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2003 Car Review: Subaru Impreza WRX

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SEE ALSO: Subaru Buyer's Guide

Subaru Impreza WRX- Catch Me If You Can!

By Andrew Frankl

A colleague of mine has been reminiscing about great Hollywood car chases. She mentioned Steve McQueen’s Mustang in Bullit, BMWs in Ronin and the Ferraris and Astons in various Bond films.

I would respectfully suggest that on a really twisty mountain road all the above would be left standing by the little bright yellow Subaru that was recently ours for an only too brief one week period.

What a machine! There is always a lot of talk by manufacturers about how racing improves the breed. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday is the slogan which occasionally works. It is certainly the case with Subaru.

These ugly ducklings have been winning rallies round the World often drifting through forests, splashing through gullies and demolishing the opposition at an astonishing rate of knots.

Rallying, for long the forgotten sister if Grand Prix racing has been getting a lot more exposure on TV and in the Press and even though there are no major rallies in the United States the word has been getting around that these 24 thousand dollar machines are what pocket rockets are made of.

At a time when lots of cars and trucks are on sale with zero finance, cash-back and all sorts of other incentives there is a waiting list for the WRX. Apart from the awesome Mercedes SL and the latest Ferraris I can think of very few other cars where this would apply.

What is so special about it?

Well, first of all you have to know what you are doing so to enjoy it a certain amount of concentration is called for. You will not find bad drivers behind the wheel of the WRX because they would give up after a day. It is most certainly not an automatic, there is no question of gently cruising around in it. You have to work those gears to get anywhere. Not just for self satisfaction but also because laziness might result in calamity. Say you are doing 40 miles per hour in fifth gear and want to pass someone in a hurry. You press the loud pedal and the result in just about nil. With the turbo you have to be absolutely on the button which is part of this car’s charm and pitfall at the same time. Tame it and you’ll love it or get careless and get nowhere. The latter is unlikely as after a test drive it would become eminently clear that this little car is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The 2 liter DOHC inter-cooled turbo engine is a gem having been developed from the World championship winning rally car. The close ration gearbox works well although the lever itself is silly and should be changed for something more substantial as soon as possible. I am amazed that such a matter of fact, sensible auto maker as Subaru should not only specify this ridiculous apology of a shift knob but they should even try and charge extra for it!

All manufacturers have what I call a deliberate error –BMW’s is that hideous iDrive- this titanium shift knob is certainly Subaru’s. Mind you, I wish I could complain about the stick shifter as the worst part of the cars I get to drive all the time!

The Momo steering wheel is just right for serious motoring as are the excellent body hugging seats.

The Bridgestone radials must have been specially developed for the car as the road holding is truly outstanding, The ride is firm and the WRX could be used to get rid of kidney stones for as lot less than what doctors would charge!

I certainly would not pay extra for the “premium sound package” as it isn’t that good and in any case the WRX, like a Ferrari is not made for listening to the pianissimo parts of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C Minor.

Fuel consumption would really depend on the geographic location of the purchaser. In Nebraska cruising in fifth gear at 70 miles per hour I am sure it would be around 30 miles per gallon whereas driving it really hard in the Rockies would reduce that figure by about 30 percent.

All in all a great little car for a niche market.

For those in the know-enjoy.

For the meandering masses-stick to something else.