The Subaru Impreza Turbo is a car that managed to transform the image of its manufacturer and become a cult classic almost overnight.
1994 Subaru Impreza Turbo Specifications
|Engine||Flat four, turbocharged, front mounted|
|Max Power||208 bhp|
|Max Torque||201 lb/ft|
|Transmission||5 speed manual, four wheel drive|
|Max Speed||143 mph|
In 1992 Subarus were a rare sight on British roads. They had a small range of cars – the Justy supermini, the GL saloon and estate, the larger Legacy and the unusual SVX coupe. Subaru’s unique selling point was that their entire range used four-wheel drive, which at the time was the preserve of big off-roaders. They were accepted to be affordable, tough and reliable, but were never considered desirable. It became a bit of a cliche, but Subarus were considered the vehicle of choice for farmers.
However, in 1992 this image was set for a radical overhaul. The GL was overdue for retirement and in October 1992 Subaru announced its replacement – the Impreza. Fitting the fashion of the early ’90s the Impreza was a more rounded design than the boxy GL it replaced. Basic models had engines using Subaru’s traditional flat-four layout, ranging from 1.5 to 1.8 litres, and all but the most basic model included four-wheel drive.
At that time Subaru were competing in the World Rally Championship using the large Legacy saloon. It had always struggled against the more nimble Lancia Integrale and Toyota Celica so while designing the Impreza much thought was given to making it a suitable base for a smaller, lighter, more competitive rally car.
Turbo 2000 AWD (1994)
In 1994 Subary released the WRX, initially only available to the Japanese market. Powered by a turbocharged version of the 1994cc 2.0 litre from the Legacy, it gave 237bhp. When it arrived in the UK it was badged as the Impreza Turbo 2000 AWD and dropped to 208bhp thanks to the lower octane rating of European fuel as well as tighter noise regulations. It was fitted with shorter gearing than the Japanese version to preserve acceleration, and it was faster than anything in the same price bracket. It became an instant hit with motoring journalists, enthusiasts and school boys alike.
Series McRae (1995)
In 1995 Colin McRae managed to win the UK round of the WRC championship, the RAC Rally, in a 555 liveried Subaru Impreza. To celebrate, Subaru released the Series McRae special edition to the UK market in June of that year. 200 cars were released and were basically the same as the Turbo but featured metallic Mica Blue paintwork with gold alloy wheels. McRae went on to win the driver’s WRC championship and with it he also brought the team the constructor’s championship.
In 1996 Subaru managed to win the contructors championship for the second year running, clinching the title at the Rally of Spain in Catalunya. Subaru released another run of 200 cars in March of 1997, again based on the Turbo and badged as the ‘Catalunya’ special edition, this time featuring black mica paint with red flecks, gold alloy wheels and various other cosmetic changes.
1997 saw the Subaru team win the WRC championship for the third year running. This time Subaru released the ‘Terzo’ (Italian for ‘third’) special edition in April 1998 with a run of 333 cars. As before, they were basically a rebadged Turbo with cosmetic tweaks.
As part of Subaru’s 40th anniversary they released the Impreza 22B. It got a 2.2 litre engine, an adjustable rear wing, and used the same 2-door body as was introduced for the WRC car, complete with widened wheelarches. With the larger engine power was increased to 276bhp with 268 lb/ft of torque, giving 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds and a max speed of 149mph. Only 400 22Bs were made with only 16 of those being released to the UK. All were painted in WR Blue metallic.
In 1999 Richard Burns returned to the Subaru WRC team, competing in car number 5. The RB5 special edition was built exclusively for the UK market to celebrate Burnsie’s return. It was another limited run of 444 cars and could be specified with the optional WR Performance Pack that boosted power to 237bhp and torque to 258 lb/ft.
Throughout 1999 there had been many rumours in the motoring press that the UK was to receive a full Japanese specification Impreza. Eventually rumour became fact when the P1 (Prodrive 1) was released, featuring a 276bhp version of the flat four and using the same 2 door body shell as the 22B with the same WR Blue paintwork. It could hit 60 in only 4.6 seconds and had a maximum speed of 155mph, as well as class leading levels of ride and handling. Production was limited to 1000 cars, and they remain highly sought after on the second-hand market to this day.