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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Sep 20, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Subaru Impreza 2.5GT

SUBARU GOES MAINSTREAM By John Grafman and Paul Robinson

These are some dark days for the auto industry. With the annual sales dropping to a shadow of its former self, car manufacturers are forced to make some unpopular decisions that simply make good economic sense. Forget about producing low-volume, radical products. Sports cars or halo vehicles might be great for the company's image, they can be a drain on the bottom line. Subaru does offer vehicles that are designed for a mainstream audience. The Legacy and Forester are two of those cars. But when the name Subaru is mentioned most enthusiasts think of the dominating Impreza WRX and STi models, and that's a good thing. So the question for budget minded, fun-loving drivers becomes, are the base models from which the rally racers are derived wolves in sheep's clothing, or are they just sheep?

Subaru Impreza 2.5i The Impreza line-up with sedans and 5-door wagons are the building blocks for their fierce siblings. The Impreza 2.5i and Impreza GT cover the price range from 17.5K to 27.5K respectively. In the Impreza model line-up there are no less than 17 variations, plus buyers can pick from five additional option packages. To add a little more confusion to this, the GT is actually $2,000 more and 41 horsepower fewer than the WRX, which might seem strange less they have different missions in life. These products share many interior and exterior appointments. The 2.5i and GT do look relatively attractive and there is nothing that stands out as being out of place with a vehicle of this genre. From the outside these look convincing enough, posing fair competition to other manufacturers, with the 5-door being less conservative in its styling. The attractive body, details, and the rich looking paint, all point to something a cut above. Even the front end styling of the GT with the air intake looks borderline aggressive, but is it enough? The interior on the lower-rung model has a modern, user-friendly design. Unfortunately the 2.5i shares another less desirable trait with its pricier sibling, wall-to-wall plastic. As a matter of fact with the exception of a small patch of padding on the armrest, and the leather wrapped steering wheel, the carpet and seats, the rest is hard, econobox plastic. Perhaps, this is a carry over from Subaru's early days where wash and wear products gained the brand off-road street cred. When it comes to material choices this environment is about as inviting as a dentist's waiting room. The Impreza 2.5i and Impreza GT have much in common, such as much of the interior trim and exterior sheet metal, but they also have different callings in life.

Subaru Impreza 2.5i 5-door hatchback IMPREZA 2.5i The Impreza 2.5i will never be mistaken as a race car or even a sports car, but surprisingly it makes a good amount of power for its 3000-pound body. The horizontally opposed 16-valve makes a reasonable 170 horsepower with 170 pound-feet of torque and is responsive when asked to react. Unfortunately, you need to use the entire RPM range to see the power, and coupled with the 5-speed manual expect to be doing a lot of shifting on freeway when passing just to keep it in the powerband. But, this is a lot of fun driving around town. Even the Impreza 2.5i, being the most basic of the Subaru line, comes with many features not offered in most vehicles in the class. In all of the mid-compact cars the rear seats are a bit tight, and they all have a baseline four-cylinder motors in different configurations but no other offers over 170-horsepower and all-wheel drive under $20,000. Subaru has done a great job even with their most basic model keeping a generous hint of sports car performance with the Impreza 2.5i.

Any car, no matter how many horsepower or how much torque it may have, isn't fun to drive if you can't keep the power on the ground. Most people think of all-wheel drive as being great for the snow or off-road surfaces, but most LA drivers are more concerned about handling and avoiding freeway debris than snow. Being one of just a couple all-wheel drive cars in this class, the test is how it performs in some of the faster curves around town and those freeway on-ramps. Press on the throttle midst some of those fast 405 on and off-ramps and look for the under-steer, as most cars in the class have a tendency to push all over the place, and you will be delighted. The electronic dynamic control system is quick to react and even when trying to break the 16-inch tires loose it is nearly impossible to do. Not even a squeal of the tires is heard while the brakes are being automatically applied and engine power robbed. Even though it can be turned off, the traction control system did not allow the car to be pushed in any manner. Good for tires, but bad for the driving experience. Even though both Impreza models may have a less than soft interior it has a surprisingly roomy interior for passengers. One benefit of using hard materials is they take up less space. The trunk in the five-door however is not especially large and three big guys and three sets of golf clubs are a tight fit but certainly do-able with one of the read seats folded down. The cabin is spacious and ergonomically very well set up as the driver and passenger sit low in the vehicle and there is ample head-room even for the oversized passenger. - Paul Robinson

Subaru Impreza 2.5GT IMPREZA 2.5GT Offsetting the expanses of plastic are some nice touches in the GT. One of the most distinct is the illuminated gage cluster that glow upon a twist of the ignition key. The brief visual display is in itself enough to want this car. This is addictive like a game of Ms. Pacman. And while the lack of a more sophisticated trim isn't really surprising in entry-level products it's another story when the car is approaching 30K. Surprisingly, the GT is closing in on that territory. What can really catch people off guard is the ride quality. The Impreza 2.5GT does indeed impress. In its mission in life as comfortable transportation this definitely succeeds. The GT is, as the name implies, a grand tourer. The suspension is not too soft, yet this is really not a hard-core sports set-up. The engineers developed this to allow the average person to use this with great ease in everyday life, and still have a moderate amount of fun. The engine is what really gives life to this model. Producing nearly 90 horses for every liter of engine is a pretty solid stat. For a car of this size it has no trouble making due with 224 horsepower (54 more than the 2.5i). Subaru has plenty of experience turbocharging its motors. In normal use the onset of the turbo isn't a detriment to the overall driving experience. The presence of the turbo comes on fairly smoothly and allows the relatively small engine to keep up with far larger powerplants.

Subaru Impreza 2.5i 5-door hatchback What the engine giveth, the four-speed automatic takes away. Giving credit where credit is due, this is a fairly good four-speed, but it this is really holding the car back in performance and fuel economy. One would suspect the engine might be a bit thirsty, but in long hauls this feels like it's constantly wanting to upshift, However, the reality is the tranny is already in top gear. The transmission alone goes neck-and-neck with the interior materials as the one aspect that needs the most attention from Subaru. A five-speed is really overdue. The seats serve their masters well, even without an adjustable lumbar support. It is possible to spend a few hours behind the wheel without feeling fatigued. Like the 2.5i, the rather ho-hum looking material and design don't reflect just how comfortable these really are. Any car is more than just the sum of its parts and these are no different. While there are several points to be made from pricing to materials, the GT does offer a good drive. In fact, with the all-wheel drive this is both engaging and communicative when needed. The steering feel indifferent while going straight, yet the feeling coming through when pushing this through turns is confidence building, just as it is with the other models. The Subaru Impreza line-up is more than just the 2.5GT and the 2.5i. However, even with just these two models, it does keep the majors looking over their collective shoulders in the race for better-than-basic transportation. The race for sales is one of endurance, and that's one race Subaru is very accustomed to. - John Grafman

Subaru Impreza 2.5GT SUMMARY JUDGMENT No, they are not WRXes, but they more than offer lots of value and economy for their price. For more information about Subaru products, go to SPECIFICATIONS Subaru Impreza 2.5i Price: Base $17,495 Engine type: Four-cylinder, horizontally opposed (boxer); aluminum cylinder block and heads EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 20/27 Horsepower: 170 @ 6,000 rpm Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: 5 Speed Manual Suspension: Front: MacPherson-type struts with multiple-phase valving; steel lower L-arms; coil springs; stabilizer bar and negative-scrub geometry Rear: Double-wishbone Wheels and tires: 16 x 6.5 JJ steel wheels, 205/55 R16 Bridgestone RE92A M+S all-season Brakes: Front: 10.9-in. ventilated disc, dual-piston calipers Rear: 11.3-in. solid disc, single-piston calipers Vehicle Dynamics Control with all-wheel, all-speed traction control and Electronic Limited Slip Differential function Overall length: 173.8 in. Overall width: 68.5 in. Overall height: 58.1 in Curb weight (lbs): 3,075 Subaru Impreza 2.5GT Price: Base $26,995 Engine type: Four-cylinder, horizontally opposed (Boxer); turbocharged with inter-cooler; aluminum cylinder block and heads EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 19/24 Horsepower: 224 @ 5.400 rpm Torque: 226 lb-ft @ 2,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: Four-speed automatic Suspension: Front: Sport-tuned MacPherson-type struts with multiple-phase valving; steel lower L-arms; coil springs; stabilizer bar and negative-scrub geometry Rear: Sport-tuned double-wishbone with stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: 17x7 10-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, 205/50R17 all-season tires Brakes: Front: 10.9-in. ventilated disc, dual-piston calipers Rear: 11.3-in. solid disc, single-piston calipers Vehicle Dynamics Control with all-wheel, all-speed traction control and Electronic Limited Slip Differential function Overall length: 180.3 in. Overall width: 68.5 in. Overall height: 58.1 in Curb weight (lbs): 3,240

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