Introduced in 1992, the Subaru Impreza range would have gone down in history as just another mid-sized family car, had it not been for one special model in the range. This car was the Turbo 2000, or as the rest of the world referred to it, the WRX. Turbocharged, with symmetrical all-wheel drive, it had the ability to leave most sports cars for dead at the lights and was near untouchable on a gravel road.
Many still remember Colin McRae’s blue and yellow Impreza gracefully flying over jumps on the way to yet another stage win. Here we’re discussing the third-generation models, which saw the company drop the Impreza name entirely. Fast and robust they can make for a great used performance machine.
Which WRX STI to buy?
Arriving late in 2007, the range topping Impreza retained the previous generation’s 2.5-litre flat-four power plant, along with the six-speed manual gearbox. Detail improvements saw an increase in power to 295bhp, but somewhat controversially, the first cars were launched solely in five-door hatchback form. The new styling raised some eyebrows too. Gone were the frameless doors, and the headlight design had been changed once again. Performance was as blistering as ever though, with 60mph dispatched in under 5 seconds and the all-wheel drive system retained the driver selectable settings.
Heavier and more refined than the previous generation, the new car was also better specced with climate control, keyless go, cruise control and improved sound deadening in the cabin. The suspension was criticised for being a bit softer than before, but this was still no motorway cruiser.
Taking advantage of the new car’s tuning potential, UK specialists Prodrive offered customers a special edition 330S model with 330bhp, a 380bhp model was also debated but ultimately did not go on sale. Power hungry Subaru owners instead had to look to the Cosworth developed £50,000 STI CS400 model of which only 75 were produced. Making 400bhp it could scorch to 60mph in 3.7 seconds.
A facelift was carried out in 2010, a factory fitted 20bhp power pack became available as well as a four-door body shell – at which point the Impreza name was dropped. Suspension settings were re-tuned and minor updates were made to both the interior and exterior.
A number of special edition models were also made throughout production with the majority being offered to the Japanese market. Models included the A-Line, introduced in 2009 it was offered to Eastern hemisphere markets and featured a five-speed semi-automatic gearbox. The STI R205 and STI tS were also not available to UK customers and featured detail changes to suspension geometry and drivetrain components to optimise performance.
The thriving Subaru tuning community also offered a variety of upgrades and mods for these new cars and there are still many 600bhp+ STIs out there, as always be very wary when buying someone else’s project car as more power means higher costs and even the mechanically tough STI running gear will break given enough boost and abuse.
Our money would go on a facelifted four-door WRX STI. Mild modifications and ECU upgrades are nothing to be too concerned about, as long as the work has been professionally done and the car has been well cared for.
Performance and specs
Engine 2457cc, 16 valve DOHC Boxer four
Power 295bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 290lb ft @ 4000rpm
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Fuel consumption 25mpg
Gearbox Six-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
• Some early STIs suffered from piston failures due to a new alloy being used. ECU reflashes and, in some terminal cases, engine replacements were carried by the manufacturer. Any potential purchase should be checked to see if it was one of those affected.
• Oil changes should be carried out at most every 10,000 miles, and more frequently on a tuned car, or one that does regular track days. Cambelts require changing every 45,000 miles, and it’s an expensive job.
• An erratic idle may indicate a sticky wastegate or air flow sensor issues. A rattly idle could be a precursor to bigger engine issues so a specialist once over is highly recommended.
• ECU remapping is common and as long as it has been professionally done should not put you off a tidy car. 340bhp is easily achievable with minor changes to intake and exhaust and the internals are more than capable of handling the extra power.
• Gearboxes tend to cope well with the standard car’s output, and should not exhibit crunching or hesitation when engaging gears. Clutches however do not take a lot of abuse well, so multiple fast standing starts might kill a clutch in 30,000miles or less.
• Brakes can overheat and warp from hard use, so upgraded discs and brake fluid are recommended for track use.
• Paint and panel quality and durability has come in for some criticism from owners, so except some road rash on the nose of the car. Minor parking dings are common, as this is a practical car often left in supermarket car parks!
2007: Third generation 295bhp WRX STI version introduced, initially only as a hatchback
2008: Prodrive developed WRX STI 330S model goes on sale
2010: Entire range is facelifted and 4-door body style is now offered on WRX STI. Power pack offered on WRX STI increasing power by 20bhp and offering improved mid-range torque. 400bhp Cosworth developed STI CS400 special edition model built-75 units produced
2011: Final year of production for third-gen WRX STI models
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.iwsti.com/forums – International WRX STI forum
• www.scoobynet.com – Subaru enthusiast forum
• www.uk.subaruownersclub.com – UK owners club
Summary and prices
Values have remained firm for these cars, with £14,000 a rough starting point for the first hatchback versions. £19,000 will get you a good 2011 car, while the rare Prodrive 330S versions are similarly priced to the standard cars and are well worth a look. The Cosworth CS400 meanwhile is a potential future classic and if you can find one £30,000 is the average asking price.
Words: John Tallodi