-temperature indicator, theft-deterrent system, and P205/55R16 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. Hatchbacks also get a rear cargo cover and a rear spoiler.
The Outback Sport ($19,995) adds four-wheel disc brakes, raised suspension, Incline Start Assist (with manual transmission), leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, leather-wrapped shift knob, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, six-disc CD changer, 10 speakers, auxiliary audio input jack, fog lights, roof rack cross bars, and P205/50R17 tires on alloy wheels.
Options for the 2.5i include a Premium package ($1500) with antilock four-wheel disc brakes with Brake Assist, traction control, electronic stability control, Incline Start Assist (for manual transmission models), automatic climate control, tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, leather-wrapped shift knob, six-disc CD changer, 10 speakers, auxiliary audio input jack, fog lights, and alloy wheels. A Satellite and Navigation package ($3500) adds a navigation system and Sirius satellite radio plus the Premium package equipment but with a single-CD player. The Popular Equipment Group ($319) adds auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, and security system shock sensor. Other upgrades include an Audio Sound package ($768) with XM or Sirius satellite radio and a subwoofer/amplifier; a short-throw shifter for the manual transmission ($374); auxiliary audio input jack ($97); roof rack ($250); remote engine starting ($432); XM or Sirius satellite radio ($453); and a rear spoiler for the sedan ($380). The Outback Sport offers similar options.
Safety features include dual front airbags, front side airbags, curtain side airbags, front disc and rear drum brakes, antilock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, front-seat active head restraints, and a tire-pressure monitor. Traction control, electronic stability control, Brake Assist, and Incline Start Assist (with manual transmission) are standard on all but the 2.5i, where they are optional.
The 2008 Subaru Impreza has grown up compared to the last model. The width is the same, but the wheelbase is 3.7 inches longer on an all-new platform. Overall length is also up by 4.5 inches for the sedan, but is actually down 1.7 inches for the hatchback. The hatchback's length is taken out behind the rear wheels. Where the last model had a more squared off wagon shape, this one has a raked hatchback shape.
The Impreza gets a completely new look for 2008. The front end changes from Subaru's somewhat controversial horse-collar shape to the new corporate design that is short and wide. The shape of the grille flows into a pair of cat's eye-style headlights, and its basic shape is repeated below the bumper in an air intake that is flanked by fog lights. The outline of the grille leads into character lines on the hood. The whole effect is more organic and flowing than most cars these days.
The sides of the car are largely uncluttered, except for bold BMW-like shoulder lines that run from the front wheelwells to the taillights. The fenders are slightly flared at the wheels, again lending an organic, flowing shape.
Perhaps most important, the Impreza now has fully framed door windows, which reduces interior noise and the possibility of leaks. Reviewers have complained about Subaru's frameless windows for years.
The Impreza sedan ends with a high trunk line, a fairly generic rear end design, and red taillights.
The Impreza hatchback, on the other hand, has a raked rear window that leads to an integrated roof spoiler, giving it a sporty demeanor. The hatchback does not have separate opening glass, and its taillights are clear.
The Outback Sport, which is only offered as a hatchback, has a couple of exterior visual cues, including a raised suspension (though it sits only 0.2 inches higher), and two-tone paint.
Hop in the front seat and you find the Impreza is nicely appointed. The dash and center console have lots of plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap. The overall feel would be appropriate for a car costing thousands more, but one of our test cars did have a couple of raw surfaces with rough edges and an annoying squeak from the cargo area.
The hooded instrument pod features a large central speedometer flanked by a tachometer and the fuel gauge. The gauges are black with white markings, red needles and raised silver rings. The gauges are easy to read and the overall look is pleasing.
The center stack has a vehicle information center with the clock, outside temperature indicator, and trip computer information set in a hooded area at the top of the dash. The radio is right below that, followed by a pair of air vents, and finally three easy-to-use climate control knobs.
With the optional navigation system, the radio controls are integrated along the sides of the nav screen. This makes some of the controls small and a bit hard to find, but it shouldn't be a problem after a few weeks. We found the screen hard to read with polarized sunglasses on and hard to read during the day with the headlights on.
Small items storage is quite good. The glove box is of a good size. The center console features two cupholders and a deep center console to store CDs and life's little trinkets. There is also a small change tray in front of the cupholders, and the front of the console has an open tray to set cell phones and the like.
Inside, the Impreza has plenty of room for a compact car. On the whole, there is more room than the last model. Even tall drivers should find enough head and leg room. Visibility to all corners is also largely unobstructed.
The back seat is quite impressive. It has good leg room with all but the tallest occupants up front and toe space under the seats is good if those front seats need to be set farther back. Rear head room is excellent. The only minor complaint is the fact that the seat bottoms are fairly flat, meaning long trip comfort may suffer.
Cargo room is good, especially in the hatchback. The rear seats are split 60/40 and they fold flat easily via pull-up knobs. In the hatchback, folding the seats down opens up 44.4 cubic feet of cargo space. (That's less than the previous-generation wagon, which offered nearly 62 cubic feet.) The load floor is flat, the opening is large, and the liftover is low enough to allow for easy loading. We hauled two people with their luggage and ski equipment on a trip to Colorado and found the Impreza hatchback had plenty of room. The sedan has 11.3 cubic feet of trunk space, which is about the same as the last model and is fair for the class.
We highly recommend getting the optional Premium package which includes lots of interior, exterior, and safety equipment that would cost much more if priced separately.
The Impreza 2.5i and Outback Sport use a 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that churns out 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 170 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. Those numbers make the Impreza as powerful as just about anything in the class, though the four-cylinders from Nissan and Toyota feel more responsive.
Subaru says it has modified the engine's torque curve to improve low end response. We drove the 2.5i in the mountains of Colorado and found it to be up to the task, though it certainly had to work hard on steep grades. If we had to deal with those conditions on a regular basis, we'd prefer the added power of the WRX's turbocharged engine, which is more powerful and less affected by altitude.
Fuel economy is generally good. At an EPA-estimated 20 mpg City and 27 mpg Highway, the Impreza isn't nearly as fuel-efficient as the Honda Civic, which gets 24/36 with an automatic transmission, but it is slightly better than the AWD Toyota Matrix, which is EPA rated at 20/26 mpg.
The Impreza offers two versions of Subaru's Symmetrical All Wheel Drive system. Models with the manual transmission have a viscous coupling locking center differential that splits power 50/50 front to rear. Models with the automatic use an electronically managed continuously variable transfer clutch. Both versions of the system transfer power to the wheels with the best grip. Both also provide a measure of all-weather security that gives Subaru an advantage over other makes. That was proven in Colorado, where all-wheel drive gave the Impreza stable handling on snowy mountain roads.
The Impreza also has a handling advantage versus several competitors. The Impreza hosts the performance-oriented WRX and WRX STI models, and the base models benefit from the built-in handling prowess needed for the top models. In addition, Subaru's flat boxer engines can sit lower than other engines, allowing for a lower center of gravity and therefore better handling.
Get behind the wheel, and you find the Impreza's steering and handling are crisp, and there is little lean in corners. Still, with standard 16-inch wheels and soft suspension settings, the Impreza is not twitchy or harsh riding. The new double-wishbone independent rear suspension helps both handling and ride quality, and we never found the Impreza uncomfortable. These are enjoyable cars for people who like to drive.
The brakes provide worry-free stops and good pedal feel. They come standard with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, with apportions braking power to all four corners. We recommend buyers opt for the electronic stability control system, which is included in the Premium package and comes with Brake Assist.
We are impressed by the Impreza. With alloy wheels, plentiful interior room, and a thoughtfully designed interior, the $20,000 sticker price for our test car seemed like a deal. Standard all-wheel drive adds all-weather security, and Impreza's fine ride and handling make it a worthy choice for anyone looking for a small, well-built car. The Impreza 2.5i hatchback and Outback Sport models offer a lot of utility with their big cargo capacities. The Outback Sport looks more expensive but is loaded with popular options. Choose any model: When it snows or rains heavily, these Subarus are class leaders.
Kirk Bell filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Chicago.
Subaru Impreza 2.5i sedan ($16,995), hatchback ($17,495); Outback Sport ($19,995).
Ota Gunma, Japan.
Options As Tested
Premium package ($1500) with antilock four-wheel disc brakes with Brake Assist, traction control, electronic stability control, automatic climate control, tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, leather-wrapped shift knob, 6CD, 10 speakers, auxiliary audio input jack, fog lights, alloy wheels; four-speed automatic transmission ($1000).
Subaru Impreza 2.5i 5-Door ($17,495).All-new, refined performance and practicality.
The Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STi are fun, fast and well built, with standard all-wheel drive and overall performance that's rare in their class. A redesign for 2008 hasn't significantly diluted the character and enthusiasm that have made the WRX so appealing over the years. The new models just raise the bar on comfort and refinement.
The 2008 WRX and WRX STi can legitimately be called all new, meaning virtually everything from the interior to the styling to the suspension and underlying structure have been overhauled. Both are somewhat larger than before, with a corresponding increase in interior and cargo space. The available engines and transmissions are essentially the same, though the extra-muscular STi gets a slight power increase.
The WRX and STi are higher-performance versions of Subaru's standard Impreza, though both are different enough that they might be considered separate cars. Both were developed within and made famous by Subaru's highly successful World Rally Championship racing program. While its roots rest in the smallest car line Subaru sells in the United States, the STi's price, performance and reputation make it a flagship of the company's lineup.
The WRXs have achieved cult status among driving enthusiasts and boy racers, but more than ever that image is too narrow and confining. These cars are also practical, with decent room in the back seat and good cargo capacity. Measured in the full spectrum of vehicles available today, they get good mileage (though less than many comparably sized, two-wheel-drive cars). Their all-wheel-drive system can legitimately be considered a safety and foul-weather advantage, even if, with the powerful, turbocharged engines in the WRX, it's marketed primarily as a performance enhancement.
And now, the WRXs are even more refined. They're smoother, more comfortable, and easy to live with during the typical commute. Their cabins are roomier, with an overall improvement in appointments and finish quality. There's also an upgrade in the equipment available, including better audio systems and an optional navigation system for the first time. In short, the 2008 WRX models should appeal to a broader range of buyers.
The standard WRX is powered by a 2.5-liter, 224-horsepower turbo four-cylinder, with cylinders arranged in Subaru's familiar flat, or horizontally opposed, configuration (like a Porsche engine). Both body styles are available with an optional automatic transmission that doesn't substantially reduce the fun-to-drive factor.
The WRX is available as a four-door sedan with a conventional trunk or a five-door hatchback that more than doubles maximum cargo capacity and adds another level of flexibility. At about $25,000, both sedan and hatchback come well equipped, with automatic climate control, an 80-watt stereo and more power than all but a couple cars in this size/price class. The bang-for-the-buck surpasses many more expensive sports sedans.
The WRX STi is essentially its own car, and available only as a hatchback. Nearly every major mechanical system is unique to this model: six-speed manual transmission, special suspension and brakes, unique interior appointments and a high-tech, manually adjustable all-wheel-drive system. Yet the STi's centerpiece is a higher-tech, higher-boost version of the 2.5-liter four, generating 305 horsepower. Its acceleration times match those delivered by exotic sports cars such as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. STi stands for Subaru Technica International, the high-performance division that made the WRX famous through considerable success in the World Rally Championship. Beyond its more powerful engine, the STi adds a host of mechanical and performance upgrades, including bigger brakes, more sophisticated chassis electronics and a unique, manually adjustable center differential.
The new STi is at least as fast as ever, but it's also quieter, more understated, and eas.
The Subaru WRX comes as a sedan ($24,350) and a five-door hatchback ($24,850). Both are powered by a 2.5-liter, 224-horsepower turbocharged engine in Subaru's unusual horizontally opposed design, and both come standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A four speed automatic ($1,000) is available with the Premium option package. All WRX models are equipped with Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.
The WRX comes reasonably well equipped, with a full complement of power features, cruise control, 80-watt audio with an auxiliary input jack, automatic climate control, interior air filter and 17-inch alloy wheels. The hatchback adds nearly 70 percent more cargo capacity, a rear-window wiper and a split/folding rear seat.
Options include the Premium package ($2,000) with heated front seats and an 11-speaker audio system with a 100-watt amplifier, among other things. The Navigation package ($4,000) includes the Premium package contents plus a GPS navigation system with seven-inch screen, satellite radio, digital sound processing, Bluetooth connectivity and an auxiliary video jack. Standalone options include body molding colors ($180), various deck-lid spoilers ($335), a battery warmer ($30), a subwoofer and power amp for the base audio system ($370), and XM or Sirius satellite radio hardware ($398).
The WRX STi ($34,995) is available only as a hatchback, and only with a six-speed manual transmission. The STi is equipped comparably to the standard WRX with Premium package, though the extra money mainly adds performance, starting with the 305-hp 2.5-liter engine.
STi options include forged, 18-inch BBS wheels ($2,000), in gold or silver, and a Navigation package ($3,800) that includes the navigation system, BBS wheels, and leather upholstery.
Safety features, in addition to all-wheel drive, include Vehicle Dynamics Control anti-skid electronics and four-channel, four-sensor anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). EBD keeps stopping power balanced between wheels regardless of the traction underneath. All models come with dual-stage front airbags with occupant sensors. Front passenger side-impact airbags and curtain-style head airbags for all outboard occupants are also standard. The WRX has achieved some of the best ratings in its class in National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests, with five stars for front impacts, five stars for front passengers in side impacts, and four stars in rollover tests.
The 2008 WRX and WRX STi are all new for 2008, meaning that virtually every component or system within the car has been substantially revised, starting with its underlying structure.
Both the WRX and STi are larger than their predecessors. Wheelbase has increased nearly four inches, to 103.3 inches overall, while width has increased more than two inches. In general, the larger exterior dimensions translate to more room inside the car. The WRX four-door sedan, developed specifically for the United States, is more than six inches longer than the five-door hatchback.
Some of the changes aren't apparent to the eye, including a new double-wishbone rear suspension. With this design, the suspension towers encroach less into the WRX's interior and allow more usable cargo space. Both the WRX and STi have an aluminum hood, which reduces weight in front and helps distribute the car's mass more evenly over the front and rear wheels. The engine now sits slightly lower in the chassis, and that helps lower the overall center of gravity. It's a noteworthy consideration in a car designed to maximize performance.
Racy styling, of course, has always been a WRX calling card, full of wings and vents and boy-racer add-ons. In this respect, the 2008 models may disappoint some faithful fans, because all are more subtle, perhaps more holistic, than their predecessors. The aggressive look flows less from accoutrements on their bodies and more from their basic shapes.
The changes start in front and surge backward from there. The new grille and front end are wider and bit less vertical, with a more prominent logo. Subaru says the look is intended to create a connection to its heritage as an aircraft manufacturer. In side view, the most prominent bit of design is a sharp crease that extends from the front wheel arch and runs just above the door handles all the way to the rear. It helps create the impression of a wedge, and emphasizes the aggressive flare of the rockers between the wheels. From the rear, the WRX sedan and hatchback are distinguished by more than the obvious trunk lid, or lack thereof. The sedan has conventional red taillight lenses, while those on the hatchback are clear.
American buyers overwhelmingly prefer sedans to hatchbacks, but in the WRX's case we'll take the hatch, and not just for its practical benefits. We'd say it's the more handsome car. Its roofline runs in a single, elegant curve from the base of the windshield to a spoiler at the top of the rear glass, and its rear overhang is considerably shorter than the sedan's. The basic shape is reminiscent of the Audi A3 hatchback, only rounder and stretched out around the bottom.
The STi is available only as a hatchback, and it's the raciest looking WRX of all, particularly with the optional forged, thin-spoke BBS wheels. The STi was first created as a homologation car, or a required street-legal copy of Subaru's winning World Rally Championship competitors. Its fenders bulge more prominently than those on the other WRX models to stretch over its extra-wide tires, and all its various vents and air deflectors are functional. Yet like the other 2008 WRXs, the STi is more subtle than before. Its working air scoop flows more smoothly into the hood, and the integrated spoiler above its rear glass is far less obvious than the honking, two-stage rear wing of yore.
The STi unitbody also has some significant enhancements compared to other WRX models, starting with extra high-strength steel at suspension mounting points and key structural joints. Yet the structure within all Impreza models has been thoroughly re-engineered for the first time in more than a decade. Subaru claims that, while the 2008 body shells are larger, stronger and less prone to flexing than their predecessors, they are also lighter.
The new Impreza applies the latest evolution of what Subaru calls its Ring Frame Reinforced body design. Think of RFR as a sa.
Inside, the redesigned 2008 WRX is a bit roomier and a lot nicer than the previous-generation model. Since its introduction in the late 1990s, the WRX has been more about the go than the accommodations, but this new one puts things on more equal terms. Features, too, are more upscale. Niceties such as a sophisticated anti-theft system, cabin air filtration and an outside temperature gauge come standard, while a navigation system is optional.
The front bucket seats in the standard WRX are upholstered with a soft, woven fabric, double stitched in the fashion of a luxury car. At least as important, these seats provide a good compromise between support and comfort. There's enough side bolstering top and bottom to keep occupants snug during fairly aggressive driving, but there's also plenty of give in the cushions. The leather/Alcantara seats in the STi are more like aftermarket performance seats, which means harder and more heavily bolstered. They're even better for hard driving, but the snugger fit leaves less squirm room during longer, more relaxed travel, and they demand more energy to climb in and out of.
Seat adjustments are fairly simple, but also effective, allowing people of various sizes to get properly situated. Overall, the WRX driving position is excellent. Most drivers will be able to reach all controls, including those for adjusting side mirrors, without lifting head or shoulders from the seatback. One minor gripe regarding the armrests: They're positioned such that each elbow rests at a slightly different height.
Overall the cabin is more subdued than before, with no embroidered logos to remind occupants what they're sitting in. The gauges are less garish, too, but easy to read and backlit with orange light. The trim is a metal-ized silver plastic. You can find more attractively grained plastics and maybe richer looking trim materials in this price range, but nothing in the WRX looks cheap enough to kill the deal. That's at least partly because the dashboard layout is so straightforward and effective.
Subaru calls the dash a twin cockpit design. Translation: The size and shape are roughly symmetrical on both the driver and passenger sides, with a big, outreaching center stack in the middle. All the gauges are clustered in a single binnacle directly in front of the driver. The four dash vents are fully adjustable and large enough to move plenty of air.
An LCD information display sits under its own hood at the top of the center stack, with temperature indicator, time and other information. At the bottom sit three big climate-control knobs: one each for temperature, airflow direction and fan speed, easy to grab with barely a peripheral glance, operating with a nice tactile sensation that conveys the amount of adjustment. In between is the standard audio head or the optional nav screen. Both are good sized and easy to manipulate. While the audio knobs aren't as big as those for the air conditioning, most adjustments are replicated with buttons on the steering wheel spokes.
Interior storage is average and easily accessible. The glove box is deep, holding more stuff than most, and there's a lined bin in front of the gearshift for phones, openers or glasses. A pair of cupholders sits in the center console, just right of the handbrake and hidden with a sliding cover in the STi. Another cupholder in each door pocket is large enough for a 24-ounce bottle. The box in the center console has jacks for MP3 players and a power point. Models with the navigation system also feature a video jack. This allows video games or DVD players to project on the nav screen, but only when the car is parked.
In all, this WRX feels less confining, perhaps more airy, than the previous generation. The glass seems more expansive, even though the side windows are now framed in the doors, rather than pressed against weather-stripping on the roof and roof columns, coupe style. In front, the feeling o.
The Subaru WRX has always been a blast to drive, and the all-new 2008 model won't disappoint. Long-time automobile enthusiasts who haven't driven something really new in the last five or six years might be amazed by the performance in these moderately priced small cars, and all aspects of it: acceleration, handling and braking. Yet this WRX is more a complete package than ever. Even the super-quick STi is much easier to live with for daily driving. Hardcore sport-compact enthusiasts might lament this new-found civility, but mainstream buyers will find it much easier to embrace.
The refinement is apparent from the first turn of the key. Where the old STi had almost the hollow, reverberating sound one expects inside a stripped-out race car, the 2008 sounds more like the typical family sedan inside, except for the more aggressively tuned exhaust tone. And it's not just a reduction in engine noise. All WRXs now have windows framed into the doors, rather than a door structure that stops where the windows start sliding out. All models are fitted with a full undertray that smoothes airflow beneath the car, and we suspect there is more sound insulating material than ever. Road and wind noise have been reduced considerably at all speeds.
This WRX continues Subaru's tradition of horizontally opposed engines, meaning the cylinders are laid flat with the pistons on each side moving in opposite directions (same as the engines in Porsche's sports cars). Like all engine designs, this one has advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is compact size, and the prospect of installing the engine low in the car. Flat-four engines have a distinctive, loping vibration pattern that can quickly be distinguished by motorheads, though like all the vibrations in the new WRX, it's more muted than ever.
At face value, the engines don't seem to have changed much. Output in the standard 2008 WRX 2.5-liter four (226 horsepower, 224 pound-feet of torque) is identical to that of the previous model. Horsepower with the STi increases by 12 to 305 hp, with 290 lb-ft of torque. In both cases, it's a lot of power for the engine's size, yet the figures don't say much about improvements to the WRX engines. Both versions are now 50 pounds lighter than before (other things equal, that means better gas mileage), and fitted with the latest-generation control electronics to improve overall efficiency and reduce emissions. Perhaps more significantly, the power curve has been broadened, so the power is available sooner on the rpm scale, and over a wider range. The acceleration-producing grunt comes sooner, and stays strong as the engine continues to rev.
The same sort of transparent refinement has been applied throughout the WRX's mechanical and electronic systems. For the first time, a single management program controls the electronic throttle, the full-time all-wheel-drive, and the Vehicle Dynamics Control. Even the antilock brakes are integrated. That allows a host of possibilities that can enhance safety and improve handling and overall performance.
The standard WRX takes care of just about everything for the driver, leaving the choices to the computer chip. The STi, on the other hand, lets the driver sort through a bunch of options using a series of buttons on the center console.
One STi feature, called SI-Drive, allows a choice of three maps for the electronic throttle, ranging from commute grade to extra aggressive. This allows the driver to control how much the engine accelerates with a given movement of the gas pedal: smooth, mild response to big dips on the pedal, or major acceleration with small dips. The VDC also offers choices: Standard, Off, and Performance, which allows enough wheel slip to slide the car but still tries to gather things up if it gets too sloppy. A manual adjustment for the center differential controls how much of the power is sent to the front or rear wheels, as it is in a.
The Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STi are engaging, appealing small cars and almost unique in the market place. Both are as fast and as fun as ever, but a redesign for 2008 adds a big shot of comfort and refinement. Both are practical and reasonably economical to operate. More than ever, they make excellent cars for commuters who like a little spice in their daily drive. Of course, the WRX models cost more than the typical small, front-drive car (the STi much more so), and their performance and standard all-wheel-drive comes with a mileage penalty compared to many cars of similar size and weight. But those are trade-offs their buyers are willing to make.
J.P. Vettraino filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Monterey, California, after his test drives of the WRX and STi models.
Subaru Impreza WRX sedan ($24,350); WRX five-door ($24,850); STi ($34,995).
Ota Gunma, Japan.
Options As Tested
Satellite Radio/Navigation Package ($4,100) includes heated front seats, 100-watt, 11-speaker audio with digital processing and XM or Sirius satellite radio hardware, GPS navigation with auxiliary video input jack and Bluetooth connectivity; center armrest ($163).
Subaru Impreza WRX five-door ($24,850).The Impreza has been redesigned for 2008. Featuring an all-new exterior appearance and new interior which has a higher level of fit and finish. The base Impreza model features a 173-hp four-cylinder, engine with the option of either an automatic or manual transmission. The sporty WRX model comes with a turbocharged version that gets 224 horsepower. All versions are all-wheel drive and come in either hatchback or sedan form. The redesign gives the Impreza an appearance far different from that of its predecessor, as it is now rounder and subtler and sits on a longer wheelbase. Most noticeably, the grille features just one frame instead of three. The interior provides added comfort and luxury. Safety features such as six airbags and four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard. The Impreza receives an exterior redesign and some interior changes for 2008.
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