NEW FOR 2008:

– Redesigned model
– Optional automatic transmission on WRX models
– WRX STI available only as four-door hatchback
– Exterior colours: Spark Silver Metallic, Dark Grey Metallic and Lighting Red added; Crystal Grey Metallic, Garnet Red Pearl and Urban Grey Metallic deleted

For 2008, the Impreza line-up is redesigned, with new styling and more spacious interior. The “aircraft heritage” nose copied from the B9 Tribeca has been retired after only two model years in favour of a more subdued design; the styling of the WRX and WRX STI have also been remodelled to keep them more consistent with the rest of their Impreza siblings. Base prices are lower than 2007 MSRPs.

Among the changes for 2008 are a new Legacy-based chassis with longer wheelbase, engine revisions for improved low- to mid-range torque and better fuel efficiency, lower centre of gravity, standard curtain airbags, larger exterior mirror surfaces, new wheel designs, front hood gas struts on all models, wider rear liftgate (on hatchback models), vehicle information and audio displays at the top of the dashboard, larger interior volume, larger door openings, and larger trunk.

The WRX receives a redesigned turbocharger, and its rear differential changes from a viscous limited-slip to a conventional open type; the 2.5i Sport Package and WRX models are now equipped with stability and traction control, which can be turned off if desired.

All trim lines except the WRX STI are available in four-door sedan or four-door hatchback configuration. Two engines are used: a naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder in the 2.5i and 2.5i Sport Package, and a 2.5-litre with turbocharger in the WRX sedan and hatchback. Both WRX sedan and hatchback models were only available with a standard transmission in 2007, but for 2008, all 2.5i and WRX variants use a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic with manual shift mode. All include Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive (the name refers to the components arranged symmetrically along the vehicle’s axis, for better balance).

The WRX STI is now available only as a four-door hatchback; its 2.5-litre turbocharged engine has been revised with variable valve timing on intake and exhaust, and along with a revised exhaust system, horsepower rises from 293 to 305; a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission is the sole choice. Its Driver Controlled Centre Differential (DCCD) is enhanced with three new automatic modes, and the Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) is integrated and has three settings of its own, including the ability to turn it off completely. Also new is SI-Drive, originally used on the Legacy spec.B, which allows the driver to control engine mapping, with Intelligent mode for everyday traffic, and two Sport modes. Other changes include a larger intercooler, which uses air only and no longer has a manual water-spray button; aluminum front A-arms instead of steel; a double-wishbone rear suspension instead of inverted strut design; and a lower hood scoop.

Features on the 2.5i models include 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, CD/MP3 stereo, cruise control, tilt wheel, power windows, heated mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, power locks with keyless entry, floor mats, and 60/40 split folding rear seat. The hatchback adds an intermittent rear washer/wiper.

The 2.5i Sport Package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, six-CD/MP3 stereo with two tweeters and auxiliary jack, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist, body-coloured door handles, fog lamps, windshield wiper de-icer, traction and stability control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and heated seats. The hatchback also adds side ground effects, tonneau cover and roofline spoiler.

Features on the WRX models include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, six-CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack and SIRIUS Satellite Radio, cruise control, tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped wheel, heated mirrors, functional hood scoop, windshield wiper de-icer, variable intermittent wipers, stability and traction control, heated seats, and 60/40 split folding rear seat. The hatchback adds a tonneau cover and rear washer/wiper.

The WRX STI adds 18-inch BBS forged aluminum wheels with summer performance tires, Brembo high-performance brake system, Xenon headlamps, integrated ground effects, six-CD/MP3 stereo, DVD-based navigation system, STI-specific multifunction wheel, aluminum alloy sport pedals, heated sport seats with Alcantara inserts, and STI-embroidered floor mats.

The Impreza’s redesign is well done, offering a lot of engineering for a price that, surprisingly, dips below that of the 2007 offerings (the base model is $2,000 less). The new interiors look better-quality than the previous models, but the doors and trunk lid still sound cheap and tinny when they close. The driving experience is good, with punchy engines, road-hugging handling and a confident, balanced feel. The fire-breathing WRX STI is expected to be a late entry into the line-up.

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