The Subaru Impreza RS four-door sedan bodystyle is new for 2000. This sporty compact sedan offers standard all-wheel-drive, a 165 horsepower 2.5 litre ‘boxer’ four cylinder engine, four disc brakes with ABS, 16 inch radials and alloy wheels, sport seats, and air conditioning. Asking price is $26,995.
Sporty RS Impreza now offered as a sedan as well as a coupe
Want all-wheel-drive, but don’t have a lot of money? Think Subaru.
In Canada, there’s only one all-wheel-drive small car priced under $30,000 – the Subaru Impreza. Impreza’s range in price between $17,795 and $26,995.
At one time, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Honda, Volkswagen, and Mitsubishi all offered four-wheel-drive versions of their small cars, but there wasn’t a great demand for them, and with the advent of small four-wheel-drive SUV’s, all-wheel-drive cars almost became extinct.
Subaru however, took advantage of this market niche, and continued to provide all-wheel-drive on all its models: the Impreza, Legacy, Outback, and Forester. In fact, Subaru dropped its front-wheel-drive models in the mid-90’s to concentrate on all-wheel-drive.
To be fair, Audi, Volkswagen, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz models also offer models with all-wheel-drive, but all of these cars are over $40,000.
Impreza Introduced in 1993
Subaru’s small car, the Impreza, was first introduced in 1993. At the time, I remember being impressed with its nimble handling, strong body rigidity, excellent driving dynamics and wonderfully simple interior design. I wasn’t so impressed with the power from its then relatively small 1.8 litre horizontally-opposed four cylinder engine.
Since then, Subaru has added more power and displacement. The 2000 Impreza Brighton Sport Wagon, Outback Wagon, and TS Sedan have a standard 142 horsepower 2.2 litre four cylinder engine, and the RS Coupe and Sedan have a 165 horsepower 2.5 litre horizontally opposed four cylinder engine.
RS Sedan Targeted at Performance Buyers With Kids
The RS sedan bodystyle is new for 2000. Subaru Canada VP of Sales and Marketing, Joe Anwyll says a four-door RS was needed to satisfy those people who want a fun-to-drive car but who also want easier access to the back seat.
“We understand that some drivers who enjoy the sporty attitude and styling of the Impreza 2.5 RS may also have kids and dogs and responsibilities,” he said.
The RS sedan looks almost identical to the TS sedan, but it has a larger 16 inch six-spoke alloy wheels and tires and some special 2.5 RS badging. The RS has sporty styling add-ons such as a large front spoiler with twin fog lamps, hood scoop and hood vents (non-functional), side body cladding, large diameter chrome tailpipe, and a rear decklid spoiler. On the inside, the RS has supportive sports seats, white-faced gauges, and leather-covered steering wheel and gearshift knob.
Any similarity to Subaru’s WRC world rally racing car is purely intentional on Subaru’s part.
Like all Impreza’s, the RS has a fully independent MacPherson strut suspension with coil springs (something it shares with the Porsche Boxster), front and rear stabilizer bars, engine-speed sensitive variable power steering, and a full-time all-wheel-drive system that needs no input from the driver.
RS Sedans have a slightly stiffer suspension to other Impreza’s, bigger 16 inch low-profile performance radials with alloy wheels, limited slip rear differential, and standard four-wheel-disc brakes with a 4-channel ABS system – Impreza Brighton, Outback and TS models have front disc/rear drum brakes and only the Outback offers ABS.
Boxer Engine Unique
Other than Porsche and Ferrari, Subaru is the only manufacturer to use a horizontally-opposed cylinder design, called a ‘boxer’ engine. Instead of the cylinder standing up in a row, they lie flat – two cylinders are on one side and two cylinders on the other side. The advantage to this type of engine design is a lower centre of gravity for weight distribution purposes, a shorter overall length for packaging purposes, and more torque from a small engine. In addition, it’s longitudinal positioning allows the transmission to be placed in line with the engine which helps reduce driveline vibrations.
Boxer engines have a unique, gutteral sound when accelerating, but if you didn’t know it was a boxer engine you probably wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from an inline engine.
The 2.5 litre single overhead cam engine in the 2000 Impreza RS is substantially different to the dual overhead camshaft engine used in last year’s RS model. In addition to a single overhead camshaft on each cylinder bank, the new 2.5 litre engine has better low and mid-range torque and improved emissions: the 2000 engine now meets LEV (low emissions vehicle) standards. The engine also includes distributorless electronic ignition and platinum-tipped spark plugs which last 100,000 kilometres.
Fuel consumption is reasonable for a performance-oriented engine: 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres (25 mpg) in the city, and 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres (38 mpg) on the highway.
RS sedans offer sporty, well-equipped interiors, including well-bolstered front sport seats, chequered flag cloth seat upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever with red stitching, AM/FM/cassette with four speakers, speedometer and tachometer with a white background, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt steering wheel, intermittent wipers, rear defroster, and cruise control.
I found the driver’s seat offered excellent lateral support, and the driving position was well-positioned to reach the controls, see the instruments, and see outwards. Front legroom and headroom and rear headroom are more than adequate for adults, while rear legroom is adequate.
A split folding rear seat is not offered on the RS Sedan or Coupe. The trunk is 314 litres (11 cu. ft). and offers a well-shaped trunk and a low lift-over height.
The dash controls include sliding fan control and rotary ventilation controls, and there’s a unique, covered storage bin located on the upper centre dash area. The standard AM/FM/cassette stereo in my car offered great sound characteristics, but there was no Seek function, a problem for a perennial channel surfer like myself.
Fun To Drive
The 2.5 RS is quick off the line, and with enough revs, offers sufficient passing power on the highway. The boxer engine is quiet at lower engine revolutions, including when highway cruising, but it’s ‘growly’ during hard acceleration up to it 6200 rpm redline.
Driven confidently, the Impreza offers stable, sticky handling with minimal lean. Though the suspension is firm, the RS’ ride is quite comfortable, and highway cruising is pleasant. Steering effort is firmer at higher speeds, with more boost available for slower city speeds. With a relatively tight 10.2 metre diameter turning circle, the RS is easy to maneuver.
The standard five-speed manual gear shifter in my car had relatively short, direct throws, but I noticed some looseness in the driveline when getting back onto the throttle after changing gears.
The standard disc brakes, which are larger than those of the TS sedan, offered excellent braking characteristics.
RS Sedan $26,995
The base price of the Impreza RS Sedan is $26,995, and the RS Coupe is $26,695. An automatic transmission is an additional $1000. Impreza TS sedans start at $21,995, and Brighton Sport Wagon models start at $17,795.
All Impreza’s come with a three year inclusive warranty, a five year powertrain warranty, and a three year roadside assistance program.
If you want four-wheel-drive, but you don’t want one of those hulking, heavy, hard-to-handle sport-utes, the nimble, lightweight Impreza is a good choice.
More information can be obtained at www.subaru.ca.