Many of the weekly magazines such as Autocar and Auto Express had first drive tests, and the BBC Top Gear and Channel 4 Driven programmes featured them also. Early feedback suggested that the Impreza had grown up, much to the disapointment of many current owners. The cabin is much more refined, quieter and comfortable and a class ahead of the older version. Unfortunately performance is not as good in standard form as the outgoing model due to the increased weight with 0-100km times reported in Australia and here in the UK being down. Ride and handling is improved although feel through the steering (never a strong point on the older car) is very poor in comparison but grip levels are up due to the wider rubber and track. There are a couple of test drives in the IWOC reviews section and we now have several owners in the UK, USA and Australia.
EVO magazine ran a back to back comparison with the New Age WRX MY2001 and out going MY2000 Impreza in the December 2000 issue. The MY2000 was supplied by an IWOC member who was lucky to be one of the few people to have test driven the WRX in October! Conclusions were similar to what had been heard over in Australia, in that the car was much more refined and a little bit slower as a result. The handling was thought to be superior with more grip but unfortunately less feel.
And now the much promised test drive report. First the WRX.
Fellow IWOCer Colin Carter and I were able to take the WRX saloon, which I had photographed above during its PDI, out on a test drive two days later (being Quenbys demonstrator). It also gave me a chance to take a few more pictures.
The 4 door WRX does not come (yet) with bucket style seats here in the UK but to be honest from getting into the car and out again I did not really notice. They are quite supportive and easy to get on with, unlike the seats in the 97-2000 cars which can be a bit painfull if you do not sit in them correctly.
The dashboard layout seems strange and big compared to the smaller one in the previous car and tells you things like outside temperature and the like. The "bright" switch is now located to the indicator switch. I found for optimum steering wheel position I lost the top of the speedo. The metallic surround on the centre console looked the part and I would think the walnut trim accesory pack might look a bit odd.
Pedal position was ideal/no different? Yes those blue drilled metal pedals seen in the pictures above during PDI had now turned silver in colour (i.e. no blue plastic "onion skin" protective covering).
Turn on the ignition and start up the engine. Mmm very quiet. Into first, the clutch seemed lighter and away we go. Pulling away it felt so smooth and boy was that engine quiet. In fact I commented to Colin that it must be electric! It was very impressive the way the engine pulled from low down as we went down Baldock High Street, definately non turbo like. Moving through the traffic the first application of the brakes was surprising. They are the same 4 pots up front as found on my P1 and the normal MY99/2000 turbos but they cetainly felt better. The reassuring intercooler hump told you that it was an Impreza but the wierd eyeball wings told you that it was not. In fact that bonnet line looked well strange.
On getting out of the town and onto a country road it was full steam ahead....but immediate disapointment. Imagine a straight line power "curve" and you can imagine how the new WRX performs. No drama, no kick in the pants...it just gets faster.
Approach the first bend and apply those brakes. Wow they are good. No doubt they'd smoke after a few hefty stops like the previous versions but the feel is excellent. (I never looked inside the engne bay to see if all Subaru had done was beef up the mounting bracket/fit a MRT support ;-).
Feel through the steering was a disapointment. Too much assistance? Even with 17in wheels fitted you could not feel what was going on. The ride was good, maybe too soft and luxurious compared to my P1! The car cornered well which was surprising concidering my previous quote on the soft ride. Apply throttle and....nothing. OK so it does get faster, and a fare rate of knots...but not like what I'm used to. OK so I am a P1 owner but it had no kick whatso ever and felt slower than my previous MY97.
Trying a bit of spirited driving, the car works well. Keep the revs up (oops sorry guys;-) and you are flying. BUT brake for a bend, slow down, let the revs drop and accelerate it seems an age. OK the car had not done many miles and we were not silly in it as I do have some sense of mechanical sympathy but the mid range torque was disapointing.
Half way through the drive we swapped over and I became passenger to Colin. His write up is in the IWOC reviews section but here is mine from the passenger seat. First noticeable thing was that soft ride. Very soft in fact (I let Colin have a drive in my P1 afterwards and was shocked how hard the thing is!). OK so I don't travel well, but I might have got car sick on a long journey.
On the return towards Baldock we were into the sun and the little sun visor between the two main sunvisors came into action. IMHO its about half the size it should be to be of any use. Colin thought anything was better than nothing but I thought why goto the expense of supplying something thats too small? Scoobysport upgrade please? Playing with the radio we came to the conclusion that it was pretty naff...then again it might have worked better with the aerial up. Still no electric aerial Subaru, tut tut. Switch gear on the dash was a step up although the fog light switch isn't aparently as its the same one as fitted previously (didn't notice myself).
Handling is very good out of the box but I preferred a harder ride (with the P1 I've got one!). The feel through the steering should have been a lot better though.
If Subaru had built the new Impreza with a 3 litre normally aspirated lump in the engine bay then this is how it would have driven I would think. As a piece of automotive engineering they should be commended as it has now made the car civilised for Joe Average who does not want a huge rush of turbo mid corner. For us enthusiasts having a turbo will allow relatively cheap modification and tuning and I'm sure that a tweek of the mapping will satisfy all of us on IWOC ;-)
Onto the UK300 PPP test drive
Back to MY2001 news.
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