By on February 22, 2021

2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Subaru Impreza has been with us since the 1993 model year, and you’ll still see plenty of the first-generation Impreza Outback wagons on the streets (and in the junkyards) of Colorado. All US-market Subarus got all-wheel-drive starting in the 1997 model year, so the company’s American marketers had to show a distinction between the outdoorsy/nature-loving image of the Impreza Outbacks and the rally-inspired image of the other Imprezas when the second-generation cars appeared here for 2001. Here’s a hard-to-find early-second-gen Impreza 2.5 RS sedan, showing off its WRX-like styling in a Denver self-serve yard.

2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS in Denver junkyard, decklid emblems - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIn fact, all ’02 Impreza sedans that weren’t WRXs were RS 2.5s; the Outback Sport came only in wagon form.

2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS in Denver junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe first-generation WRX never made it to American Subaru showrooms, so the ’01 WRX was the first to appear on our roads (legally, that is). The 2.5 RS sedan shared some body parts from the WRX, along with some WRX-ish wheels and a big decklid spoiler. Just as the Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally looked sort of Evo-ish while packing a commuter-grade econo-engine beneath the hood, so did the Impreza 2.5 RS get the ordinary 165-horse, naturally-aspirated H4 engine that went into all those jillions of Legacies and Foresters.

2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS in Denver junkyard, gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe installation of a Fun Reduction Device made this car even less WRX-like.

2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS in Denver junkyard, wheel - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBut! Someone decided this car looked sufficiently racy to give the wheels the red-paint treatment.

2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS in Denver junkyard, hood - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI don’t know if a real WRX scoop was glued/bolted here or if it was a furiously aftermarket unit, because some junkyard shopper purchased it before I got here.

OK, this JDM ad is for the second-gen WRX sedan, but it’s just so heroic that we all need to watch it.

For links to more than 2,000 additional Junkyard Finds (including many Subarus), visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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20 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS Sedan...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Head gasket, no doubt. And maybe not even the first one.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      And every time, the motor has to come out.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yep, and water pumps too. I’ve been looking at older Subarus as a ride for my youngest kid, and both these repairs are killers.

      Apparently the factory gaskets were excrement, but the replacements aren’t, and once this is taken care of, you should be set for a good long time.

      Tried out an older Outback (with a manual, natch) and these have an honest, agricultural charm.

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Several timing belt replacement kits for these Subie boxers built after 2015 or so, including Gates, have many components made in China which fail very early. We’re talking 30,000 miles early. So unless you know what kit was used, this is a job that should be done ASAP, because if it fails it will grenade the engine as it’s an interference engine. So that’s $1,000 right there.

        There’s the aforementioned head gasket issue. That’s about twenty five hundred bucks. Then the automatic transmissions are reliable but don’t last forever. That’s another two to three grand.

        I would say overall, a 2.5 equipped Subaru from this era would be right up there with an E60 5-Series if I were looking for reliable cheap transportation.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    I’m shocked. Appears to be factory muffler. What, No Fart Can?? What would the modern American landscape be without an amplified wheezy flat 4 with a slushbox (don’t forget unmuffled Powerstrokes or Loud HDs).

    As far as Subaru head gasket issues, I have yet to take a trip up I-70 w/o seeing a Subby barfing its cooling system into the storm drain system that feeds to Clear Creek somewhere just east of the Eisenhower Tunnel. Even better are the Bernie voting young 20 somethings staring at their left leaning sticker festooned dead ride wondering about Japanese Quality.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      My sister owned a 2002 Forester. There were signs of head gasket demise long before it reached the point of destruction. At her mechanic’s urging, she had the head gaskets replaced at 45k miles, and got another 200k miles out of it before getting another Forester.

      The 20-somethings you saw may well have ignored the warnings, both by the car and mechanics. Given the financial circumstances of 20-somethings, the latter warnings were likely few and far between, and the former were too mysterious for a 20-S to understand. I imagine their first car was a hand-me-down Civic or Corolla.

      • 0 avatar

        Why they cannot replace head gasket in plant?

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          You mean, put a better quality head gasket on the engine at the factory? The one they used initially was likely cheaper, and lasted long past the drivetrain warranty. Power train warranties are longer now, but were the same as the rest of the car 20 years ago.

          They switched to a better gasket that lasted longer, (and my sister got those installed) because it turned out to be a black eye for the brand. The earliest gasket replacements were the same cheap ones, and as SCE to Aux mentioned, they failed too, and owners were VERY angry.

          It’s not much different from the mess Chrysler had with cheap paper gaskets on the Neon – most of the gaskets lasted longer than the power train warranty at the time, though frequently not by much.

  • avatar
    redapple

    >cADDY Funny

    > M Martin, Any way to find the miles at time of death? Hook up a battery. Turn the key. Or Hook up a battery and go in the OBD? Or go to CARFox and snoop around. It would add a lot to the story.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      totally agreed. On carfax’s website you can type either the VIN or license plates in and will throw basic information regarding maintenance and registration. It’s definitely not a full VIN report but its useful, fast and FREE.
      I’ve done that a few times when car shopping and actually caught a rollbacked odometer when I helped a friend to look for used cars.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Red wheels? Everyone knows on a Subie these should be gold. However if red brakes are better then red wheels must be full of awesome? Right?

  • avatar
    Featherston

    Meh, I’m loath to criticize a car that uses the “take the engine from the bigger model and put in in the smaller model” recipe, whether it be a late-’30s Buick Century, a Cavalier Z24, or this.

    If you know what you’re buying and why you’re buying it, the “warm” version of a car can be a good purchase. (“Warm” meaning it has something substantive to improve power or handling, i.e., not just a body kit. In fact, warm is best when it doesn’t require a body kit.) A friend has had a good experience with the slightly up-engined 2.3L version of a first-gen Mazda 3. It’s peppy and reasonably fun, and he’s not under any illusion that it’s a Speed3. This Impreza, I imagine, served its first owner in a similar capacity before being abused by a third owner.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      This is why I’m eyeing the Sonata N-Line as my low-budget-option next car. I’m not looking at it expecting a track rocket; I’m looking at it has a regular Sonata with a little bit of get-up-and-go (or really an awful lot of get-up-and-go, if the numbers are to be believed). Not everything needs to be an RS3.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        I didn’t know the Sonata N-Line was a thing; I just read the CAR AND DRIVER review. 0-60 in 5.0 is definitely beyond “warm” in my world. The old 2.0T would be warm in my book.

        That N-Line sounds like a better-executed, Korean successor to the LS-powered Impala SS and Grand Prix GXP, and I mean that more as a compliment than a gibe. Keep us posted; it sounds like a fun car.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    When we traded in my wife’s ’01 WRX when we got our ’12 Mini, the dealer told us it was only running on 3 cylinders. I suspect he was likely correct, as there was an intermittent check engine light that our local mechanic never was able to ascertain the cause of. None the less, the WRX had given us more than 100,000 miles of service, and I think my wife does occasionally regret giving up the all wheel drive of the Subaru. The Mini has been resting under a pile of snow for a while now, though it has snow tires and is quite capable of being driven in the winter.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Had an 05 Wagon. These were cramped cars with lousy gas mileage, low 20’s most of the time even if you drove it gently. The 4AT transmission was very indecisive, alternating between slow downshifts when you wanted a downshift, or a sudden downshift when you didn’t want one, or early upshifts. With a manual it might have been tolerable. Only kept it 8 months and got a manual 06 Mazda3 hatch instead, which was a much more enjoyable car.

  • avatar
    V16

    Why would an sport sedan buyer choose this over the new Sonata N series?
    The V6 motor is the ONLY plus.

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      My school teacher had the 2002 Sonata N Line. Definitely a better choice over a 2002 Impreza. It was pretty sporty. For some reason, most sonatas I see from 2002 were silver, white, or black. The bug eye headlights were very popular at that time.

  • avatar
    DeClercq

    Well this is sad to see. I bought one of these new back in the day because I couldn’t afford the WRX. Mine was dark blue and a 5-spd manual. Traded it in a couple of years later for a 2004 Forester XT, 5-spd. Now THAT was a fun ride.

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