INCONSPICUOUS IMPREZA DOUBLES AS A ROCKET SHIPParent alert! Beware the 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX!Some context: When I was 16, I engaged in the time-honored tradition of attempting to convince my father that the cars I wanted to buy were timid, tepid little people-movers.Not at all car savvy, he nonetheless figured out that the little 1967, used, imported car I wanted to buy, even though it had a smallish six-cylinder engine and had been owned by a female schoolteacher, may not be the best choice for a teenager. It was a Jaguar XK-E. In retrospect, I grudgingly admit he may have been correct.I did, however, manage to sneak a new 1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1 in under his radar, and it was worth all the weekends and after-school hours I spent working my part-time job to support it. ("Dad, look! An economical manual transmission, and a thrifty 351 cubic-inch V-8, much smaller than the 429 cubic-inch V-8 in this other Mustang!")So, as a tribute to my father, I alert fellow parents to the presence of the 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX, arguably the most insignificant-looking rocket ship since the 1969 Rambler Scrambler. The WRX is a very close cousin to Subaru's WRX full-race rally car, which has been winning competitions worldwide for several years.Beneath the hood is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, called a "flat four" because it has two cylinders on one side, two on the other side, sort of like the old air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle. It is inherent that flat-fours don't idle as smoothly as inline fours (when all four cylinders line up in a row, as they do on the vast majority of four-cylinders), nor do they sound particularly impressive.True with the WRX there's some vibration at idle, and it sounds as if there's a leaking gasket under there somewhere. This is particularly noticeable in the WRX, because to keep the weight and the cost down, there isn't much sound-deadening material used.And that is pretty much the extent of negative comments you'll read. The rest of the WRX is a masterpiece of comparatively low-cost execution. It has all-wheel drive for safety, superb front bucket seats, a leather-covered steering wheel made by Momo (a European manufacturer whose products are more typically found on Ferraris), excellent brakes, a great stereo, nice wheels and premium Bridgestone Potenza radial tires. And 227 horsepower, more than a Porsche Boxster or an Audi TT. And all for under $25,000. ("But dad, it's just a little four-door Subaru with a little-bitty four-cylinder engine!")This is about as much bang for the buck as anyone is offering right now. It is not that difficult to turbocharge a small engine and make a lot of horsepower, but the beauty of the WRX is that all that horsepower is enclosed by a startlingly livable car, perfectly happy to poke along in rush-hour traffic, and still delivering, in our tests, an average of 25 mpg.It has a decent-sized trunk and a back seat that can carr y three adults (not all that happily, unless they are jockey-sized), plus more standard equipment than you'd expect, such as air conditioning, keyless entry, an AM/FM stereo with cassette and six-disc CD changer, front and side airbags, fog lights, antilock brakes and power locks, mirrors and windows.Arguably the most impressive accomplishment here is that somehow, Subaru engineers managed to make the WRX stick to corners like a mountain goat, but still ride smoothly enough to make long-distance driving effortless. With the all-wheel-drive and those all-weather Potenza radial tires, the WRX was simply unfazed by monsoon conditions.About the only downside to the driving experience is that the WRX is fairly noisy on the highway, and that in stop-and-go traffic, our manual transmission-equipped model (a four-speed automatic is an extra $1,000) requires a very light touch on the clutch to get the car rolling without stalling. Annoying, but certainly tolerable.Given th rice, $24,520 including $525 in shipping, the 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX is as close to a vice-less performance sedan as you can find.Is it too much car for teenagers? Probably.But for dad at least this dad it feels just right. Base price: $23,995 Price as tested: $24,520 EPA rating: 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway. Details: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive four-door sedan powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 227-horsepower four-cylinder engine with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||October 23, 2001|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||May 5, 2002|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||December 5, 2001|
|Alan Vonderhaar||Cincinnati.com||November 17, 2001|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||September 20, 2001|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||August 4, 2001|
|Alan Vonderhaar||Cincinnati.com||July 14, 2001|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||May 6, 2001|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||April 11, 2001|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||March 11, 2001|
|Jason Stein||July 23, 2001|
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