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New Car Review: 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon




MODEL: Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon
ENGINE: 2.0-liter horizontally opposed turbocharged DOHC four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 227 hp @ 6,000 rpm/217 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
WHEELBASE: 99.4 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 172.4 x 67.1 x 55.5 in.

The Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon and sedan underline the performance side of the Subaru line. Labeled WRX in honor of the World Rally Championship-wining Imprezas, the Sport Wagon and sedan are hot little cars. Subaru has the impression of being a staid, conservative car line, but the WRX dispels this image.

As a fun car, the Impreza Sport Wagon is a hoot. I had a chance to drive it under all kinds of circumstances; winding roads, stop-and-go city traffic, Interstates, and trips to the supermarket. I have to admit that the car never did let me down.

Well, maybe once.

We were at an ice cream stand and a group of Harley-Davidson riders came into the parking lot. Not wishing to upset these people, I carefully backed out when it was time to leave. And I promptly hit a telephone pole, leaving creosote scars all over the rear bumper. But I really can't blame it on the car, just my sloppy backing up.

The Impreza was also my vehicle of choice for my thrice-weekly trips to the local compost center. So I'd load the back end up with a garbage pail full of grass clippings and a couple of empty buckets. The garbage pain had to lie down, because the rear of the Impreza isn't that tall. On the way back, I carried the buckets filled with compost for my garden. They'll think something is wrong if I don't go for my daily fix of dirt, but my garden looks great.

The storage area of the Impreza Sport Wagon isn't large American wagon size, but then nothing is these days except minivans. It was good enough for a couple of golf bags, though, and everything we had to carry. The tailgate lifted easily and was just as easy to pull back down. Often, tailgates are bears to bring down, even when they have struts attached.

Seating was comfortable, but this is a car that's rally-derived. There's no brand name to the seats, only "performance design," but they offered good side support whenever we wanted to throw the Sport Wagon around a tight curve. The support was both in the kidney area as well as in the seat area.

I liked the shifter, and didn't miss one shift during the week I had the car, which is saying something more about the shifter than my shifting. The gears were well-spaced and helped us pull quickly away from lights and merge into high-speed traffic.

Of course, the turbocharged DOHC horizontally opposed 2.0-liter four that put out 227 horsepower and 217v lb.-ft. of torque didn't hurt. This engine gave the feeling that it would wind out all day. It wasn't that noisy either. Only the large hood scoop gave away the fact that there was something interesting lurking under the hood.

What I could have lived without was the cheesy-looking turbo gauge ($297) that was added to the left of the steering wheel as an afterthought. It didn't look right there and didn't offer that much information. I'd opt not to get it if I bought the car.

Speaking of prices, the Impreza Sport Wagon WRX came with a base price of $23,995. Besides the turbo gauge, our tester had a short throw shifter ($345) and armrest extension ($145), none of which seemed that important. Shipping and delivery added another $550 for a bottom line of $25,332. I thought that was high, even with the performance potential of the car.

We had a much bigger vehicle the week before the Subaru and couldn't get over the impression of lightness that the WRX gave. When we closed the doors, for example, there wasn't a solid thud, more like a clink. I remember in the past there was one manufacturer who suggested testing the sound of their doors' closing versus the competition. While it may have been a gimmick at that time, it's still a pretty good judge of the solidity of a car.

While the Subaru Impreza Sport Wagon WRX was fun to drive and offered a lot of performance, it seemed to be a lot of money for the car. For the same amount of money, you can get a "regular" Subaru and have less performance but more practicality.

2003 The Auto Page Syndicate