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Performance

Standard Cars

One of the main reasons for anyone buying the Impreza is the absolutely stunning levels of performance it offers for the money. For the 4 door saloon, Subaru claim 6.4 seconds for the 0-62 mph (100 km/h) sprint, and a maximum speed of 143.5 mph (97/98 models). The figures for the five door hatchback are 6.5 seconds and 142 mph respectively. All of this from a standard car costing around 21,000 on the road!

As many performance tests have proved over the years, these figures (particularly acceleration) are somewhat conservative.

Both Performance Car and Autocar magazines tested the 4 door saloon (pre '97 model) with an identical 5.9 seconds for the dash to 60 mph. These tests were carried out with a driver, passenger and a full tank of fuel over a number of runs to eliminate the effects of wind assistance/resistance.

On 4th Feb. 98, Autocar tested a 1998 specification five door hatchback. A top speed of 143 mph was recorded, with the 0-60 mph time being dispensed with in only 5.5 seconds, and 0-100 mph in 15.8. The standing 1/4 mile was completed in 14.2 seconds at 97 mph. The 30-70 mph increment was achieved in 5.6 seconds (a whole 1 second faster than a manual Porsche Boxster!)

However, the most remarkable tests were carried out on a standard 4 door saloons during November 1997. Firstly Top Gear magazine covered the 0-60 mph sprint in only 5.2 seconds! Then Performance Car (sadly no longer with us), as part of their 0-60 challenge timed the Impreza at a mind blowing 5.03 seconds for the 0-60 sprint, with the 1/4 mile being covered in 13.72 seconds at 100.6 mph. It should be noted though, that the Performance Car tests were carried out at Santa Pod drag strip (quality grippy tarmac), with only the driver, a near empty fuel tank and in one direction only.

Other magazine tests confirm that the standard Impreza turbo is easily capable of sub 6 second sprints to 60 mph, with a top speed in excess of 140 mph. There have been several stories of owners nearly redlining their cars in 5th gear. Although they have had the needle well off the clock, the indicated rpm would point to actual speeds of over 160mph being possible, although with wind resistance by far the dominant force at these speeds, a 10mph tailwind will increase the top speed by almost 10mph.

As well as having stunning acceleration, the Impreza also has legendary handling. In standard road trim, there is a good compromise between ride quality and stability on typical road surfaces. The ride quality on 96 and 97 models is on the firm side, with the car skipping nervously on rough or potholed surfaces at low speed, but it is by no means harsh and uncomfortable, improving when pushed on. The suspension on 98 cars seems slightly less firm with more tendency to understeer, but still provides levels of grip that defy belief. Most recently, the 99 car has acquired some of the stiffness of the STi models. The secret of the Impreza's handling seems to lie in the superb chassis. Out on the open road, the combination of a firm ride, good body control and the remarkable four wheel drive system ensure that there are only a handful of cars who can keep pace with a well driven Impreza. When the roads become wet, narrower and unfamiliar, there are realistically only two or three cars in standard form which could keep up with (or go faster than) an Impreza turbo, all of which are significantly more expensive .

Apart from a handful of group tests performed when the car was first imported into the UK (Top gear rated a Mazda 323 higher, with Performance Car giving it second place to a Mondeo), the Impreza seems to win both first place and the hearts of all those who test it. Although it hasn't won some of the more recent group tests, it has fared as well as can be expected against some tough opposition, in the form of the Mitsubishi EVO 6, Porsche 911 GT3, Ferarri 360. There is little else to touch the car in terms of performance, practicality, build quality and reliability, and certainly nothing else comes close at the price (apart from perhaps the Lotus Elise, which can hardly be classified as practical)

For a while, the car was known as "the best kept secret on the road", although numerous glowing magazine reviews and the off-road antics of a certain Mr McRae have somewhat eroded the cars anonymity over the past few years. Not all bad though, as people now say "Wow!" when you reply to the question "... and what do you drive?", instead of the previous answer: "What's that then?"

Modified Cars

In standard form, the Impreza's performance is nothing short of mind-blowing, especially for those of us brought up on powerful front wheel drive cars. In modified form though, the cars can be simply devastating. Some owners have reported indicated top speeds of 160mph, with only the minor changes of a performance air filter, exhaust, and running the car on Super Unleaded fuel (see section on fuel for further details).

Most performance tests carried out by magazines are carried out on a 2 mile straight, or banked circular track, where the maximum speed is affected by tyre scrub and side winds, or the need to stop the car before the end of the straight. Given a long enough stretch of road (and a lot of courage by the driver), maximum speeds can be about 5mph faster than those recorded during magazine tests. The number of places in the world where this can be done both safely and legally are very few. You might also wonder about the relevance of a top speed which takes several miles to achieve!

In a test by Performance Car magazine in the UK (December 1997), a modified Prodrive car was put through it's paces. Acceleration, with two people, full tank of fuel and a wet road surface gave a 0-60mph time of only 5.6 seconds, several tenths faster than the standard car. However, an unprinted test by Performance Car on the 1998 Prodrive demonstrator returned 4.94 and 5.08 seconds under the same conditions! The focus of the Prodrive engine mods is on real-world driving, and their changes give stunning mid-range performance. Combined with the 17" wheels and tyre set and improved suspension, there are few other cars (mostly expensive exotica) which can compete in terms of absolute A to B ability.

WRX/STi Cars

With 276+ bhp, and 260 lb/ft of torque, mated to a shorter close ratio gearbox, the later Japanese specification Impreza's have the ability to out accelerate virtually all other cars on the road. Official figures are 0-62mph (100km/h) in about 4.9 seconds, although a Tye R was timed at 4.3 seconds (0-60) by Performance Car in the UK. In standard form, these cars are limited to 112mph by Japanese law, but bypassing the speed limiter enables them to reach top speeds of about 150mph+ You certainly wouldn't want to run the cars at this speed for any period of time, as the fuel consumption would be well down into single figures!!!

The regular WRX/STi models have different (slightly shorter) gearing than the Turbo 2000 models, but with an extra 500 or 1,000 rpm to play with, the maximum speeds in gears are similar. The top speed (limiter bypassed) of these models is around 150mph at nearly 7,000 rpm.

The following table of gear ratios relates only to the WRX STi IV saloon. The ratios for the Type R and RA STi models are significantly shorter, at about 19mph per 1000rpm in 5th.

GearRatioMph per 1000 rpm
1st3.175.1
2nd1.898.6
3rd1.3012.4
4th0.9716.6
5th0.7421.8
Final Drive Ratio4.44:1

Speedo Accuracy

A vehicle speedometer can never be perfectly accurate: variations in temperature, tread depth, tyre growth and a hundred other factors combine to give an indication of your speed, not a true reading. In the UK, the law requires that the indication be -0/+10%, i.e. it can over-read by up to 10% but must not under-read. In other words, if the big hand's pointing at 70, you are somewhere between 63mph and 70mph.

Needless to say, it helps to know how inaccurate your speedo is. One way of checking the speedo is to use a GPS receiver. Although these have their own inaccuracies and should be used with care, at higher (car) speeds the errors are typically about 1mph. Some tests by IWOC members (different GPSs, different days, different places, different cars) suggest the following:

CarGPS
test 1test 2test 3
30282628
40383738
50484747
60575756
70676667
80777677
90878587
10098-96

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Page last modified on August 30, 2007, at 08:47 AM
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