- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

MODEL: Subaru Impreza WRX
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $24,520
MILEAGE: 20 city, 27 highway

Drivers looking for turbo performance in a subcompact ought to look at Subaru's Impreza WRX. It is World Rally Championship-inspired, packed with power and surprises.
Subaru wasted no time in making color and design jump out at the onlooker. Blaze yellow and WR blue pearl are two brilliant paint colors that evoke smiles and stares from adults and even children. The front of the WRX has knockout design features, from the smartly raked windshield to the turbo air intake dam on the hood to the front wide-tread blister-fender. Large oval-shaped headlights and bold fog lights serve as four-corner anchors for this small, sporty car that measures 68 inches in width. The front grille is masked in a darkened mesh design, giving the Subaru logo the appearance of floating in the center.
All the design excitement is reserved for the front of the WRX, so as to not make this newest member to the Impreza lineup appear overdone. Lines along the side of the 173-inch WRX body fold smoothly to the rear section, highlighted by large, angled taillights. The WRX sits on 16-inch alloy wheels and tires, but 17-inch wheels and tires can be installed as optional equipment. The WRX is modeled after the specially tuned turbo Imprezas that have captured several rally championships for Subaru.
Small surprises await inside. The first comes when the driver opens the door and sees the seat fabric. My test-drive WRX model had the blue exterior paint that carried over to the interior with subtle bright blue flecks woven against the charcoal black seat fabric, which is exclusive material for the WRX model. Both my front seat passenger and I remarked on the snug comfort of the contoured bucket seats that cradled the back, hips and legs.
The clutch, brake and gas pedals are eye-catching aluminum, featuring drilled holes filled with rubber grips (nice race car imitation). Another surprise found in this model is the Momo leather-wrapped steering wheel, an item more apt to be found in high-priced sports cars.
Window dressing may draw a performance enthusiast to the Impreza WRX, but turbo power is the real magnet behind this 2002 all-wheel-drive sedan. This little car is ready for fast moves. Right out of first gear, the WRX feels like it's going 50 mph. Subaru's 2-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder turbocharged engine puts out 227 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 217 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.
While I respected the power behind this forceful turbo engine, I wasn't so enthused with the five-speed manual transmission shifter. Some drivers prefer tough, notchy moves when shifting through the gears, but I'm not a big fan of this tooling. The gear ratios have been adjusted on the WRX for precise shifting.
I never got used to the "kick back" to my hand the shifter knob would deliver every time I accelerated or decelerated. It seemed to me the shifter knob was a little too active in its casing. When I asked Subaru about the active shifter, I was told this feedback is not typical, and that my test-drive vehicle possibly had a bad engine mount. The 2002 Impreza WRX is available with a four-speed electronic automatic transmission that is teamed with Subaru's most advanced AWD system.
The $23,995 WRX is loaded with standard equipment, such as an in-dash, six-disc CD player; tilt-adjustable steering column; anti-lock brakes; plus power windows, mirrors and locks. The 2002 WRX is a powerful, well-equipped machine wrapped in a small package.
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