Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS Coupe inspired by world rally victor
Date Posted: 5/10/2005
COULEE CITY, Wash. -- Pumped up with muscular air-intake hood scoop, bulging side skirts and tail-mounted flying wing, a sporty new coupe showcased in Subaru's display at the New York International Auto Show appeared vaguely out of place among so many utilitarian Subaru sedans and rugged all-wheel-drive wagons.
For a Subaru it seemed uncharacteristically racy, and those big alloy wheels, tinted to a brilliant gold, looked flashy and fast.
Why was Subaru -- the Japanese automaker and recognized world leader in traction technology, whose image in the United States market has been honed by the durability of a practical line of all-wheel-drive vehicles -- promoting a sporty little coupe that seemed like it could run circles around all of the other cars in Subaru's stable?
For an answer, we must search outside North America's boundaries to discover another image for Subaru that has been developed on other continents where automobile rally racing receives the kind of sports attention that football fans here reserve for contests like the Super Bowl.
In countries like France, Japan, Argentina and Australia, rally races pit driver and co-pilot against maps and clocks and daredevil competitors tearing across treacherous roads wound through cities and countryside -- and Subaru wins the world rally title time after time, thanks to the wily nature of its rally car, the Impreza 555.
That Subaru, with modifications for roll cage and a high-output engine aboard, serves as inspiration for the Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS Coupe which debuted in New York last spring and enters the United States marketplace this fall.
Prototypes of this newest Subaru, bearing badges for the 1998 series, showed up on eastern slopes of the Cascade Range in the state of Washington last May for a series of driving tests by automotive writers.
So start your Subarus -- we've come to play.
A walk-around briefing before the driving tests revealed how the 2.5 RS was created. Origins trace to the 2-door coupe variation of Subaru's subcompact Impreza sedan, which first appeared in 1995 with optional horsepower and a link to Subaru's all-wheel-drive system.
The exterior of this new version collects some extra fixtures, like the hood scoop and rear wing spoiler that set it apart from other Imprezas.
Inside, special touches add a sporty flair, such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, analog gauges including tachometer, and a sunroof.
For power, Subaru borrowed from the Legacy Outback wagon a twin-cam 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, then turned to the Impreza 555 for a tight 5-speed manual transmission with short-throw linkage.
That plant, largest that Subaru imports to our market, produces 165 horsepower and excellent torque.
With cylinders opposed horizontally and set perpendicular to the drive line, Impreza's engine uses equal-length drive shafts so pairs of cylinders act like boxers jabbing at one another in counterbalanced movements which negate the typical engine's vibrations.
In addition, an on-board all-wheel-drive system functions like all other Subarus in our market in the essence of simplicity.
Power from the engine moves directly through an electronically-controlled smart transfer case to the wheels that need traction, with scant loss of energy or reduction in fuel efficiency.
Subaru's all-wheel-drive system operates continuously to automatically transfer power from wheels that slip to those that grip.
It's the precise bite of wheels gripping the road at all times that gives Impreza 555 an edge in world rally competition, and the principle works equally well when applied to 2.5 RS.
The traction advantage becomes obvious on slippery surfaces like rain-soaked streets, but it produces downright thrilling results when this car tackles a set of tricky curves like those we encountered while climbing through hills to the Disauter Summit in a run across the Colville Indian Reservation along route 155.
Grand Coulee Dam spans the Columbia River at Electric City to form vast Roosevelt Lake, which has a finger projected southwest with route 155 skirting the shore to Coulee City. Our tester Impreza ripped over this course in a fun run that pumped up the driver's blood pressure.
With relatively modest weight but substantial power output, this car can scoot.
Dust, swirling over broad plains east of the Cascades, blew across the bee-line course of U.S. 2 as we nudged the speedometer to triple digits in a test of the RS stability at high speed. It felt solid and still rooted to the pavement, and we noted little concession for wind noise.
This apparent rigidity in motion traces in part to the Impreza's structural design in unibody format. Overall platform originated with an abbreviated version of the Subaru Legacy sedan, and for 2.5 RS the front wheel track extends slightly for a wider stance.
Unlike Legacy, though, which is produced at Subaru's joint-venture plant in Indiana, all Imprezas come together at the sophisticated mother plant in Gunma, Japan.
Impreza's racy coupe wears a long-stroke 4-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension system which mirrors the sport-tuned setup that led an Impreza 555 to victory for two consecutive years in the World Rally Championship.
Standard mechanical features include speed-sensitive power rack and pinion steering and disc brakes at all wheels with 4-channel computerized anti-lock control.
Thorough safety hardware includes structural crumple zones, side door braces and dual front airbags.
The interior layout positions twin bucket seats in front of a bench rated for three but best suited for two. Reclining front buckets contain bold side bolsters to help retain body position during strenuous lateral maneuvers.
A new instrument panel centers a handy tray on top of vent ducts and climate system controls.
Conveniences include a tilting steering column, intermittent windshield wipers and standard air conditioning but extend to power equipment for windows and door locks, and an 80-watt stereo AM-FM radio system with cassette deck and four speakers.
1998 SUBARU IMPREZA 2.5 RS COUPE
| 1998 SUBARU IMPREZA 25RS COUPE VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS
||Subcompact sports coupe
| Model Options:
||Subcompact sports coupe
| Overall Length:
| Engine Size:
||DOHC 2.5-L H4
| Gas Mileage:
| MSRP Price:
||$ 17,000 to $ 19,000