| First Drive | Stirling, Scotland | Subaru Impreza WRX-S |
Subaru has come up with a new S version of its WRX hot hatch Impreza. Developed by rally specialists Prodrive, the WRX-S seeks to answer criticisms that the standard WRX
has gone a little soft and doesn't offer the rapid fire performance expected of a hot Impreza. The WRX-S serves up 25bhp more and a healthy 51lb.ft extra torque for a £2,500 premium.
In the Metal
Subaru and Prodrive have raided the STi
parts bin for much of the WRX-S's exterior enhancements. There are STi front and rear spoilers, a rear diffuser and side skirts, which all give the car a lower, meaner look that imparts a far greater sense of the performance lurking beneath than in the standard WRX. There are also graphite-finished 18-inch 'GT1' alloy wheels shod with sticky Bridgestone tyres. On the inside, there are sports front seats with the WRX-S logo stitched into them and a Momo gearknob. Other than this, the cabin spec is as generous as in the standard Impreza WRX.
What you get for your Money
The bulk of what you're paying a £2,500 premium over a standard WRX for lies in the engine bay of the WRX-S. Prodrive has a reprogrammed the Impreza's ECU to release an extra 25bhp and, more telling, a further 51lb.ft of torque to boost the WRX-S's peak figures to 251bhp and 287lb.ft. The torque number is the important one as it takes the WRX-S close to matching the Impreza STi's. There's also a Prodrive exhaust as standard, along with the body kit and interior revisions mentioned above.
Subaru lists the bald performance facts of the WRX-S as 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds (0.6 seconds quicker than the standard WRX) and a 130mph top speed identical to the stock car. However, these figures mask the real difference the S pack makes to the Impreza. While it may not be much quicker off the mark than the base model WRX, it storms through its five-speed manual gearbox with far greater urgency. At any revs and in any gear the WRX-S makes a far more concerted lunge for the horizon. It's not quite as rapid as the STi, but it's not far off and in real world conditions the WRX-S strikes a near perfect balance of pace and precision with the controllability of the 2.5-litre boxer engine.
It's not all rosy, however, as the WRX-S is hampered by the same slightly lacklustre steering feel as other Imprezas. This is at its most marked on exactly the sort of roads where the Impreza shines in other areas, though it's not so much of a hindrance as to spoil the overall effect. The WRX-S also redeems itself with a supple ride that is surprisingly forgiving for such a hard-charging performance car.
Using an Impreza WRX-S as your sole daily transport will be much less taxing on your senses and licence than an STi. It can settle back on the motorway and cruise in peace thanks to the engine keeping quiet, little road noise and well suppressed wind whistle. The seats are comfortable and driving position good, though the steering wheel doesn't quite adjust high enough for some drivers. There's also the Impreza's practical hatch and decent rear seat space. The WRX-S will also return fuel economy in the high 20s mpg when driven with a modicum of restraint. However, if you make regular forays into the upper reaches of the WRX-S's rev counter in daily driving, you can expect little better than high teens mpg, which could soon prove very expensive.
Subaru's new WRX-S is really the Impreza the standard WRX should have been from the get-go. It has the hard-charging edge and big-lunged turbo performance we came to associate with previous generations of the Impreza and transforms this car from hot hatch into a serious performance machine. The mid-rev pull offered by the Prodrive-modified engine makes a huge difference to the way the Impreza feels and drives and the £2,500 premium is money very well spent in our book.