By on January 31, 2007

front.jpgI don’t get veggie-burgers. If something didn’t actually die for my dinner, I reckon it should at least have been pretty severely inconvenienced. What’s more, a good burger is always bad for you (arterial distress on a sesame-seed bun). So it is with the Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport Wagon. Why would anyone buy such an entirely sensible vehicle when they could drive away in a full-fat, hormone-injected WRX Sport Wagon? Why indeed. It’s time for a serious sampling of Fuji Heavy Industries Lite.

At first glance, the 2.5i Sport Wagon isn’t what you’d call an appetizing proposition. The Wagon’s snout-mounted upside-down Alfa-Romeo radiator-hole looks decidedly indelicate. At least the 2.5i’s got a more graceful front end than the WRX Sports Wagon, whose hood scoop gives it a nostrilly appearance that only Prince Charles could truly love. The rest of the 2.5i’s body is blissfully free from flared wheel-arches, rear spoilers and other vulgarities. It’s as restrained as muesli.

There aren’t many other external clues differentiating the 2.5i Impreza from its beefcake cousin. In fact, park the 2.5i next to older versions of the same car, and you’d be hard pressed to date the evolution. Yes, every couple of years Subaru fits new alloys and affixes prettier tail-lights to its Imprezas. But that’s the same sleight of hand used by every 17-year-old when pimping out a mid-nineties Civic hatchback. Suddenly, that wacky schnoz starts to make sense; it’s the only easily identifiable (and how) feature in an otherwise humdrum design. 

iunterior.jpgOpen the SW’s sashless doors and you’ll discover more blast-from-the-past-ery. Judging from the dubious quality of it’s-a-hard-knock-life plastics deployed throughout the cabin, Subie’s parent must shelter a shopping-bag recycling company under its corporate wing. If you can bear touching the 2.5i’s shiny, not-so-happy control surfaces, all the basic amenities are pleasant and accounted for: A/C, cruise control, in-dash CD, keyless entry, etc. The controls and dials are laid out with all the simplicity befitting their, um, simplicity.

The 2.5i’s front seats are well bolstered beneath their cheap upholstery. The Wagon’s back seats are comfy enough– provided you’ve got rubber femurs. Folding down the rear chairs creates a cargo space large enough to stow both bicycles and battered guitar cases. But let’s be honest: the SW is no wood-panelled ocean-liner of a Vista Cruiser. In fact, it’s nothing more or less than a capacious hatchback, offering the same 62 cubic foot cargo capacity found in my old Mazda 626 liftback. Hey Doc, maybe if I drive the little Subie 88 miles per hour I can get back to 1991.  

Great Scott! Cranking over the Sport Wagon’s 2.5-litre boxer engine generates the sort of agricultural noise normally heard whilst perched atop the red horseshoe seat of an antique Massey-Ferguson. Luckily, everything soon settles down to a dull wobble. This is your first clue to the Impreza’s dynamic personality. “Hello!” the offbeat vibrations say, “This is not a normal car.”

Although the 2.5i’s engine is only good for 173hp @ a relatively lofty 6000rpm, the SW musters-up enough twist (166 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm) to take some hoon-oriented liberties with its electronically controlled variable transfer clutch (a.k.a. all wheel-drive). The little Impreza practically leaps off the line– and then strolls to sixty in a shade over eight seconds. Never mind; at full chat, the Subie’s boxer engine roars like a bathtub speedster. It simply begs to be flung into the nearest corner. 

Ah yes, corners. The Impreza 2.5i Sport Wagon may slingshot out of turns with less alacrity than a WRX, but at least it does so with equal bravado. With its compact engine mounted longitudinally on the down low, and a sports-tuned four-wheel independent suspension, the SW is a superbly sure-footed, balanced performer. Body roll is minimal, tire adhesion predictable, throttle response enjoyable and braking thank-God-able.

impreza1.jpgIn the rain, driving the Sports Wagon is like playing football on a muddy field wearing cleats— when everyone else is slipping around in sneakers. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rudyard Kipling’s ride: “If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, you’re probably driving a Subaru.”

There are a few quirky quibbles. The Sport Wagon’s clutch pedal action is funny. The shifter has a slightly plasticky feeling (shopping bags again). And… that’s about it. In fact, the Sports Wagon is everything an enthusiast could want in a family hatchback– save good looks, touchy-feely materials and neck snapping acceleration. It’s so multi-purpose, it ought to come with a corkscrew attachment. At a hair under $18k, what’s stopping you?

The WRX Sport Wagon. For another $7k you get better tunes, improved plastics, sportier dials, a roof spoiler and 51 more horses. While the veggie-burger edition is thoroughly justifiable and a lot less unsatisfying than you’d imagine, the red meat iteration is, dare I say it, irresistible. 

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77 Comments on “Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport Wagon Review...”


  • avatar

    I think a majority of buyers will go WRX, but the 2.5i does seem to fill a nitch. It’s become very popular to modify a car with hand-me-downs. WRX owners buy used STi parts, sell their used WRX parts to 2.5RS/2.5i owners, and everyone ends up happy. For my money, the old bug-eye front fascia is still Subaru’s best effort since the GC8 Impreza was retired in 2001, but the new front looks very nice from the driver’s seat.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    It’s not as nice as the WRX–but 7 grand is a LOT of money. This car, though not my cup of tea, sounds like a decent bargain.

  • avatar

    This car is more than likely to replace our 200,000+ mile GC8 Impreza sedan, which has provided stellar service and lacks only the raised roof cargo area for canine transport.

    If our reviewer thinks the current interior seating and plastics are low-rent and dated, I will offer up the mid-90s version as being almost Yugo-esque. As unattractive and poorly tactile as the materials may be, I’ve found them to be surprisingly durable. The seat upholstery, in fact, far outlived the foam padding in the seat bottom. To this GC8 owner, the newer car’s interior is steeped in luxury.

    Can’t handle the Edsel-parody nose on the Subie? Then pick up the identical car with more attractive styling over at Saab in the form of the 9-2X.

    The Impreza is distinctive in being one of the few Japanese cars that actually has a soul. The personality of these cars has always been cheerfully eager, with just a dash of attitude that makes you scoff at SUV commercials, all the while thinking “Hell, my Subaru can do that.”

  • avatar

    If it helps any, the WRX has about $2,000 in extra standard features, things like automatic climate control, a CD changer, a limited-slip rear diff, and a body kit. So after adjusting for these the turbo, larger wheels, upgraded suspension and brakes, and superior audio set you back “only” about $4,500.

    For other price comparisons:

    http://www.truedelta.com/models/Impreza.php

    I do think you’re a bit hard on the interior. It’s hard plastic, but it seems sturdy and functional to me, not shiny and cheap.

  • avatar
    Antone

    Having purchased a Saabaru (2006 9-2X 2.5i) for my “I don’t care about cars” better half, I agree it is very fun to drive. When you corner the car it actually gives great feedback, enough to build confidence. She fit the bill: Doesn’t need a turbo, wanted bad weather security and likes black cars, but doesn’t like the sexual preference stereotype of a female driving a Subaru.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Mind you I wouldn’t buy one but for 18K it’s good enough. The Mazda3 is probably a better choice for style and sport but Suburu knows their customer base ( see earlier post) and caters to repeat business by keeping the imprezza in the same style.

    What was the reviewer expecting from this car? Just because the car is called “sport” does not mean it’s fair game to consider it a sports car per se.

    At the end of the day it’s get you through bad weather, haul you to work, be famously reliable, and offers decent value. Mileage is another story with Suburus, they are known for being less efficient than comparable cars, but they’re safe cars and people seem to like them.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Antone
    She doesn’t like cars, but she likes black cars? I assume you make her do all the washing and detailing, then? :D

    Seems like a nice value if you want to save on insurance vs. the WRX, but otherwise the rex seems like it’s worth it for the extra cash.

    I like the tuner hand-me-down comment above, very true.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    It’s funny to hear all the stereotypes about Subaru owners: granola-eaters, lesbians, lefties who used to drive old VWs, etc. Here in Colorado, every other car seems to be a Subaru, owned by everyone from teachers, doctors, hippies, snowboarders, kayakers, and even Jesus freaks (as evidenced by their bumper stickers). Great cars, and they do have a lot of character. BUT…there are other Japanese cars that have plenty of character and soul. Let’s not go there, eh?

  • avatar

    The Saaburu has left the building. 2006 was its last year. GM gave most of them away for crazy money, under $20k for the turbo.

  • avatar
    ash78

    ejacobs
    Last time I was in Colorado, I was convinced that state was the only reason Subaru even sells cars in the states. I might see one Subie a day in Alabama (usually a modded WRX). , unless I’m out climbing or hiking (usually an Outback wagon). Probably the rarest major marque here, and I can’t even think of where a dealer is. There’s no stigma or stereotype with them except for “speed demon” (see WRX above).

    But it makes sense, and I’m glad that Subie offers the affordable, thinking-person’s alternative to the SUV. That’s a great niche to fill.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Why didn’t Subaru just paint that toilet seat on the grille white and add a handle ?

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    as for the trickle-down theory – sometimes it trickles up. A lot of the STI’s buyers are typically more well endowed (monitarily) than other Impreza buyers… and that rear wing IS a bit Garish. So a few people will swap trunks (spoiler and all) between a WRX and an STi.

    I personally think the STi looks fantastic without the wing; i wish it was an option rather than standard equipment.

  • avatar
    alanp

    I think the reviewer didn’t notice that the manual transmission version of the Impreza has a viscous coupled locking differential full time AWD system. The electronically controlled variable transfer center differential is only with the automatic transmission.

    And as someone who now is driving their second WRX wagon, the turbo version can be gotten out the dealer’s door for around $23K. Which makes it a heck of a buy for what it is. The only other advantage to the non-blown version is the Rex’s appetite for premium fuel.

  • avatar
    wludavid

    The mandatory 2-paragraph discussion of the design (which must include some reference to “soft touch plastic”) might be boring, but it could at least be accurate. The flared wheel arches are shared between the 2.5i sedan and WRX sedan. Neither wagon version has the flares.

    Also, how about a picture of the wagon?

  • avatar
    Ray Jaholic

    In 1997 I was so impressed with the Forester I bought one. Then about six months later, the ad wizards at Subaru started aggressively marketing my heightened, boxy Impreza to lesbians. Doh. Oh well, I kept it until my first ride in a WRX (driven by a rally driver) with the idea that perhaps this will be a subie that won’t be pitched by Paul Hogan to the birkenstock crowd… great car.

    I LOL’d when I scrolled over your pic. That being said, I have nothing against lesbians.

  • avatar
    UCBert

    Puritanism with personality.

    Populism and rugged individualism.

    Hang the crapulous interior (as we did with Beetles and and Volvo Amazons and three-cylinder Saabs) and other Indiana-built indelicacies.

    It’s a car that makes a statement without bling or appurtenances (you can buy the WRX if you want apprutenances).

    Me likee.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    wludavid:The mandatory 2-paragraph discussion of the design (which must include some reference to “soft touch plastic”) might be boring, but it could at least be accurate. The flared wheel arches are shared between the 2.5i sedan and WRX sedan. Neither wagon version has the flares.

    The title of this review should indicate to you that I was exclusively looking at the wagon. There just aren’t that many press pics FOR the wagon, unless it’s a WRX.

    alanp:
    I think the reviewer didn’t notice that the manual transmission version of the Impreza has a viscous coupled locking differential full time AWD system. The electronically controlled variable transfer center differential is only with the automatic transmission.

    You’re right, I failed to distinguish that.

    For those of you that think I’m being had on the car, I actually LOVED this little thing. Being a dedicated driver-first, I wouldn’t care if the interior was made of styrofoam and cardboard, as long as the car was fun. And it was. The Mazda3 might be sporty and attractive, but the Subaru is more fun to drive, especially if you live someplace it rains. And, to tell the truth, there were only, oh, 2 or 3 times I actually wished for more power. Other than that she was a hoot-and-a-half.

    The only real difficulty with one of these, I suppose, is coming out to find a WRX wagon parked next to you. Try not to feel a twinge of regret (unless you’ve got an RS4 Avant in the garage at home)

    Michael Karesh
    I do think you’re a bit hard on the interior. It’s hard plastic, but it seems sturdy and functional to me, not shiny and cheap.

    The Subaru’s rather crap interiors are part of the charm I think. It didn’t feel THAT sturdy, but functionality was okay. I will say this: the bargain basement Versa has a nicer feeling inside, BUT quality control seems to be much better for Subaru.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    It’s a good utility car if you want one for cheap. Most buyers, my wife included opted for an Outback wagon for the additional room. I haven’t checked the sales figures but my hunch is the Outback wagon and the Forrester are Subaru’s primary sellers. I see them everywhere. 90% of the Impreza’s I see are all WRX with the occasional STI or 2.5.

    With the 7 grand that GM is giving off of Saab 9-3 wagons I’d think I’d go that route. Only FWD however which is too bad.

    I think the only wagon I would consider buying would be the Audi S4 (2004 or later). Eight cylinder engine, manual transmission, AWD and really good looks inside and out. The only other possible wagon which isn’t made anymore and can’t be bought in the states is the Lancer Evo IX wagon. Not pretty (better looking than a WRX wagon/hatch) but oh what a sleeper.

  • avatar
    rodster205

    Gimme a Mazdaspeed 3 anyday. But then I live where we haven’t had any snow or ice in at least 5 YEARS. If I lived even one state north I’d probably prefer a Sube for the AWD.

    Why get one of these when you could get a Forester though? Not much dorkier, more room, bigger engine. And you can pick up an XT with MUCH more go for a little more after discounts, and save in insurance compared to the WRX. I drove a WRX wagon(er.. hatch) and a Forester XT back to back. The Forester XT kicks the WRX hatch’s arse.

    ash78:
    Jim Burke is the dealer, they have some at their shop near UAB if you’re curious. Go by there at lunch and test drive one, those guys have nothing better to do, that is dealer purgatory.

  • avatar

    The BMW 5-Series wagon is arguably much more attractive than the sedan. If they put the turbo six in there, it’ll be quite a package.

    GM is actually discounting the 9-3 Aero wagon even more. Rebate is over $8,000, and the dealer is also certain to discount. Altogether you can probably get well over $10,000 off MSRP. Tempting. Not a good value at $36,000, but $26,000 is a different story.

  • avatar
    UCBert

    Steve_S:

    Be careful with the S4. Current generation architecture has too much weight over the axle. Will be corrected by moving the engine southward in the next iteration.

    Current cars require constant attention to control arms, constant need to replace cv joint boots.

  • avatar

    Subaru has yet to fit a U.S.-market Forester with a decent suspension. Even the new Sport models are essentially apperance packages (though the XT Sport has stability control for the first time in a Forester).

    Check out the forum subaruforester.org, though, and it’s clear that excellent aftermarket fixes are available. Lots of lowered Foresters there.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    rodster205:

    The forester’s got more straight-line punch, but I don’t know if I’d feel as comfortable in it whilst 4-wheel drifting. The Impreza was as responsive to flagellation as a sexual deviant.

    Also, if you have a highway commute, the Forester’s a little low-geared.

    EDIT: MK’s suggestion might be a solution. However..

    (drum roll)

    Subaru Forester STI

    coming sooon…..

  • avatar

    This is a decent review but I take a little exception to the conclusion. Of course you can get a better choice for 7 thousand more but that is true for many cars. The question is for the money is it worth it compared to its similarly priced alternatives.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    Sherman Lin:The question is for the money is it worth it compared to its similarly priced alternatives.

    The answer to that is: Depends where you live. I live in Canada, where Nannook and I need to shelter from Polar Bears and flying hockey pucks by building an igloo (when it’s not raining). Thus, the Subaru is great.

    If I lived in Arizona, I’d probably would go for the Mazda3.

    It really depends what your personal feeling is on AWD: waste of gas / absolute essential.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Thanks Brendan, a very entertaining read.

    At under 18k, this sounds like a helluva value, especially for a place like upstate NY with our snow and gas taxes.

  • avatar
    TreyV

     It occurs to me I'm actually weirdly qualified for once to comment on one of these articles. I have to use two hands to count all the Imprezas and Legacies I've variously own(ed), driven extensively, or driven at length. My best friend has this exact car, a 2.5i wagon. I got a chance to give it a serious thrashing on the same roads I took my '00 2.5RS and now my '06 STI. Fortunately, he had the good sense to buy a manual. The autos in Subies, while faithful and virtually problem free, bring the conservative tendencies of (USDM, at least) Subaru products to the forefront. In a manual configuration, the inherent fun of the Impreza is quickly apparant. The handling of the 2.5i is exactly as the reviewer describes: snappy and predictable. With proper rev management, quite a bit of power can be found in even the base 2.5 engine, which itself had a tuneup for the '06 model year. (In the heavier Legacy and heavier yet Outback, pass on the base engine. There's as much 'um' as 'go' in those base models.) Obviously, the styling of the Impreza is not as immediately accessible as the Madza 3. But FHI keeps trying. Evidently someone at Subaru knows what they are doing, because the latest Legacies are dead sexy for wangons. Perhaps, I dare say, the sexiest wagons on the road. And the interior. Personally, I am a big fan of the simplicity of the various Impreza interior iterations. The plastic is soft where it needs to be and doesn't insult my intelligence by pretending to be metal or woods, which is a lot more than I can say about lots of other cars. It's durable and generally cleans up well. There are only the buttons I need. My only quibble is the parts around the center console seem to highlight scratches very easily. But despite my opinion, like exterior body styling, it's all in the eye of the beholder.

  • avatar

    I own a 2006 Impreza, although its a 2.5i sedan, not the wagon.

    I love the car. I don’t think I need to go into any of the reasons, as posters previous to myself have already covered every point I love about the car.

    The base stereo is trash, however, I went into the car knowing that, and since it is a single din unit, it can be easily replaced with something better. The doors are also insanely easy to take apart for speaker replacement, and they are sturdy as all hell.

    I must say, for those who think this car is cheap, it may be simple, but try taking things aparat and rebuilding, and the sturdyness of it all will impress.

    Bottom line, I love my car, and I’ll probably trade it in for a Legacy GT in a few years when I need a bigger car. Subaru’s package is just better, as I don’t want to spend the extra money on a higher priced German car.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    TreyV
    Evidently someone at Subaru knows what they are doing, because the latest Legacies are dead sexy for wangons. Perhaps, I dare say, the sexiest wagons on the road.

    You said wang.

    I agree, the Legacy is gorgeous. The new WRX spy shots I’ve seen look pretty good too.

    And for tha love of Pete, you try making that interior sound interesting. FWIW, it kind of felt like Subie put the dollars they pulled out of the dash into the drivetrain.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    # UCBert:
    January 31st, 2007 at 11:10 am

    Steve_S:

    Be careful with the S4. Current generation architecture has too much weight over the axle. Will be corrected by moving the engine southward in the next iteration.

    Doesn’t the Torsen-based Quattro system require the engine to sit in front of the front axle? How are they going to move the engine, or are they re-working Quattro? A friend of mine has an S4 convertible, what a blast that car is.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I don’t want to start any trouble here, but the front of the Impreza wagon reminds me of the Subaru B9 Tribeca that TTAC reviewed.

  • avatar

    WTF? It’s a 15-year old Corolla clone with AWD and thirsty engine. Even the Koreans can do better these days.

  • avatar
    UCBert

    Steve_S:

    The engine will be moved to a more traditional position between axle and driver (Corvette, Infiniti, etc).

    I loved my A4, but the car cannot compete with BMW, etc., in handling because there’s too much weight up front, causing problems with steering. As the size/weight of the engine goes up (from four to eight cylinders), well you can do the math.

    The fix is a new architecture. You can read the history of service reports on the current Audi 4 models.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Just a word on interior space.

    In my WRX I once hauled five 15.5 gallon kegs of beer, a 10# CO2 tank, a jockey box (which is a 56-liter igloo cooler) and my friend’s wife.

    These cars are plenty spacious.

  • avatar
    ash78

    rodster205
    But then I live where we haven’t had any snow or ice in at least 5 YEARS
    Careful what you say, if you commute early in the morning we may see some ice and slush on the roads tomorrow. Guess that’ll be it for 2007!

    Regarding the S4
    CV joints and control arms are relatively small, common inconveniences in the VAG world. $200 DIY for the former (rebuilt), $450 DIY for the latter. That 4.2 V8 is worlds better than the 2.7tt it replaces. Very nice car.

  • avatar
    norstadt

    The rest of the 2.5i’s body is blissfully free from flared wheel-arches, rear spoilers and other vulgarities.

    AFAIK, the rear “spoiler” on the WRX wagon is supposed to be a dust deflector, so not entirely useless. Does anyone know if that’s true?

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    JL
    ….and my friend’s wife.

    These cars are plenty spacious.

    Hope she doesn’t see that.

  • avatar
    UCBert

    Steve_S:

    1. Here’s quote on the new A5, which will be built on the new A4 chassis:

    The key difference between the new A5 and the rest of Audi’s lineup is that the engine will now be placed behind the front axle. In today’s Audi’s the engine hangs in front of the front axle, and obviously bringing the engine back will help with mass centralization and front-rear weight balance. We can safely assume the new drivetrain will include Audi’s revised Quattro with more rear wheel bias, which will complement the new engine placement.

    2. Ash 78 is right about cost; as far as inconvenience, new control arms and boots are not a small problem if you need replacements twice a year. After three years, visiting my Audi dealer got old. I was pleased to trade my A4.

  • avatar
    ash78

    UCBert
    Dealership is the key word there: the DIY things I was mentioning use much better parts than OE. I’m not saying it’s acceptable for suspension parts to fail, but to adapt Einstein’s definition of insanity–going to a dealer for the same repair repeatedly and expecting different results ;)

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    BM

    This particular wife is currently five months pregnant and was bragging last night about almost being up to 130 pounds.

    She’s 5’10″

    I’ll be fine.

  • avatar
    UCBert

    Ash 78:
    Unless you’ve got a warranty that rationalizes the insanity. It’s like xanax — it doesn’t cure the problem, but it takes the edge off.

  • avatar
    jconli1

    My girlfriend has an ’04 2.5 TS wagon. I never thought I’d be a Subaru guy. I was pushing her to get a Protege5, but the threat of Minneapolis winters while she finished school swayed her to the Impreza. We picked it up in Seattle and drove to Minneapolis in the summer. I became a believer in AWD somewhere along Going To The Sun Road in Glacier. The thing handles like nothing else I’ve ever driven in that segment. Her dirtly looks were all that was keeping me from tearing off into the tundra once we hit the eastern half of Montana.

    I soon needed a replacement for my 200k Nissan and picked up an old warhorse ’98 2.2 L wagon with low mileage but high wear from a family with two kids. Like everyone else says… the cheap interiors Subaru favors on the Imprezas aren’t much to look at, but they wear very well. And surprisingly, I have just as much fun throwing around my Subaru as I did my old SE-R.

    I know Subarus have replaced Volvos for the crunchy hard-left bad driver sterotype car… but they also remind me of Volvo in that they give a general feeling of strength and solid construction (and weight) that no other Japanese car I’ve driven comes anywhere close to.

    The tradeoff to that solid construction and drivetrain weight, of course, is lower gas mileage from a comparable car, and potentially higher regular maintenance charges… but the dry handling alone makes up for it, and if you live in a climate where rain and snow are guaranteed, its hard to justify not getting one.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Great review. Personally I’d rather cough up the extra few grand for the Legacy 2.5i wagon. Sticker to sticker the Legacy is $3,250 more, but adjusting for features (props to M. Karesh) brings the difference to $1,870.

    The Legacy is a lot nicer on the inside than the Impreza. Even the base model feels a half-step above an Accord. It looks nicer on the outside, too.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    jconli1:

    My first WRX went 105,000 hard miles before being wrecked by a drunk, unisured teenager. However, in those 105,000 very hard miles I had to replace… the battery once and the tires twice.

    New WRX just went over 20,000. Not a single problem. Again.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    As a 9-2x Aero owner, I must say there is just something about the way Subaru does things that is attractive and fun. They spend their mony on engineering, throw in some cheap but durable plastic, and dammit if their cars aren’t intoxicating to drive. They sound cheap and tinny, but they feel like they are hewn from granite, they drive intuitively and securely, and they are eager for whatever abuse you might inflict.

    And as someone who misses his grossly underpowered but thoroughly endearing and now-retired 1987 Saab 900 every day, to me the boxer thrum and transmission whine give Subarus character in an age when car manufacturers are standardizing and blandifying their cars.

  • avatar
    FreeMan

    I don’t get veggie-burgers. If something didn’t actually die for my dinner, I reckon it should at least have been pretty severely inconvenienced.

    I laughed. I cried. I about burst a spleen trying not to wake up my neighbors in the cube next door.

    Thanks!

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    UCBert: It’s off topic, but I’ve got a thing about mis-information. Re: your upcoming A4/A5 engine placement info: NOT behind the front axle. Audi reworked the transmission/transaxle to put more of THAT unit behind the axle centerline, allowing them to slide the engine back a couple of inches. Doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s hanging out front, every little bit counts.

  • avatar
    jconli1

    jl :

    Good to hear. I was talking more about the routine maintenance costs being a little bit higher than the competition (diff service, timing belt vs. chain), but the only unscheduled maintenance I’ve had was an axle boot and a scored rotor courtesy the P.O.

  • avatar
    UCBert

    Paul Niedermeyer:

    Thanks; here’s add’l clarification. This is from eurocarblog:

    The main novelty is the platform, based on a technology called “Modularer Längsbaukasten” (MLB, Modular-length components) which will be used also in future A6 and A8 models. The engine will be moved rearwards, while gearbox and differential will exchange positions, so that the new A4 will be less front-heavy than the current model.

    With these changes the front overhang will be shortened quite a bit (about 15 cm), as you can see from the following picture, which show the front of the current A4 attuale over that of the Roadjet concept, which is an anticipation of these solutions. The changed position of the engine will result in more space between the front wheel and the cockpit (the wheelbase will need to be lenghtened to offer the same space to occupants of the car).

  • avatar
    jet_silver

    There’s an old Car & Driver article on a Subaru (GL-10?) that discusses the designers’ biases. The article says they are frustrated airplane people who put the money into the powerplant and structure, and then when that’s done they think of stuff like interiors and styling. It is probably true. If you look at my ’93 Legacy wagon you can see the lines where Exterior Committee A and Exterior Committee B disagreed and just left an awkward line – not that either committee actually knew much about styling in the first place. You’ll also notice squeaks and rattles when the car’s under way, but things don’t fall off or break.

    There is nothing sexy about a Subaru, unless conditions degrade. There -is- something sexy about the only machine capable of moving when it’s ugly outside and you’re passing 4x4s that have sidestepped into ditches.

  • avatar
    ZZ

    Last time I was in Colorado, I was convinced that state was the only reason Subaru even sells cars in the states.

    You forgot Alaska…

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    Being the owner of a model in this range I can attest to the ultra low-rent interior. Just about everything inside squeaks or rattles (should the driver’s seat really flex like that ?). I’d turn the radio up to cover the noise, but that just causes the door speakers to rattle and distort some more. I dare not use the cruise control because the stalk seems so brittle. I recently hired a base Chevy Cobalt that looked like most of it’s 20k miles had been clocked up in Baghdad, but it was like driving in an isolation chamber compared to my own car (also true of the Cobalt’s steering).

    The car is a hoot to drive, carries all my stuff for camping, biking, skiing and trips to Home Depot, but unless Subaru do some serious upgrades on the interior quality they won’t get my cash next time I’m looking for a new car.

  • avatar
    quiksilver180

    Mrb00st:
    I personally think the STi looks fantastic without the wing; i wish it was an option rather than standard equipment.

    Subaru came out with an STI limited for 2007 without the wings and only has a small lip spoiler on the back. They also upgrade the interior with better leather and heated seats, and a few other things. I purchased one and it’s pretty sweet.

    My brother owns a 2006 Impreza 2.5i sedan and I’m really impressed with it. It’s basic compared to a WRX or an STI, but for what you pay for it, it’s really great. Average MPG is around 27-29, doesn’t require premium fuel, and it does have some spunk. I just got back from our state’s auto show and compared to many other cars, the interior plastic on the Subarus look much better, both in shine and in feel (not like Chrysler or Dodge).

  • avatar
    Maxwelton

    My bride’s ’98 wagon is still going strong. It’s under-powered, but it’s a fine-handling car. Would love to drive one with some actual pep.

    I love it when reviews of what amounts to an entry-level car get turned into discussions of what ultra-expensive wagon the people commenting would rather have. Hilarious.

  • avatar
    ktm

    ash78, but that 2.7tt was infinitely more tuneable and was capable of producing an ungodly amount of power on stock internals.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    Great review, Brendan. I’ve always thought the NA Impreza was woefully underrated, for all the reasons you cited: strong low-end tug, fine handling, Porsche-like engine sounds, and more character than you’ll find in any sub-$20K Japanese car.

    Just one nit: the $7K premium for the WRX doesn’t actually get you better dash/cabin plastics. Save for the sport seats and automatic climate control, the WRX’s interior is identical to the 2.5i’s.

  • avatar
    chronoguy

    I have an 2006 saab 9-2x that I paid $16,000 (after GM rebates and discounts). I must say it was one of the best buy’s I made. It is identical to the 2.5i Impreza saved for added head restraints, supposedly better interior sound deadening.

    The car’s interior is woefully pathetic. I’ve considered dumping it a few times because of the cheap interior plastics. However, the review is dead on when it comes to the ride. There is nothing under $18K that can match the Subaru NA imprezas.

    My driving habit precludes me from the 29 MPG. I get 22 mpg mixed.

  • avatar
    GlennS

    Last time I was in Colorado, I was convinced that state was the only reason Subaru even sells cars in the states.

    You forgot Alaska…

    And as already mentioned, let us not forget New England. FWIW: I seem to recall reading that two of the major markets for Subaru are Colorado and New England. Anyway…

    My wife is like another mentioned here, in that to her, a car is simply a device that brings her from point A to point B. Other than that, she loves the sure-footedness of her Subaru wagon in the wintertime. End of story for her.

    My wife’s solitary nod to pistonheadom is that she does prefer a manual transmission, bless her soul.

    When Subaru introduced the then newly-redesigned Legacy L wagon in 2000, we bought a 5-speed manual version sight unseen. All that the dealer had were slush boxes, so we ordered a 5-speed having never driven one. Not to worry, how bad could it be? And it turned out fine. It’s no snick-snick shifter, but it does what it’s supposed to.

    As my “spousal unit’s” parents lived in Vermont at the time, we drove the then-new Subaru wagon up there from our home in Connecticut. As exciting as it may be for a husband to go visit the in-laws, at least one part of that trip was interesting…

    In certain portions of rural, northern New England, Subarus can invoke reactions of near religious zeal: On our way through Vermont that fall, the wife wanted to stop at a small country store–not a general store–more the type of store where some guys would prefer to wait out in the car–kind of store.

    So we pulled into a patch of dirt serving as a parking lot, parked the car, and were walking towards the entry: Just before we got up to the doorway, a woman popped out of the place and exclaimed: “Oooohh, it’s the new Subaru!”

    My silent reaction? ‘Whoa…You talking to us?’

    You’d think a rock star had just pulled up in a hot red Ferrari! I actually had to glance back over my shoulder just to be sure she was referring to our red, yes, but surely less than sexy, station wagon!

    Turns out that she was the proprietor of the modest little place. She went on about how she had an old Subaru (apparently parked out back), and even though it was rusting away, how she loved that car. She looked over our new wagon approvingly, and gleefully ushered us in to her roadside establishment.

    As a person who appreciates the finer points of cars (unlike my wife), I will say this: Despite the lack of door sills (what’s up with that Subaru?); that it drives like a tank, and has a steering wheel the size of which you’d expect to find in a bus (Subaru spelled backwards is U-R-A-BUS, after all), our Suabru wagon is awe inspiring when not-so-fluffy, dirty-white snow litters the roadways.

    When there’s a fair amount of new-fallen slippery stuff on the ground, we leave my Civic coupe snug in our garage, and double-up in her Subaru. While lesser cars, SUVs–and coming soon to a slick road near you, CUVs–are slip sliding away on “sorta-kinda” plowed roads, the low-slung, heavy-feeling, yet always steady and sure Subaru, gets us there.

    It can be difficult to communicate a feeling, but the reassuring act of driving one in wicked weather is what makes an AWD Subaru a truly special kind of car: For those of us who have experienced piloting one on snowy, slushy, slippery roads, Subarus have few peers.

    Thinking about interior appointments may be fine on a warm summers day, but when driving on a sultry winter day, the interior is not the point: Hard plastics or not, and with apologies to James Carville: It’s the traction, stupid.

  • avatar
    Dream 50

    I agree with the people commenting about Subes being the only Japanese cars with soul. I’ve lived in Hokkaido now for the better part of seven years and have driven all sorts of “domestic” cars. The worst thing about my impending trip “home” is that there will be much fewer quirky Japanese units.

    Anyway, I have a good friend with a 2.0 twin turbo Legacy and 160,000 km. Lots of squeeks and rattles (mostly due to the clapped out suspension, I assume) and likely the most wretched shifter this side of Hell. Seriously, twenty year old Ford half-tons and Cavaliers have better shifters.

    Roads here are usually very well mantained (because construction companies own the politicians) and in the corners this thing is unbelievable. If you overdrive darn near any corner, just lift the trottle and point the front wheels where you want to go.

    The old-style equal-length intake manifold really gives the thing a cammed V8 sound and with a cat-back system it may be the meanest sounding car on the island. Parkied in a snow-covered parking lot, all you hear (feel?) is a deep bass thrumming.

    While the interior may be a little utilitarian for some, the seats are fantastic and from 2500 rpm the motor pulls like a freight train. When driving it, all the niggles faults are virtually unnoticable, and you want no other car in the world.

    That, friends, is soul.

  • avatar

    “# Jonny Lieberman:
    January 31st, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Just a word on interior space.

    In my WRX I once hauled five 15.5 gallon kegs of beer, a 10# CO2 tank, a jockey box (which is a 56-liter igloo cooler) and my friend’s wife.

    These cars are plenty spacious.

    # Jonny Lieberman:
    January 31st, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    BM

    This particular wife is currently five months pregnant and was bragging last night about almost being up to 130 pounds.

    She’s 5′10″

    I’ll be fine.”

    Hey, Johnny… was all that beer and wife hauling about 5 months ago?

  • avatar
    alanp

    “Last time I was in Colorado, I was convinced that state was the only reason Subaru even sells cars in the states.

    You forgot Alaska…

    And as already mentioned, let us not forget New England. FWIW: I seem to recall reading that two of the major markets for Subaru are Colorado and New England. ”

    There’s a reason that the Subaru dealer that sold the most cars last year was in Oregon – we have mountains, rain and snow. And according to the recent totals, 8 of the top 10 dealers were all in the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to be somewhere that Subarus don’t seem to outnumber the Hondas.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    For waht it is worth, getting an STI without the wing is like buying a Plymouth Superbird without the gigantor wing and nosecone — what’s the point?

    I mean, how they gonna know it’s a Superbird?

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    Such an abundance of positive comments for Subarus. I don’t think I read such a one-way comment section ever at TTAC.

    I have a 99 Forester that just passed 200,000 km. My only complaints are poor fuel mileage and the right rear wheel bearing that I’ve replace 3 times (apparently proving my insanity as I keep hoping it will last).

    It does handle well and is totally unstoppable when the snow falls and winter rubber is adorned. In the summer time, I use it to tow my 19′ boat, and manage to enjoy the out of doors (since I consider it a trucklette and only 70% of a real SUV, I suppose I’m only enjoying the out of doors to 70% of potential, but I still seem to have fun).

    When my Acura EL finally says goodbye (Just crossing 220,000 km), I’ll consider the Mazda 3, the Impreza and the Civic Si. It’ll be down to the test drives for the final decision.

  • avatar
    macarose

    Other than Volvo’s, I would say that I sell more Subarus than any other vehicle.

    The two brands have an awful lot in common. Durable powertrains and interiors, mass standardization of parts across multiple platforms, owners who tend to be dealer junkies, and a general bent towards customizing the offerings rather than opting for the ‘new model’ and those defects that come with it.

    I have seriously considered specializing in those two brands alone. Especially since the Subaru dealer in this area closed up shop a little while back.

    Oh, and before I forget, I managed to buy a drop dead gorgeous liquid silver 1992 Subaru SVX last night. Now THAT car is truly a testament to the virtues of sport luxury cars… which in my mind is what Subaru has become for the most part.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    My friend has a red SVX — I love that car.

  • avatar
    foobar

    This is a good review, indeed, though I could do without the veggie-burger-disparaging red-meat stuff just like some of the misogyny I find in other TTAC reviews. Your writing is good, but there’s really no need I can see for this kind of manly-man posturing, which inevitably alienates some of your audience even as it strikes others as the height of humor.

    I’ve been seriously thinking about buying an Impreza wagon and I have to concur with all your substantive points — it’s a fun car to toss around and has all the low-end push it needs even if it gets a little puttery at highway speeds. Seems like a good successor to my old ’89 Civic’s chuckable spirit, though not to its well-made luxury-on-a-budget interior. (This is a weird dichotomy facing us in the reliable-budget-compact segment right now: you can still get comfort and a nice interior from Honda, but the fun-to-drive, toss-me-into-corners spirit of the old Civics seems to live only in Subaruland.)

  • avatar
    amclint

    Ah, the SVX….did that car tank in sales or something? I like it as well, one of the best looking Subaru’s hands down. Really, compared to their other models back then and for the next few years it almost looked like they had partnered to make it or something. Maybe with Nissan, ala the 300Z? J/K, I guess they just had a creative spurt…

  • avatar
    CharlieChu

    When my Acura EL finally says goodbye (Just crossing 220,000 km), I’ll consider the Mazda 3, the Impreza and the Civic Si. It’ll be down to the test drives for the final decision.

    That’s gonna be a fun weekend.

    When my 89 Toyota Celica aka Grampa Milton died, I also did the Pepsi challenge test driving every even remotely fun looking car under $25K. The final three came down to the Mazdaspeed 3, the Impreza WRX and the Civic SI.

    While all three are incredible buys for the money, the best way I can describe the differences would be that the Civic is like Star Trek, the Mazda is like Dukes of Hazard, and the Impreza is like Mad Max.

    I ended up taking home the 2007 WRX because that one left me with the biggest grin when it came to gas, clutch, and wheel.

    And also, in Los Angeles, you can’t find the Civic SI for under a ridiculous $26K, completely negating the point of being an affordable burner.

    But yeah, I love the WRX so much that even if I had $100K to spend, I’d probably only upgrade to the STi.

  • avatar
    Brendan McAleer

    Your writing is good, but there’s really no need I can see for this kind of manly-man posturing,

    This is partly a result of weighing 150lbs soaking wet.

    There was originally (pre-edit) a bit more of a light-hearted tone to the piece, and I’ve chowed down on more than a few lentil-burgers and found them to be okay.

    Same deal this car: I’d rather have a steak, but man, is it tasty.

  • avatar
    Cavendel

    CharlieChu wrote:

    While all three are incredible buys for the money, the best way I can describe the differences would be that the Civic is like Star Trek, the Mazda is like Dukes of Hazard, and the Impreza is like Mad Max.

    LOL, I like the comparisons. Unless I get either version of Daisy in the backseat, I guess I’d go Impreza as well. Max is just way more cool than the Dukes.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    the SVX was a gorgeous car. I suspect that it was not in keeping with Subie’s 4wd utility personna.

  • avatar

    That measly 7k is almost a 40% price increase. That’s a big jump.

  • avatar
    jayinPA

    Hi all,
    Looking for some help deciding between the 2007 Impreza (sedan, though) and the 2007 Forester. I would buy the stripped-down, basic, manual tranny of either. I don’t care about the image I project, the “spiffyness” of the interior, or the stereo system, etc., but I do care about gas mileage and any upkeep issues that I should be aware of. I commute 50 miles one-way. My concerns are economy- and safety-related, and have zero to do with looks or so-called comfort issues. (I’m driving a banged-up car with no heat right now, so anything will be an improvement.) Do the Imprezas and Foresters hold their resale values equally well? I live in the snowy (esp. today) northeast. Which is going to handle better and be more reliable?

    Can anyone think of a good reason why I should spend the extra $3k on the Forester? OR, is the Impreza truly the best value. All I want to do is get to work in the most reliable, economic, and safe manner possible (which necessitates AWD where I live).

    If I am totally off base, and there is a more reliable, lower-cost, more fuel efficient AWD vehicle out there, please let me know.

    Thanks,
    Jay in PA

    PS I will post this under the Forester review, too, since it involves both.

  • avatar
    alanp

    You’re going to find either the Impreza or Forester very reliable and safe. Gas mileage isn’t the best for a car it’s size, but that’s mostly due to the full time AWD system. There’s absolutely no difference in safety or reliability between the Subaru vehicles. I can’t tell you what resale on the basic vehicles is like, but I did manage to get 71% of my purchase price when I sold my 2002 WRX wagon after 5 years. But it was a very low mileage car, which yours won’t be with a 50 mile commute.

    I suspect the Suzuki Aerio AWD or the Suzuki SX4would cost you less overall with better gas mileage. Or maybe a Jeep Compass or Kia Sportage. But I doubt any match in reliability and safety with the Subarus. Or the fun of driving – which doesn’t seem to be much of a consideration for you.

  • avatar
    jayinPA

    Well, I went with the Impreza sedan. Today I go pick it up. Invoice was $17,200. I thought it was a good deal all around… I will stop back and let you know how I make out with it. I was amazed that they have the same make from my price all the way up to $34k. I guess it just depends on how much you like those add-ons. I can’t see increasing the price by almost twice just for gadgetry and “turbo.”

  • avatar
    Richard_inVA

    Interesting review. I’d not given Subaru a second glance since the cost, complexity and mass of AWD have little rationale for on pavement use in central VA – until I added a modest towing ability to my selection criteria. Now, the Impreza wagon appears to be the only reasonable choice!

    I have been concerned, however, that road tests of the Impreza WRX in both R&T and C&D have reported mediocre handling even though the WRX has wider tires than the base model. Curiously, this review cites handling as a plus as do most of the comments that follow!?? To me, handling is THE most important realm of vehicle performance and since my present ride is a Miata, my reference plane is high. Is the Impreza as encumbered by vague understeer and uncommunicative steering as C&D indicates or is it really lithe and nimble as this site suggests?? (note: the numerical test data appear to support the magazine’s claims of mediocrity)

  • avatar
    alanp

    The WRX has great handling. In wagon or sedan trim. The problem with the measured numbers is that Subaru sends out the cars with Bridgestone RE-92 tires which are really pretty poor in traction and grip. Changing to some better tires is all it takes to up the cornering grip to somewhere nearer to .85g and it also shortens the stopping distance significantly.

    Plus with the AWD you have the ability to use the chassis to the maximum in less than perfect conditions.

    Just go to any nearby “track” day and watch the WRX’s run at silly speeds, especially in the corners. I’ve got a 2006 WRX wagon, used to have a 2002 WRX wagon and my wife has a 2001 BMW 325i – and the WRX wagons are better handling and of course faster than the BMW. For $12K less..


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