Friday, May 11, 2007

Subaru Impreza and WRX 2008 Review

It's redesigned with visions of mainstream-market success, but any resemblance to the Mazda 3 is purely coincidental. Or is it?

As expected, Subaru's compact cars are redesigned for 2008 with fresh styling, new features and slightly larger dimensions. The Impreza line consists of sedans and four-door hatchbacks in Impreza and sportier Impreza WRX form. The hatchbacks replace the previous wagon body style. SUV-flavored Outback models will retun, but Subaru hasn't yet released details; same goes for the high-performance WRX STi model.

Every 2008 Subaru Impreza and WRX comes with all-wheel drive and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with horizontally-opposed cylinders. The base models have 170 horsepower, the sporty turbocharged WRX versions 224. Expecte the next WRX STi to have at least 300 horsepower.

All 2008 models offer five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmissions. Subaru says engine retuning has reduced emissions versus previous Imprezas while providing slight improvements to both fuel economy and low-speed acceleration. An antiskid/traction-control system is newly available -- and rare among mainstream compact cars. Newly standard are curtain side airbags, joining front torso side airbags and four-wheel antilock disc brakes.

The 2008 Subaru Impreza and WRX ride a new platform and Subaru says the cars are more spacious inside thanks to a wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) increased by 3.7 inches to 103.1. Sedans are 4.5 inches longer than before, at 180.3 inches; hatchbacks are 6.5 inches shorter than that, due to different rear-end styling. Width stays about the same, while height adds an inch or so. The new platform also brings a more-compact rear suspension, with a double-wishbone layout replacing a multilink design.

Outside, the 2008 Subaru Impreza and WRX bear a strong resemblance to the Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback. This may not be coincidence, as the Mazda 3 has made a big impression on younger buyers both in Japan and North America.

The 2008 Subaru Impreza sports a new "corporate" grille: a U-shaped cross-hatch affair topped by a bright "spread wing" bar bearing the Subaru logo. Look for this theme to appear on other Subaru cars to replace the three-element "airplane" motif that most people thought unattractive. As before, WRXs are distinguished by a large functional hood air scoop and standard 17-inch wheels versus 16s, but other "rally racer" styling cues have been erased to create a more subtle and mature appearance. It also means WRXs look much like the base models, though there is an optional "aero" appearance package for extroverts.The grille's "wing" shape reappears inside on a new-design dashboard with space for an optional navigation system, Impreza's first. The navigation screen powers up for access to an available six-disc CD changer.

Scalloped door panels help increase shoulder and elbow room despite the little-changed exterior width, while the added height and wheelbase should mean extra head and leg room for rear passengers. All models come with 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
A Notable Feature of the 2008 Subaru Impreza and WRXYou can't sell a credible "youth car" these days without a plug-in for digital music players, but the 2008 Subaru Impreza and WRX go a step further. With the optional navigation system comes a console-mounted plug-in for using the dashboard screen with a video DVD player or game console (PlayStation or Xbox). It's designed not to work unless the handbrake is engaged, but how long before teach-savvy owners bypass that safeguard?
Buying Advice for the 2008 Subaru Impreza and WRXThe 2008 Subaru Impreza and WRX will likely launch without incentives, but just wait a few months-or maybe weeks. And do scout the competition. Promotion will likely push the hatchback WRX to draw attention from the likes of the MazdaSpeed 3, VW GTI and other "hot hatch" rivals, but Subaru knows sedans will be more in demand, whether 2.5i or WRX. Which means you could get your best deal on a 2.5i hatchback. Body style aside, the WRXs will cost more to insure-and to keep gassed up-so let your budget be your guide.2008 Subaru Impreza and WRX Release Date: Nothing firm yet, but the new models should be on sale by fall 2007.

Vehicle Type: compact sedan, four-door hatchback
Drive wheels: all
Engine: 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder (turbocharged on WRX)
Horsepower: 170 (Impreza), 224 (WRX)
Torque: 170 pound-feet (Impreza), 226 (WRX)
Transmission: five-speed manual, optional four-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 103.1 inches
Length: 180.3 inches (sedan; hatchback 173.8)
Width: 58.1 inches
Height: 68.5 inches
Base curb weight: 3,050 pounds

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