New Car/Review

1999 SUBARU IMPREZA 2.5 RS

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Subaru Full Line factory footage (10:22) 28.8, 56k or 200k
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 19,195
Price As Tested                                    $ 20,909
Engine Type              SOHC 16-valve 2.5 Liter H4 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 150 cid/2457 cc
Horsepower                                   165 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               166 @ 4000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.2"/67.1"/172.2"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     2867 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                           205/55R16 All-Season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.35

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            22/29/27
0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)                     16.5 Seconds @ 83.5 mph
Top-speed                                           120 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Bob Hagin thought the tiny Subaru 360 was something akin to a circus clown car when he worked on them in 1960. He also didn't think the company had much future here. His son Matt says those days are over and that the Subaru is best where the roads are really bad.)

BOB - The Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS is an ideal vehicle for folks who want a performance car, but live in areas with sub-arctic weather. It's got plenty of beans and can jump from 0 to 60 in just over eight seconds, plus it has enough mid-range torque to avoid having to be rowed through the gears to stay up with traffic. Its flat-four engine has a distinctive rap that isn't everyone's cup of tea, but this is the configuration that the company has used since it began putting its engines in front of the driver - and it works. The version used in our Impreza 2.5 RS uses all-aluminum construction, of course, and puts out a relatively healthy and unstrained 165 horses.

MATT - Impreza is a good car everywhere else, too, Matt. But the reason that all the new Subarus are popular with drivers who have to endure ongoing ice and snow is that all its models utilize full-time all-wheel-drive. A driver doesn't have to decide if the road conditions are bad enough to add traction to the front or back wheels. The "brain" of the Subaru does it all. If one end of the car begins to lose its grip and the wheels start to spin, the brain sends more power to the wheels that have the most traction and powers-back on the ones that don't. This happens on gravel or dirt roads too, and also if the driver is careless or over-exuberant on the pavement.

BOB - And it might be easy to get carried away driving this Impreza 2.5 RS. It was developed in the best "pocket-rocket" tradition of putting a large, relatively powerful engine from a larger vehicle into its smaller sibling. The 2.5 liter engine in this sub-compact Impreza is also found in the bigger Legacy, except that it has one less camshaft per cylinder head, which gives it four more pound/feet of torque for better pulling power. Today, it's about as close as you can get to the Muscle Car tradition of the '60s, when auto makers put a hot version of the engine from a big car into the chassis of a smaller one.

MATT - Dad, the running gear of the Impreza 2.5 RS isn't earth- shattering, but it does the job very well. It has conventional MacPherson struts at both ends like the more plebeian Impreza "L" version, but it has anti-sway bars and other suspension parts like the springs, bushings and shocks have been tweeked a bit for tighter handling. Our car rolled on 16-inch aluminum wheels and the 205/55R all-season tires are also bigger than those on the entry-level Impreza, but I think that they could be one size larger for a little extra sticking power. The standard transmission on all Imprezas is a slick five-speed that has been given a syncro on the reverse gear. This is the first time I've ever heard of a syncromesh system being put on reverse.

BOB - Subaru has a optional four-speed automatic available for this car, but I can't imagine buying one of these little "blitz-boxes" and letting it shift for itself. One of the few things that I don't like about the 2.5 RS is the fake air scoops on the hood and the useless spoiler on the trunk lid. I can't think of any place where you could drive one of these cars fast enough to have the spoiler make any difference, unless you were driving flat-out across the Nevada desert. The bad thing about spoilers they are annoying to look at in the rear view mirror.

MATT - I don't like spoilers either, Dad, but it makes the Impreza stand out and a lot of buyers like that aspect. The interior and dash gauges are more driver-friendly this year. The front bucket seats seem to have better side support and the seat bottoms have gotten away being pancake-flat. I'd like to try one of these all-weather cars on a skiing trip next season to see how it performs. I think Tom had one and said it's great for skiing, but it's too small for more than two people.

BOB - That's because when he goes skiing, he brings tons of stuff and a carload of buddies. An all-wheel-drive bus would be best for him.

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