1999 Impreza RS 2.5
1999 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Coupe, Photo courtesy home.att.net/~jebaru/. Click image to enlarge

By Jeremy Cato

Subaru’s Impreza 2.5RS rally-inspired all-wheel-drive coupe arrived in 1998, standing out with its flashy gold wheels, ground effects, hood scoop, vents and big rear wing. The 2.5RS coupe continued until 2001 and during that time it did its job in helping rebuild Subaru’s image. Subaru built only a few hundred a year, so the 2.5RS qualifies as something of a collector’s piece.

As for image-building, the 2.5RS coupe, I think, did its job. It helped resurrect the Impreza name in the public’s consciousness. In fact, when an all-new Impreza arrived for 2002, the red-hot WRX version was an almost instant hit.

So we have to give Subaru credit here. I mean, the Impreza was launched in 1993 with a marketing plan so bad it became the subject of a book called “Where the Suckers Moon.” Those memories are distant now, the 2.5RS coupe and other models having added lots of sportiness to Subaru’s image campaign efforts.

The 2.5RS coupe is powered by 2.5-litre flat four engine, borrowed from the Legacy Outback. It churns up a very respectable 165 horsepower. Look for 0-100 km/h times in the eight-second range. All-wheel drive puts torque and traction at both ends and its overall handling resurrects flashes of the really fun pocket rockets of the 1980s, such as Volkswagen’s GTI and Honda CRX Si.

Ah, all-wheel drive. Like with other models, the 2.5RS was sold with two different all-wheel-drive systems. With the standard five-speed manual transmission, the Subaru employs a centre differential with a viscous coupling that adjusts the torque if wheels start to slip. With the automatic transmission, an electronic control unit monitors wheel speeds and if slippage is detected, a multiplate transfer clutch within the transmission sends torque where it’s needed.

So much for the techno-babble. What the used buyer should know is that both systems are dead-on reliable and completely durable. And speaking of reliability, the thin number of Buyer’s Alerts and Recalls speak volumes about the quality and durability of this car.

What’s more, once you get used to all-wheel drive, it’s tough to adjust back to rear- or front-drive only. Not just when the weather is bad and the roads are slippery, either. The benefits are also noticeable when accelerating out of a corner on dry pavement.

And that, of course, is exactly what the RS invites drivers to do. Regardless of the road surface, it feels balanced and controlled. Fairly firm spring and damper rates, and a bigger anti-roll bar, help straighten out snaky roads. The steering is sharp, though not razor-like, and its power assist is not over-boosted. The brakes are strong, though they feel mushy at the top of the pedal and they’ll fade if you over-use them.

Inside, firm front buckets do a nice job of holding you in place and the thick steering wheel fits your hands nicely. A fair amount of road and engine noise seeps into the cabin, but it doesn’t seem out of place there.

The dashboard is sensible to a point, but nothing special with its bland instruments and smallish controls. Visibility in most directions is very good, except to the rear where the spoiler cuts your view in half and can become quite distracting. The back seat will fit two adults if they aren’t too round and tall. The trunk will hold a pair of golf bags.

There is something very fun and engaging about the RS. From a driver’s perspective it’s more than capable, its size borders on everyday practical, and the styling shouts, “Look at me!”
Gaudy? You bet. And loads of fun.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

Connect with Autos.ca