Subaru Impreza


Debut: 2011
Maker: Subaru
Predecessor: Impreza Mk3



 Published on 31 Dec 2011 All rights reserved. 

Since the first generation, Subaru Impreza has been a niche compared with mainstream players like Honda Civic. The latest fourth generation model continues to feature its trademark permanent four-wheel drive system and boxer engine to distinguish itself from the mainstream. However, most effort of the development has been spent to make the car more practical, such as a larger cabin and better fuel economy, in the attempt to lure buyers from the mainstream. If it succeeds, sales could be significantly increased from last year's 107,250 units.

In fact, in sedan form (called "G4" at home) the new Impreza looks quite like the new Honda Civic. This is because it shares a similar sleek, cab-forward profile, just with edgier finishes. The new hexagonal grille and so-called hawk-eye headlamps, both developed from Legacy, are more distinctive than the ones on the outgoing car, but the general feeling of the whole car is not one of the most modern or tasteful designs around. Some areas look mess, e.g. the quarter windows of the hatchback, and the crease lines above wheel arches are too heavy-handed. It reminds me that Japan is still short of design talents, and the best of them have already been snapped up by Mazda and Lexus. Fuji had better to do something.


The best news to would-be owners is increased interior room. There are considerably more rear legroom and headroom, thanks to a wheelbase stretch of 25 mm and the use of thinner front seatbacks. The front occupants will also feel more spacious as the base of the A-pillars have been brought forward by 200 mm. The A-pillars are also made slimmer by the use of high-strength steel, improving visibility. The new Impreza is now roomier than Mazda 3 and comparable to Honda Civic – it matches the Honda in rear headroom, loses only 20 mm in rear legroom but trumps its rival in front head and legroom. Brilliantly, the external dimensions remain the same as the outgoing car, while kerb weight is either unaltered (according to our figures) or even reduced by 75 kg (according to Subaru), depending on which models you compare.

Not so great is the styling and build quality of the cabin, which is best described as basic. The upper half of the dashboard and the top of door panels are covered with soft plastics, but the rest are hard ones while switch gears lack the tactile feel of European offerings. Perceived quality aside, this cabin works well. It has plenty of storage cubbies and, to delight American, cupholders for each occupant. The new seats are larger and more comfortable. Hip point is raised by 17 mm to give a more natural seating position and better view forward. Finally, a smaller fuel tank enables a large and flat load bay on the hatchback.


To Japanese and European buyers, the new FB20 four-cylinder boxer engine is not a big departure from the old EJ20, as it is rated the same 150 horsepower and 145 pound-foot. There is a little bit more low to mid-range torque on offer, thanks to its undersquare combustion chambers and the addition of exhaust variable valve timing, but real-world performance is not particularly brisk, no matter hooked to the outdated 5-speed manual or Lineartronic CVT. To American and Australian motorists, the new engine is not a good news, as its capacity has been reduced from 2.5 to 2.0 liters in a bid to lower fuel consumption. The switch to twin-cam and introduction of double AVCS variable valve timing is just not enough to compensate for the lost capacity, resulting in a drop of maximum output by 22 hp and 25 lbft. That reflects on stopwatch. According to Car and Driver, the new car with manual gearbox takes a sluggish 8.6 seconds to go from rest to 60 mph, a full second longer than the old 2.5-liter car.

The in-house-built, chain-driven Lineartronic CVT is a better option than the outgoing 4-speed automatic, as it makes better use of the limited torque to deliver comparable performance. As we found on Legacy, this CVT has largely eliminated rubberband effect during acceleration, thus the engine rev rises linearly as the acceleration progresses. Nevertheless, it still tends to rev the engine higher than the manual under hard acceleration, resulting in excessive engine noise. Furthermore, the transmission itself generates an annoying whine at high rev and hampers refinement.

Apart from the 2-liter unit, a 115hp 1.6-liter version of the same boxer engine is offered exclusively in Japan. If you really want performance, the only option is to wait for the turbocharged WRX version to arrive in 2013, or at least the European launch of the 150hp 2.0 turbo diesel boxer.


The FB20 engine employs lower friction parts, lighter pistons and con-rods to deliver 5 percent better fuel economy. The new CVT contributes to another 5 percent, automatic engine stop-start 5 percent, electric power steering 2% and improved aerodynamics 3%. Overall, the new car consumes 20 percent less fuel than the old car. Pretty impressive considering it does not have direct injection and light turbocharging.

As before, most of the Imprezas are to be sold with permanent 4-wheel drive system (only the base 1.6-liter model is front-drive). On cars equipped with manual transmission, front/rear torque split is implemented by viscous-coupling, which is default at 50:50. CVT cars use a multi-plate clutch to transfer power to the rear wheels only when needed. The superior traction it offers is still a big advantage to the Subaru.

The suspensions are barely lightly adapted from the old car's. The basic geometry remains, with MacPherson struts up front and a mult-link setup at the rear (note: Subaru calls the latter "double-wishbones" but in fact it consists of an upper wishbone, 2 lower links and a toe-control link). New front rebound springs and rear bushings provide better control of shock absorption. Compare with the old car, its handling is more composed, with less body roll in corners. The ride is firm yet more compliant. Its driver appeal is not as strong as a Ford Focus or Mazda 3, but its balance between control and comfort is close to Volkswagen Golf. The pinion-assist type electric power steering delivers good precision, weighting and decent feel, if a little numb on-center.


That said, the Impreza fails to match its benchmark, Volkswagen Golf, in a number of critical areas. Its high-speed refinement is below average, as there are lots of road noise and transmission noise allowed to enter the cabin. Its interior looks and perceived quality are one of the poorest on new cars, even compared with Korean offerings. Its FB20 engine does not offer as much improvement as claimed, failing to match new generation direct-injected and turbocharged motors for performance and flexibility. Finally, the exterior design is underwhelming beside the elegant Volkswagen or the increasingly imaginative Kia / Hyundai. Although larger cabin and better fuel economy makes the new Impreza a smarter choice than ever, overall speaking it is not good enough to recommend. As we always know, the highlight of Impreza should be the high-performance WRX / STI rather than the bread-and-butter models. Why not take next year to save money for the 2013 performance models?
Verdict:
 Published on 26 Dec 2013 All rights reserved. 
WRX


21 years and 3 generations have passed since the birth of Impreza WRX, but the essence of this car remains unchanged. It is still a very fast A-to-B car powered by a turbocharged boxer engine and driven through all 4 wheels. The only big change is the name – now it is no longer an Impreza but simply WRX, because Subaru wants to distant it further from the cooking model. Anyway, no one would believe that. No matter how it is called, its relationship with the Impreza is just as obvious as ever.

Built on the 4th generation Impreza, the new WRX enjoys benefits like a 30 mm longer wheelbase (hence a roomier back seat) and a much stiffer chassis (hence reduced NVH). In fact, the new body shell is 41 percent stiffer than the old one. Compare with the regular Impreza, torsional rigidity is increased by 9 percent, thanks to extra reinforcements like a sturdier floorpan, additional bracings and high-strength-steel A-pillars. Pronounced fenders add 55 mm to its width and enable the fitment of 235/45WR17 rubbers as well as wider tracks. Predictably, its suspensions are heavily modified. Spring rates are increased by a massive 39 percent up front and 62 percent at the rear, accompanied with stiffer dampers, thicker anti-roll bars, harder bushings and new aluminum lower control arms up front. Sadly, there are no adaptive dampers, so it is not going to challenge German premium hot hatches for ride comfort.



Under the bonnet, the old 2.0-liter EB20 (JDM) and 2.5-liter EB25 (export) engines have been replaced by a brand new 1998 cc FA20 DIT (direct injection turbo) engine, which is the turbocharged version of the BRZ engine. The introduction of direct injection and a higher, 1.1 bar boost pressure from its twin-scroll turbo allow it to increase output to 268 hp, 18 hp more than the old JDM engine and 3 ponies more than the old export engine. Meanwhile, maximum torque is improved to 258 lbft, and it is available across a wider band, from 2000 to 5200 rpm. Having said that, one should remember that the first generation WRX was already good for 280 hp from 1996. I am quite disappointed for the lack of progress through the years. In contrast, European rivals like Audi and AMG are now capable of producing 300 hp or even 360 hp from the same capacity. Obviously, Subaru is reserving its potential for the forthcoming STI.

The new engine pairs with a new 6-speed manual gearbox (upgraded from 5-speed) or a new Sport Lineartronic CVT (replacing 4-speed auto). The latter is easily forgettable if you are keen drivers. Although in Sport# mode it avoids the annoying rubberband effect by giving you 8 manual ratios to select through paddles, there is a noticeable delay in each gearshift as the CVT takes time to vary its ratio from one preset value to another. The manual is not perfect either. Its gearshift is a bit notchy, but at least it is short-throw and precise. The 4WD system is the same as before. On manual gearbox car, a viscous-coupling differential lock normally splits torque 50:50 front to rear. CVT uses a planetary center differential to split 45:55 while a multi-plate clutch provides the locking function. A new torque vectoring system brakes individual front wheels to correct under/oversteer.



On the road, the new boxer engine is slightly calmer than the old one, but it still emits a distinctive exhaust note. Performance is fine but no better than the old car, blame to the increased weight. 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds is no longer eye-popping these days – an Audi S3 is good for 4.6 seconds, while A45 AMG is faster still – ditto the 145 mph top speed. There is also a bit more turbo lag than the best European counterparts. What the WRX excels is not on straight line but in the twisty. Its new electrical power steering feels natural; Turn-in is sharp and precise. The permanent 4WD, unlike the part-time versions on Audi and AMG, offers superior traction and grip, while understeer is kept to the minimum. The stiff suspension leads to tight body control and quick steering response. On the downside, the ride is harsh and busy, the wide tires roar loudly and the brakes lack initial bite. The WRX is not destined to drivers who seek a balance between comfort and handling. It is a hardcore choice, even though without the STI badge.

The packaging also lacks the finesse of European hot hatches. Like the lesser Imprezas, it is far from beautiful, if not ugly, and the interior is built to the standards of 1990s. Not even a flat-bottom steering wheel and faux carbon-fiber inserts can change this perception. Nevertheless, its good driving position, excellent all-round visibility and supportive front seats guarantee high practicality. The only complaint is the lack of hatchback version – sadly, Subaru has abandoned it to cut cost. Speaking of cost, the WRX remains to be highly affordable for its ingredients and performance, so its lack of quality and refinement is somewhat forgivable.
Verdict:
 Published on 3 Apr 2014
All rights reserved. 
WRX STI


Time seems to stand still since 1997. That year, Impreza WRX STI was good for 150 mph and capable of hitting 0-60 in 4.6 seconds – what a cannonball for its time! Now the latest WRX STI is still good for 150 mph and 4.6 seconds, not so fast beside a Mercedes A45 AMG, BMW M135i or Audi S3. Moreover, it doesn't show a leap in technology as we expected. Most notably is the EJ25 boxer turbo engine, which is disappointingly carried over intact from the outgoing generation. Very unmodern sounding, it has neither direct fuel injection, auto stop-start, on-demand cooling/lubrication nor regenerative alternator, so its efficiency is out of sync with the market trend. Neither the good old 6-speed manual gearbox sounds edge-cutting in the seas of dual-clutch transmissions. If Subaru kept racing in WRC, the STI would not have earned so little progress. Maybe racing people are right: motorsport improves the breed.

The new STI is a dream for lazy engineers as they didn’t need to work overtime during its development. The chassis is taken straight from the lesser WRX. Because it is already a lot stiffer than the old car, no more structural reinforcement is considered necessary, not even the usual tower bars. It is also wide enough to skip any extended wheel arches. Therefore the only cosmetic changes are the larger, 18-inch wheels, slightly wider rubbers and a big rear spoiler. Further effort and money are saved by abandoning hatchback body, leaving the mandatory choice of sedan form. To my eyes it looks less convincing aesthetically, although you might say all hot Imprezas since Mk2 have not been renowned for style.



Lazy engineers also love its drivetrain, which is again carried over from the old car. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong for a 4WD system consisting of a helical front LSD, Torsen rear LSD and an active center differential called DCCD (driver controlled center differential). The latter normally distributes 41:59 power front to rear but you can adjust that to 50:50 in 6 fine steps. These are the last heritage of the Group A era, and are yet to be matched by its new European rivals.

The WRX-based suspensions get some parts from the old STI catalogue, such as inverted front dampers (for higher rigidity) and forged aluminum L-arms (to reduce unsprung weight), and the tuning is sportier. 22-percent stiffer springs, thicker anti-roll bars and harder bushings make better use of the stiffer monocoque to improve handling. Meanwhile, the steering remains old-fashioned hydraulic assisted, but its 13.0:1 ratio is significantly quicker than the 14.5:1 of WRX. The Brembo brakes, with 330 mm discs and 4-pot calipers up front, 315 mm and 2-pot at the rear, are carried over from the old car. Now they also serve the new function of torque vectoring.


The 2.5-liter boxer engine is old fashioned in every way – 8.2:1 compression and a single-scroll turbo that runs up to 1.0 bar of boost guarantee a slightly sluggish low-end response. By modern standards, it displays a lot of turbo lag, thanks in part to the long pipes connecting the single turbo (note: new generation turbo engines have turbos located close to the exhaust manifolds, but this is just impossible on a boxer engine). While peak output of 305 horsepower and 290 pound-foot aren’t bad, you need to work hard on gearshift to keep it on boil at above 4000 rpm. This mean, it fails to catch the fastest European rivals in straight line, and it feels lazier still in normal driving. Fortunately, the 6-speed gearbox has a short-throw shifter thus is a pleasure to use.

The hydraulic steering is also a joy to use. It is quick, precise and truly feelsome. Yes, it kickbacks on bumps and shows a hint of torque steer at times, but it also relays tactile information to your hands like no electric rack can do. Keen drivers will love it. However, the most notable improvement from the old car is how it deals with understeer. The old car always lived under the shadow of Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X because it understeered strongly. In contrast, the new car is much more neutral. On mountain roads, it turns keenly and precisely, with little understeer to speak of. On racing tracks, where the old car simply hate to perform, the new car flies in colors. It is slightly biased to stability (oversteer just isn’t in the scope on tarmac), but it never refuses to turn into a corner. Moreover, it is forgiving at the limit thus you can drive it incredibly hard. Back on mountain roads, you will find its rally-derived suspensions and stiff chassis soak up the worst bumps without unsettling the traction and balance. Such a superb handling should allow the car to claw back the disadvantage in engine. In fact, Motor Trend compared it with the more powerful BMW M235i and Mercedes CLA45 AMG and found the STI lapped a circuit slightly quicker, even though it is the slowest in straight line acceleration.


Yes, the STI is no perfect machine. Its brakes are a bit on the weak side (fine for road use, but get soft on tracks after a couple of laps). Its ride quality is hardcore. NVH suppression is no match for its German premium rivals. The cabin is cheap and outdated, though the front seats are supportive and the driving position is perfect. It is short of showroom appeal. The lack of low-end torque and the manual gearbox also make it harder to drive than many modern hot hatches. However, none of these flaws matter to hardcore drivers whose first priority is to enjoy driving. Old school it might sound, the Subaru is still a great driver’s car.
Verdict:
 Published on 24 Feb 2015
All rights reserved. 
Levorg


Performance versions of Legacy wagon, such as GT and GT-B, used to be a highlight of Fuji Heavy Industries. Subaru was unique in combining turbocharged engines with up to 280 ps and permanent 4WD into wagon bodies, well before Audi did the same thing to its S2 Avant. Many car enthusiasts in Japan and here in Hong Kong loved them. Unfortunately, the idea was dropped in the last and current generations Legacy as the latter became larger and more American-oriented, and you know, American don’t buy performance wagons. However, the spirit of fast Legacy wagons is not dead yet. It has been resurrected in the form of Levorg, which means Legacy Evolution Touring.

Yes, you might as well see Levorg as the wagon version of Impreza. In fact, it is derived from the latter, sharing its short 2650 mm wheelbase, much the same floorpan, mechanicals and interior parts. It even looks remarkably close to Impreza fore of B-pillars. Nevertheless, its tail has been lengthened considerably to enable a large cargo space. Its overall length is stretched by a massive 275 mm compared with the Impreza 5-door hatchback. Compared with a typical C-segment wagon like Ford Focus Sportbreak, it is also considerably longer, even though it is no wider and its rear seat is not necessarily more spacious. In terms of size it might not be qualified for a D-segment car, but since Subaru sells it as a premium product – not only 4WD is standard, its entry-level engine has 170 hp – it should be compared to the higher class. Undoubtedly it is going to be a niche in the market.



With slightly more curves in its exterior, the Levorg looks a little more tasteful than Impreza. Likewise, its interior gets a slightly better finished center console and smarter-looking trims. Still, no one would buy it for looks or perception of quality. Instead, its mechanical package is still the prime reason. The base 1.6 GT model is powered by a new FB16 boxer with 1.6 liters of displacement, direct injection, dual-VVT and turbo. It produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-foot of torque, the latter is available from 1800 to 4800 rpm. Just like most modern turbo engines, it is flexible, refined and largely free of turbo lag – the latter is helped by a high, 11.0:1 compression ratio. It pairs with a standard CVT – unlike Impreza, there is no manual gearbox for the wagon – whose response is faithful enough for the majority of driving conditions.

However, better still is the FA20 boxer, a 2.0-liter direct injection turbo developed further from the Impreza WRX. Here its output is enhanced to a full 300 horsepower and 295 pound-foot of torque, 22 hp and 37 lbft respectively more than the WRX. Its mate is again that CVT, although the SI-Drive control system has an extra Sport Sharp (S#) mode to speed up the throttle and transmission response. The 4WD system has a default torque split of 45:55, but can vary according to needs. It also gets Bilstein shock absorbers and bigger boots than its 1.6-liter sibling.

Out on the road, the Levorg 2.0 GT-S drives like a more civilized WRX. Its extra weight of about 100 kg offsets the power gain, while the CVT dampens the response and results in a smoother delivery. Likewise, the more civilized suspension setup and narrower rubbers trade some body control and cornering prowess for a smoother ride, which admittedly suits the character of wagon (the 1.6 car is more civilized again). However, this is still a pretty good driver’s car. It offers excellent traction, an accurate steering, reassuring braking and decent control in the twisty. That said, it still have plenty of shortcomings, such as a cheap interior and the lack of a driver-oriented gearbox. It is neither as pretty nor as fast as some European rivals. That is perhaps why Subaru does not export it overseas.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height

Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)

0-100 mph (sec)
Impreza 1.6i
2011
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4dr: 4580 / 1740 / 1465 mm
5dr: 4415 / 1740 / 1465 mm
2645 mm
Flat-4
1599 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
-
115 hp
109 lbft
CVT / 5M
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
195/65R15
1260 kg
-
-

-
Impreza 2.0iS
2011
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4dr: 4580 / 1740 / 1465 mm
5dr: 4415 / 1740 / 1465 mm
2645 mm
Flat-4
1995 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
-
-
150 hp
145 lbft
CVT / 5M
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
205/50R17
1350 kg
120 mph (c)
CVT: 10.1 (c)
5M: 8.0* / 7.8**
5M: 25.5* / 21.2**
WRX
2013
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4595 / 1795 / 1475 mm

2650 mm
Flat-4
1998 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
268 hp / 5600 rpm
258 lbft / 2000-5200 rpm
6M
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
235/45WR17
1482 kg
145 mph (est)
5.4 (c) / 4.8* / 5.5***

13.1* / 14.5***




Performance tested by: *C&D, **R&T, ***MT





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
WRX STI
2014
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4595 / 1795 / 1475 mm
2650 mm
Flat-4
2457 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
-
305 hp / 6000 rpm
290 lbft / 4000 rpm
6M
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
245/40WR18
1535 kg
159 mph*
4.8* / 4.6**
11.7* / 11.9**
Levorg 1.6GT
2014
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4690 / 1780 / 1490 mm
2650 mm
Flat-4
1599 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
170 hp
184 lbft
CVT
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
215/50R17
1520 kg
130 mph (c)
8.4***
24.6***
Levorg 2.0GT-S
2014
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4690 / 1780 / 1490 mm
2650 mm
Flat-4
1998 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
300 hp / 5600 rpm
295 lbft / 2000-4800 rpm
CVT
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/45R18
1560 kg
149 mph (est)
5.8 (est)
-




Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT, ***Autocar





AutoZine Rating

Impreza


WRX


WRX STI


Levorg 1.6GT


Levorg 2.0GT-S


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