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1999 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS

By Tom Hagin

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

     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                                     2857 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                  205/55R16 89V
     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


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            22/29/26          
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.5 seconds @ 84.0 mph
     Top-speed                                           120 mph

    * Sequential multi-point fuel injection                              

Subaru made a commitment several years ago to stay within its niche of producing affordable, economical sedans, coupes and wagons that use all-wheel drive. To promote its "go anywhere" image, it fields teams in international World Rally Championship (WRC) racing where the company has won the series three years in a row and is the current titleholder.

Taking that niche a step further, the company also produces specialized vehicles such as the Outback series of Legacy and Impreza wagons, the Legacy Sport Utility Sedan (SUS), and our test vehicle this week, the Impreza 2.5 RS "pocket rocket" coupe.

OUTSIDE - Subaru abandoned its quirky looks many years ago and while its cars now utilize the contemporary styling of its competitors, closer inspection reveals many Subaru styling traits. These include a low beltline and a tall greenhouse, both contributing to a good view from the inside. Capitalizing on the company's WRC prowess, Subaru designers took a standard Impreza coupe and dressed it up with hood scoops, vents, a basket-handle rear spoiler and silver-anodized, five-spoke, 16-inch wheels. A set of oversized Bridgestone P205/55R16 tires give it tenacious grip and an aggressive stance. Two new colors are available this year, Silverthorn Metallic and Aspen White, adding to the carryover colors of Black Diamond Pearl and Rally Blue Pearl.

INSIDE - Compared to the spartan interior, full roll cage and on-board fire extinguisher system of its WRC cars, the 2.5 RS interior is luxurious. The view to the outside is good, except for the rearward obstruction of the huge rear wing perched atop the trunk. The front bucket seats are bolstered well, and do a fine job of keeping its occupants firmly planted during heavy cornering. The Impreza dashboard was redesigned recently, and offers standard analog gauges. The buttons for the audio system are too small and too low in the panel to punch intuitively, but rotary knobs for the ventilation make adjustments easy. As the top-line Impreza Coupe, the 2.5 RS comes well-equipped. Standard features include air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and door locks, fog lights, AM/FM/cassette stereo, and a power sunroof.

ON THE ROAD - The engine in the Impreza 2.5RS is borrowed from the larger and more powerful Legacy. Instead of the standard Impreza powerplant, a 2.2 liter four cylinder, the Impreza RS uses a 2.5 liter version of the same engine. Its cylinders are horizontally-opposed, as are all Subaru engines, a design that is much different than most cars today. The entry-level Impreza 2.2-liter engine has a single camshaft atop each cylinder head and the 2.5 in the RS uses valve drive design. The car doesn't have the twin turbochargers or the 300 horsepower of the Impreza WRC car, but it produces 165 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque, which is very impressive for such a small car. By comparison, the standard 2,2 liter Impreza engine puts out 28 less. The RS can be had with either a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic transmission and like all Subaru models, the running gear is mated to a sophisticated all-wheel drive system.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Impreza's short wheelbase and stiff structure give it awesome handling under many different conditions. It features four-wheel independent suspension that consists of MacPherson struts front and rear, coil springs, tubular shocks, and stabilizer bars. The suspension is tuned on the sporting side, with stiff shocks and soft springs, along with a long suspension stroke that provides good handling and bump control. With the engine's unique design that gives it a low center of gravity, the car produces very little body roll or tire scrub. Its all-wheel drive system is seamless in operation, using a viscous center differential that transfers power to the wheels needing the most grip. Speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering is standard, as are four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual airbags, ABS and side-impact door beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Keyless entry: $225; CD player: $420; uplevel stereo: $310; floor mats: $64.