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New models - Subaru - Impreza - WRX STi sedan

Subaru Impreza gets goggle-eyed styling

New look: Subaru's revamped Impreza range, including the WRX (above), gains a goggle-eyed styling treatment and superior equipment levels.

Subaru's keenly anticipated new Impreza line-up makes its local debut

17 Oct 2000

SUBARU has used the launch of the second generation Impreza small car to rationalise the range, add features and move pricing back above pre-GST levels. The base model LX and the Sportswagon five-door hatch have been dropped, while the famous WRX turbocharged sedan and hatch are available as five-speed manuals only.

The range now consists of the GX sedan and hatch with an automatic transmission option, the sportier RX sedan and hatch, which also offers the four-speed self-shifting option, and the two WRX variants.

All models in the Impreza range now get as standard anti-lock disc brakes all-round, cruise control, air-conditioning (semi-automatic climate control in the RX and WRX), AM/FM radio with CD (in-dash six-slot in the WRX) and remote central locking.

A height adjustable driver's seat, variable intermittent wipers, front and rear fog lamps, immobiliser, dual airbags and rear centre lap-sash seatbelt also come at no extra cost.

The GX and RX manuals are also equipped with dual range transmissions.

The RX now also gets a Momo leather steering wheel, 15-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels and sports body kit. Improvements limited to the WRX include 17-inch alloy wheels and larger brakes.

The GX and RX are powered by the same 2.0-litre "boxer" engine as previously, still producing 92kW at 5600rpm and 184Nm at 3600rpm.

The WRX's turbo engine power rating remains at 160kW at 5600rpm, but torque is up 2Nm to 292Nm delivered 400rpm earlier at 3600rpm.

Both engines meet the tough Step3 European anti-pollution standard.

All cars continue to be all-wheel drive and they share the controversial "goggle-eyed" front-end styling.

Subaru claims the new Impreza is built on an entirely new platform, although suspension remains a development of the old car's MacPherson strut system.

The new bodies are said to be significantly stronger with a 147 per cent improvement in torsional rigidity.

Subaru is confident this will yield strong crash testing results as well as significant improvements in noise, vibration and harshness levels.

The Impreza sedan is 40mm wider than its predecessor and tread is 20mm wider. All kerb weights are up, including 120kg for the WRX.

The interior styling has been thoroughly revised and passenger space improved. All cars get a distinctive metallic-finish centre console and gate-type selector on automatic models. Subaru is pushing the increased value and improved engineering stories hard and that is not surprising considering the significant price increases, which are more than $1600 for the GX, more than $3000 for the RX and more than $2700 for the WRX.

The automatic option is $1870.

These increases have more than wiped out the windfall savings bestowed on buyers by the introduction of the GST earlier this year.

Subaru Australia managing director Mr Trevor Amery said the increases had been scrutinised by the GST watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and no negative feedback had been received.

He admitted introductory pricing was not guaranteed for long because of the Australian dollar's weakening purchasing power against the Japanese Yen. "The exchange rate issue is a big concern," he said.

"These prices are to get through to the end of the year but who knows what will happen in terms of the exchange rate between now and the end of the year ... we're committed to maintaining as stable a level as we can." Subaru is forecasting 7200 sales for the Impreza range over the next 12 months, including 3600 WRXs. This is up slightly on last year's figure of about 7000 sales.

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

THE good news is the new WRX looks better in the flesh than in the photographs. The bad news is it still takes some getting used to.

Those headlights continue to look out of place on what is an otherwise geometric car, accentuated by its punched-out guards and huge, rectangular air intake.

There is less debate about the driving experience.

A short drive on the flat Gold Coast hinterland this week indicates WRX remains an exciting, engaging and very fast car to drive, with many of the rough edges of the old model smoothed away.

The improved torque spread certainly appears to negate the weight increase, with the car really starting to gather a head of steam around 4000rpm and charging smoothly all the way to 7000rpm without hesitation.

Subaru is claiming acceleration figures match or exceed those of the old car.

The chassis dynamics complement the engine with superb handling, high levels of grip and go-kart-like steering response complemented by a firm but comfortable ride and more powerful brakes.

It is also significantly quieter.

The "boxer" engine's growl is muted but still evident, but the old car's creaks, groans and crashing through the rough stuff is mostly gone, proof of the increased strength of the body and the refined suspension.

Perhaps most familiar was the notchy nature of the gearshift, but there were no problems with missed shifts.

The interior look is also a significant improvement with silver highlights around the instruments, centre console and air vents. The bucket seats continue to be very supportive.

If there are any doubts, it is that what was a rough, tough, challenging car to drive has become too civilised.

It is the same sort of criticism levelled at Porsche when it released the current generation 911.

That has not stopped that car being runaway success and it is likely to be the same story for the WRX.

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