Modern Classics: Subaru WRX, 2002 2007 modern classics auto articles
Subaru WRX STi. Click image to enlarge

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By Jeff Burry; photos courtesy Subaru Canada

The Subaru Impreza WRX was first introduced in foreign markets almost twenty years ago, in 1992. Car buyers here would have to wait another ten years for the WRX model to make its way into dealer showrooms; it finally became available in late 2001 and sold as a 2002 model.

There were many unique features of the 2002 WRX, but none more noteworthy than the 2.0-litre turbocharged powerplant producing a very respectable 227 horsepower and 217 lb.-ft. of torque. Zero to 100 km/h times were typically clocked in the six second range.

Did I mention that in pure Subaru style all that power was matched to an all-wheel drive system? All this could be yours for $34,995. Not inexpensive by any means, but this was certainly a lot of style and power packed into a sport-compact all-wheel drive – and, perhaps, the perfect year-round commuter – vehicle.

Modern Classics: Subaru WRX, 2002 2007 modern classics auto articles
Subaru WRX STi. Click image to enlarge

For this second generation model, the entire Impreza line underwent a transformation which helped in redefining the sport compact market. The previously-styled “bug-eye” front end was gone (well almost) and replaced with a more purposeful, performance-oriented glare.

Torsional stiffness was increased by more than 100 per cent immediately putting more “sport” into the driving experience of the WRX. The vehicle itself was available as a four-door sedan as well as a five-door wagon, and the WRX was cousin to Subaru’s very successful World Rally Championship (WRC) model. A sheep dressed in wolf’s clothing this was not!

Transmission choices ranged between a five-speed manual which came standard on all dealer orders; for the “less feisty,” a four-speed automatic could be ordered. With a wheelbase of only 2,525 mm (99.4 in.), this WRX could be tossed around a track with ease and better yet, could make the “milk run” to the local convenience store rather exciting.

Modern Classics: Subaru WRX, 2002 2007 modern classics auto articles
Modern Classics: Subaru WRX, 2002 2007 modern classics auto articles
Subaru WRX STi. Click image to enlarge

The all-wheel drive system provided owners with an extra sense of security – even under heavy throttle, drivers would be hard pressed to “chirp” the tires from a standstill.

If it were not for the humongous, functional hood scoop feeding the massive intercooler with crisp, clean air, some might even describe the WRX as a “sleeper” vehicle.

Walking into a dealership and placing an order for a standard equipment model would provide owners with the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, five-speed manual transmission, four-channel ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) disc brakes and 16-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone all-season Potenza tires.

Interior-wise, the WRX came with various creature-comforts including six-speaker stereo with an in-dash CD changer, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt-adjust steering wheel and power windows and locks.

For the space-conscious, the five-door wagon WRX provided 790 litres of cargo space, and a whopping 1,745 litres with the rear seats folded forward. Not bad for a vehicle that can cover the quarter mile in less than 14 seconds.

Minor changes were incorporated into future WRX models, not counting, of course, the introduction of the 2004 WRX STI, which for all intents and purposes was a street-legal rally version of the Impreza WRX.

Modern Classics: Subaru WRX, 2002 2007 modern classics auto articles
Subaru WRX STi. Click image to enlarge

Non STI models faced minor tweaking of suspension and interior components, but for the most part both interior and exterior features changed little, and certainly no one was going to mess with the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. However by 2005, Subaru designers were well on their way to a more serious makeover.

For the following year (2006) the Subaru Impreza WRX received a complete exterior redesign including a front grill boasting not one, but three blacked-out grills.

Perhaps the most significant and purposeful change related to the drive-train – the former 2.0-litre engine was replaced with a new 2.5-litre turbocharged engine sharing much of the engine architecture and technology with the WRX STI.

The newer 2.5-litre engine produced 230 horsepower and 235 lb. ft. of torque. Subaru’s Active Valve Control System (AVCS) and Electronic Throttle System (ETS) were used to assist the horsepower ratings.

Three trim levels were also offered to consumers in 2006 including the TR (Tuner Ready), Limited and the “base” WRX model, and in 2007, the only noteworthy change was that the former all-aluminum suspension was now steel-cast. This was done in an effort by Subaru to keep the vehicle price competitive within the sport-compact market.

There are many phrases that could be used to describe the WRX: words like, performance-oriented, heart-pumping acceleration, precise engineering, rally-inspired and even practical, come to mind. It suggests that there is something for everyone, and indeed there was… and still is!

For further information on the WRX and other current Subaru models, check out WRX.ca