By on February 1, 2016

2000 Subaru Impreza RS

Few people get dressed up for a test drive, but I had to be convincing and look respectable. I was an occasional college student at the time, somewhere between my freshman and sophomore years on the 10-year plan. I walked into the local Subaru dealer and waited to be approached.

I can’t tell you how I did it, but I ended up taking a new Impreza for a test drive, solo. Thank goodness, as my early-20s self had long dreamt of sliding a Subie around some gravel, with a handbrake pull to get the car to rotate. The polyester-clad salesman would have stopped the fun entirely too early.

If you bought a slushbox-equipped Impreza wagon sometime in 1998 from a dealer in Columbus, I’m sorry.

I’m reminded of this as I sit down for my daily car shopping, and this 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS appears before me. Though in general I don’t prefer white cars, this four-door RS looks so right in gleaming white. The basic alloys fitted to these later cars are perfect as well. I’ve read that the earliest 2.5 RS had serious head gasket issues, eventually to be corrected by the time this car came around.

I can hear a bunch of you furiously typing WHY NO WRX/STi? For me, it can be reduced to style. I simply love the lithe looks of the early cars, where the later cars look bulky and bulbous. 300-plus horsepower from a turbo is certainly appealing, however.

A couple years after drifting the wagon, I was actually in the market to buy a new-to-me car, rather than simply hooning with impunity, and I found a used RS at a massive used car lot just outside of town. They even had it in my preferred black with the gold alloys.

Jack’s mentioned this particular dealer — and their shenanigans — in the past, and naturally I was bitten. They couldn’t find the keys. We waited for a couple hours for a chance to drive this Impreza RS, but were spurned. I ended up buying a Ford Focus a few weeks later.

Someday …

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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51 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 2000 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Invalid link, nooooooo.

    And a nationwide search reflects it’s no longer on cars.com.

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    Argh! It was one of the few I could find that wasn’t an absolute pile of NOPI parts and broken dreams.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    The megaplasticity of that front end was worthy of Pontiac.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I had a 2.2L Wagon, of 1997 vintage. It ran out of puff at speeds above 40, the boxer engine was rather rough, the interior not that nice, and it only got 20mpg. There was also wind noise from the frameless windows, which liked to get stuck shut in frozen weather conditions. True fear is tugging at a frozen frameless window at -2 degrees.

      It had a smoking habit too, because the ripped CV boots threw hot grease onto the exhaust sometimes.

      However it WAS handy for hauling things, and it was a nice shade of 90s green. And it was also derpy looking, which I enjoyed.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        I love you for that last sentence!

        • 0 avatar
          TonyJZX

          The ‘plasticity’ of the front pales in comparison to the interior.

          Never driven an N/A one, the WRX is kind of fun though… if you have the RS do you ever wonder what the WRX is like?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I was almost tempted to say “Well it’s equivalent to what everyone else was doing at the time in compacts.” RE: interior plastics.

            But then I thought about the equivalent (same price) Corolla from that time, and it had vastly superior interior materials. So no, not the same!

            As well, this model ran from what 95-00? And it came around in 92 for all other markets, so it was a pretty old design from the get-go.

        • 0 avatar
          VW16v

          Ride, this is not a dating site. Calm down you two.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Oops.. sorry if I embarrassed Corey.

            I’m beyond embarrassment!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I was just glad you’re aware enough to know the word derpy.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You can’t love someone without wanting to date them?

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “I was just glad you’re aware enough to know the word derpy.”

            I defined the word long before it was coined!

            That’s why when I go to the big arraignment in the sky, the only charge that I’ll agree to is having passed up a chance at a new Element.

          • 0 avatar
            VW16v

            “I was just glad you’re aware enough to know the word derpy.”

            The word “glad” could have easily been “Love”. Come on you two. This is legal now throughout the land. This could be TTAC version of Transparent.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I knew a secretary who had one (a rare RS coupe in this same white) but it always made sense to me because she had a long commute and was required to be at work come heck or high water.

    Otherwise these barely registered on my radar when they were new. I’d rather have an Impreza based Outback Sport wagon.

  • avatar
    omer333

    You can find later versions of the RS in varrying conditions all day here in Utah. I want to say the occassional early versions in coupe and sedan flavors show up too.

    I find myself really wishing I threw caution to wind and got a Subie in any of the AWD sporty trims.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    As the 16 year old owner of a plum colored 1993 Impreza in 99, this was my dream car. The rally scoops and gold wheels (on the 1998 models) and the big 2.5L making 50% more power than my tepid 1.8L were what I lusted after. I eventually bought a lightly used 2001 2.5RS sedan in silverthorn metallic in 2003. It really wasn’t that fast or that great of a handling car, but it was light and charming. I plucked a set of the 1998 gold 5 spokes, a wing from the coupe, and painted the sideskirts to match the body. It was a fantastic looking little car. I never should have let it go because the GTI that I bought afterward was a short lived lemon. My brother drove the 2.5RS into the ground over the next 5 years and when I had an opportunity to get it again, it was mangled from several wrecks, the head gasket was gone, and the cancer had taken the rear quarter panels.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Subbie people will know but one of these 2.5 motors has issues and one did not, I can’t recall if it was the DOHC or SOHC.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I believe it was the 2.5 DOHC version, which was put into all Legacys there for a while, making them a non-starter for used purchase. The 2.2 was SOHC.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        2.5 DOHC engines popped head gaskets as early as 70k. The 2.5 SOHC engines usually waited a little bit longer (100k). There were also issues with the early MAP or MAF sensors with either the 98 or 99. Basically, if you wanted one of these cars, you wanted a 2000 or 2001. I, personally, will wait until I can import one that has all the right parts from the factory instead of messing with a motor swap. 2000 Subaru Impreza WRX STI sport wagon in cashmere yellow on factory gold wheels.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          In Gran Turismo 2 way back when, I had the Legacy GT Spec-B (I think) in cashmere yellow!

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            My favorite GT2 Ride was the Legacy GT in the deep forest green color. I threw every conceivable upgrade at that car.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Mmmmmm GT2. Where I rode that black Mazda Silvia forever and eventually worked my way up to a Jag XJ8 which drove terribly and yet I kept racing it. The Camaro SS was prob my favorite although it was a b*tch on some courses.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I much enjoyed doing the entry-level Mazda Cup, and racing my Eunos Cosmo against all the little Demios and Proteges. Hilarious fun, and I’d lap them by the end of lap 2 around Autumn Circuit.

            And no cr. penalty for using a too-powerful car!

            That damn Camaro SS in blue and white was such a PITA. Too big and wolly for most courses.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            You may be thinking B4. The Spec B was a 2005 or 2006 Legacy GT for the US market. I have seen a few B4s in my Japan travels. Just as drool worthy now as then. I’d still go first gen Impreza WRX/STI, though. They fit me like a glove. I get a little bit of deja vu when driving my FR-S sometimes because it is such a fitted car.

            I fired up GT3 on the PS2 about a month ago. I was such an Impreza fanboi. I bought basically every one that showed up in the used garage. haha

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yes, B4! That thing could handle.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I had the VIPER ridiculously modified and was great for top speed but I couldn’t stay on Laguna Seca to save my life.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I sure did crash a Shelby Cobra every time I tried to drive one.

  • avatar

    All…A.L.L. non-turbo 2.5 Subies, 1996-2011, are prone to head gasket failure.

    Strangely enough, depending on the year, they’ll either leak into the engine – or outside the engine.

    The earliest ones leaked into the engine. After (I think) 2003, when some upgrades took place, they leaked outside the engine. At least when they leak outside, you can live with it as long as you maintain proper coolant level.

    We owned a ’98 Legacy Outback, repaired under an extended warranty by Budd Baer in Washington, PA. They used Fel-Pro gaskets and we had no more issues until we traded it in.

    The second Outback, an ’05, came from Day-Apollo’s Dormont location in Pittsburgh. These head gaskets were replaced with a Subaru factory part and they began to fail again some 60 – 70,000 miles later. The technician seemed to act as if head gaskets were a maintenance item instead of a one-time repair – presumably hoping we’d look to trade.

    Which my wife did, six months later. On a pre-owned Equinox LTZ from another dealer who’s more than taken care of her and the vehicle.

    A piece over on Curbside Classic revealed Subaru actually has (or had) a maintenance regimen involving frequent coolant changes and a proprietary conditioner that would prevent the problem. But that seemed to be kept as secret as those faulty GM ignition switches that came back to haunt them.

    For those who buy new or CPO and trade before 80,000 miles, self-destructing head gaskets aren’t a problem. That usually appears at 90-100,000 miles. Even though I have no intentions of buying another Subie, I’ll still be interested to see how durable their new-gen 2.5’s are with the timing chain and other upgrades, including the head gaskets.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Thanks for the info.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      What I always thought was interesting is that Subaru seemed to be able to design/spec the turbo motors so the gaskets were much more reliable. Which indicates to me that they knew how to address the problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The big problem with the 2.5L was the fact that it was overbored from the factory to get the big displacement. It just didn’t have much material between the cylinder and the water jacket. That same cylinder design also made them poor candidates for forced induction. The cylinder walls didn’t have enough material to keep their shape with lots of air and fuel crammed in there.

      The current FB25 engines are long stroke, so the thin wall that makes for a thin gasket shouldn’t be an issue.

      The factory forced induction ej25 didn’t have the cylinder wall thickness issues, but I’m not shocked that the head gaskets were still no good. I’d want my Subaru with an ej207… none of the 2.5 nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      The coolant conditioner additive is recommended at every coolant change interval in the ’06 Forester owner’s manual. Not sure about other models or years.

      The coolant conditioner is a re-labelled bottle of Holt’s Radweld.

      If that’s all it takes to keep them sealed, then I wouldn’t consider it a problem. But I have no knowledge of long-term ownership. The owner of that ’06 bought hers new and hasn’t had any issues yet but also doesn’t drive much. I’d be surprised if she has more than 60k miles on it.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Owned two Subaru’s back in the eighty’s and ninety’s that my wife drove to work and both cars after approx 70’000 miles were problems. The best was going shopping for the weekly food supply and the wife parking heard a strange sound and shut off the engine. I stepped out of the car and the ground was covered with water and oil. Had the car towed home and had to pull the motor and reseal everything. After adding a new clutch and hooking up the backup light wire i noticed the entire bottom of the car was returning to a natural state “Rust”. Next day i put an ad in the local paper and sold it. That was the last Subaru i would buy. Funny at the time i owned a VW that had about 160000 miles on it and never gave me a bit of trouble. My running buddy went on vacation last year and his 2008 Subaru with 121000 locked up after coming out of the Holland tunnel. He has owned 3 Subaru’s but solved the problem this time by buying a Honda Accord. He now sleeps nights.

  • avatar
    dogn

    I bought mine new in 2000. It has 176,000+ miles now and is still pretty. Photo album: http://imgur.com/a/8gH6E#0

    • 0 avatar
      omer333

      I think maybe part of the reason why I have been wanting one of these is because the boxy shape isn’t made anymore. It’s like a Datsun 510 in that respect.

      I’m going to tell you the same thing I told the guy I almost bought an Impreza GT from (after I chickened out on the deal): DON’T SELL IT! KEEP THAT CAR!

  • avatar
    Speedygreg7

    I bought a 2001 Impreza 2.5RS Sedan in Silverthorn Metallic 5MT as my first new car in November 2000. It was a great looking car. 2000 and 2001 are the years to get as you got the better engine, better air flow meter and a rear LSD. These are rare cars. Mine was one of only 1000 sedans with MT made for 2001.

    The seats were a little too wide, but otherwise good. The 16″ wheels were 7″ wide and were light at 16 lbs. Better than what the first WRXs came with. When the 2002 WRX came out, the only thing nicer about it than the 2001 RS was the seats. There was so much boost lag that by the time the power came on, I did not care anymore. The WRX was 3000 lbs, the RS 2800lbs. The 2.5RS was a torquey little thing and had short gears.

    I did not paint the side skirts like Quentin, but got the Version 5/6 grill, chin spoiler and rear spats and was well as the Version 4 rear spoiler. At the time it was popular to get the JDM aluminum bumper beams and the aluminum hood from the JDM model to save 100lbs.

    Subaru did a ton of warranty work on my car……I’m sure they lost money on that deal. My car always had rod knock and a clattering clutch from day one. I got a new engine and clutch under warranty at 30k. The second clutch was just as bad. Subaru also replaced the catalytic converters, fuel sending unit and o2 sensor under warranty.

    The suspension was way too soft from the factory, but I never modded the car as I had (and still have) an FC RX-7 that was just so much better to drive. Why waste my time and money??

    I finally sold the car with 80k when I got totally fed up with the non folding rear seats. I hate roof racks and my bicycles would not go in the car.

    My next daily was a Subaru wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The non-folding rear seats were super annoying. I almost bought a WRX wagon after the 2.5RS for wagon hauling, but Subaru’s stupid options pushed me toward a GTI. I’d probably still have the WRX had I gone that way instead.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Shame US got shafted again with the engines, no jdm goodies for the states. Top spec was Plain jane 2.5, but ej207 for Japan. A series production turbo engine that freely pulls to 8000rpm redline, what was rest of the world doing? Even the Germans had their hands full with NA engines reaching 8k, getting a turbocharged engine that high was a pipe dream for the rest of the world :) having driven a sti type r v5 – its total madness. Awd + 1160kg + sudden huge rush of boost and torque with a wide powerband all the way to 8k…sounds like a 250k usd exotic today :)

  • avatar
    05lgt

    RS 2.5’s have more wheel travel than a WRX (not so low) and less torque along with more predictable torque delivery which means more traction in many fun circumstances. Less likely to be completely molested than a WRX is another bonus. Preemptively replace the head gasket with something that works (Cometic?). Get stupid in it.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I desired a 2.5 RS coupe at one point. My girlfriend thought the spoiler was ridiculous. She was right, but I hadn’t realized that yet.

  • avatar
    honda_magna85

    I helped my buddy move one of these across town last year. Not in the condition of the picture above. Not even close. Upstate NY in the rust belt, any of these car that are left are full of holes.

    Anyway, my buddy knew a guy at his work that was having trouble selling a subaru impreza. My buddy is pretty enterprising and a pretty good backyard mechanic so he said he would drive it to his house, clean it up, and advertise it in his front yard (he lives on a main road).

    We go to pick up the car. Originally i was going to take my truck and flat tow it but we thought that might attract more attention then just driving it, as long as it started. Car looks beat. Starts up, blue smoke, hole in the exhaust that sounds like an open header. My buddy says just follow me real close since there is no plates on the car. I’m following him watching it lurch all over the road (automatic transmission has seen better days). He stops at a gas station and puts in a gallon to get back to his house. Somehow he got the car to make it home.

    He did get it all cleaned up (and he has a gift for lipstick on a pig). I think he advertised it for $1000 and ended up selling it for $300, which was quickly converted to beer, burgers, and fireworks and we had a hell of a party as his house that night.

  • avatar
    mattmers

    I had a 1993 Impreza L AWD, was fantastic. It had its problems especially with its 1.8l engine but it never left me stranded. The interior was crappy but at the same time weirdly welcoming. The AWD was fantastic. I only got rid of it because I got screwed on a repair and It ate through new tires in under 5000 miles. I had a bunch of new part and sold it to a guy who was planning to make it a trail car. He is planning to drop a 2.2 into it to give it some pep and yes I still text him to check the progress of my baby.

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