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Subaru Impreza RB320 review

Published:26 April 2007

Subaru Impreza RB320 review
  • At a glance
  • 5 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

Another special edition Impreza. We must be into three figures by now

Probably. This one’s the RB320, built as a tribute to the late former WRC champ Richard Burns who died in 2005, hence the RB in the name. The 320 bit refers to the output in bhp and also the production run.

A tribute! It looks fantastic but it’s a bit macabre isn’t it, what with all that black?

Maybe, but since when have the words tasteful and Impreza been bedfellows? And we’re with you on the fantastic bit. You either love these rally replicas or hate them, but those of you who get the Impreza thing are sure to love it. Only the just-crashed-into-a-chicken run grille and the orange RB320 graphics on the side (looks like someone’s left a Post-It note on the door) met with any disapproval in the CAR office.

So what sets it apart from your common or garden STi?

Apart from the grille and Post-It notes, there are the special 18in alloys (black, of course) and inside you get different trim for the seats and carpets, and a smattering of orange and black RB320 logos.

So not much, really

I suppose you’re right, although you didn’t let me get to the suspension. It’s a special Prodrive blend: 30mm lower at the front, 10mm at the back and incorporating Bilstein dampers and revised rear anti-roll bar. I’ve driven hundreds of these things but never fail to be surprised how much fun they are after a spell away. The steering’s refusal to load up can seem odd but it leaps into corners with just the merest tilt of the wheel while managing not to feel nervous. The body control is simply sensational and this one doesn’t seem to suffer as much vertical pogo-ing as our old long-term STi, although it still bobs around enough to make long motorway journeys a pain. You can play with the diff settings too, but you have to be going seriously hard on the road to get the thing out of shape and it never feels wholly rear-drive.

What about the engine? It must be up to 750bhp by now...

Not quite. In fact it uses the same 2.5-litre four as the standard STi with the addition of a Prodrive upgrade that takes power from 277bhp to 316bhp and lifts torque from 289lb ft to 332lb ft. But this PPP pack has already available to STi buyers for ages. It does feel mightily quick, enabling the RB320 to hit 60mph in 4.8sec, and is far smoother than its rival Mitsubishi Evo’s cement mixer four.

So what’s the damage?

To you, £29,995, which makes it £3500 more expensive than the regular STi, but Subaru reckons the extra kit is worth around £6k. As ever, you’ll struggle to buy anything on four wheels that matches the Subaru’s combination of performance and practicality. But it’s not just the price that’s retro: the cabin feels dated, the boot feels MkII Escort tinny when you shut it, and the volume of noise creeping into the cabin at motorway speeds is positively pre-war. World War One, that is. It’s like driving along with a seashell strapped to each ear.

Verdict

Cars like these are still a whole lot of fun to drive, something the RB320 proves admirably. But they’re also like a favourite TV show that is still funny but has obviously stayed on air three seasons too long. And to us, £30k seems too much when the classifieds are full of low-mileage three-year-old STis – essentially the same cars – for half as much. And we’ve always thought that if you are going to have something as compromised as this, you might as well go the whole hog. That being the case, Mitsubishi’s Evo IX MR FQ360 is sillier and quicker, although more expensive. Maybe we’re getting old but both feel like yesterday’s news. A BMW 330i M Sport isn’t quite as exciting, but it’s a far better car.

Specs

Price when new: £29,995
On sale in the UK: No longer
Engine: 2457cc 16v 4cyl turbo, 316bhp @ 6000rpm, 332lb ft @ 3700rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.8sec 0-60mph, 158mph, 26.4mpg, 292g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1495kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4465/1740/1440

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  • Subaru Impreza RB320 review
  • Subaru Impreza RB320 review
  • Subaru Impreza RB320 review

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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