Cars & Gadgets

The All-New Subaru Impreza Promises Confidence, Control, and Comfort

It’s designed that way to “give the driver more control.”
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It’s been almost 20 years since I first sat behind the wheel of a Subaru Impreza. Well, sort of. After quitting my entry-level banking job in the late 1990s, I would kill time at the mall with two of my similarly directionless friends. We’d nurse our cups of coffee for hours while people watching, and when that got old, we’d head over to the video arcade. We weren’t really gamers, but for that much-needed adrenaline rush that our lives sorely lacked we’d play a few games of that car racing classic, Sega Rally. The vehicle of choice? The one that propelled the late, great Colin McRae to World Rally Championship supremacy in 1995—the Impreza, of course.

Many things have changed—for Subaru and me—since those days. The Impreza has gone through several metamorphoses, with models including sedans, coupes, hatches, and station wagons. For the Impreza’s fifth generation, Subaru, distributed in the Asian region by the Motor Image Group, unveiled the car’s most radical redesign yet at the Singapore Motorshow 2017 earlier this year. It’s built around what’s called the Subaru Global Platform—the architecture or car body framework that all future models of the Japanese automaker will be based upon. “The enhancements to the new platform set a new benchmark in driving comfort, performance, and safety, promising drivers an experience like no other,” said Glenn Tan, executive director of Tan Chiong International, Motor Image’s parent company.

Besides the improvements promised to the car’s occupants, the technology streamlines Subaru’s existing manufacturing processes, as all the different models offered by the brand can now be built or assembled in a one-factory setup. Company executives claim that the cost savings will ultimately benefit the consumer as Subaru’s products become more competitive in the market. 

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The hatchback model is coming soon

It all sounds good in theory, but would it perform on the road? To get a glimpse of what the car is capable of, motoring journalists were treated to a display of stunt driving by Russ Swift, the globe-trotting Englishman famous for precision parking with incredible speed and pin-point accuracy. In the Impreza he made it all look so easy. Powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder “Boxer” engine, the car accelerated quickly on the short course while the ventilated disc brakes allowed it to stop on a dime; the precise steering brought the Impreza to wherever the stunt driver had in mind. While I didn’t get to try the same tricks—obviously that would take more than a day’s training—I did get to drive the car and see what made it all possible.

In a secluded part of the island nation, Subaru set up several short tracks to test the three C’s—Confidence, Control, and Comfort—in the Impreza plus a few other cars in the same class from other manufacturers.

The Confidence track tested primarily our faith in the car’s safety equipment, most importantly the traction control and braking systems. Following the instructor’s lead I floored the gas, getting up to speed before zooming through a wet, slippery metal plate on a chicane—no problem, all thanks to the All-Wheel Drive system. Pioneered by Subaru for passenger car use in 1972, it’s among the features that elevate the Impreza from most other cars in its class. Later, while making a sharp turn at considerable speed, the instructor comically screamed “brake!” which was easily done with without skidding or losing control—signs that the anti-locking brakes were working perfectly. This, combined with a low center of gravity (5mm lower than the previous model), accounts for the car’s ability to handle sudden twists and other surprises on the road.

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The spacious cabin has enough room for a small family

On the Comfort track, what impresses most is the rigidity of the Impreza’s chassis—on the most bumpy part, where you’d expect a lot of vibration, creaks, and thumps from various parts of the car (and groans from passengers), it was adequately smooth, with the suspension absorbing most of the punishment. On quick turns, the Impreza also showed less body roll, letting passengers sit comfortably in the cabin without much sliding around.

The model has a sunroof feature.

The control track, while being the shortest of them all, showed how Swift was able to perform his precision stunts. While accelerating, I make a tight full circle—the closest thing to recreating Swift’s doughnuts—before zipping through a twisty chicane and pulling off another quick braking test. Unlike other cars that give a sharp jolt when you fully depress the gas pedal, the new Impreza doesn’t jack rabbit or emit tire squeal. Instead, it picks up speed smoothly. To those used to more aggressive driving, it might seem like a drawback, but this notion is countered quickly by Subaru’s engineers. It’s designed that way to “give the driver more control,” they say. Power without control is nothing, after all.

The entertainment system makes long drives fun.

The all-new Impreza, initially offered in the Philippines in the 2.0i-S four-door version, gives justice to what its name sounds like—impressive—and you can’t argue with that. After more than 20 years on the road, what people still debate about is whether it’s im-pret-za or im-pre-zah (the Japanese engineers I spoke to pronounce it the latter way). It may be just a made-up word, but type “Impreza” in Google Translate and you’ll get a surprise. Maybe the Polish know what it really means. Wink, wink.

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Motor Image Pilipinas 187 Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, San Juan; 727.8333; subaru-global.com.

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Pierre A. Calasanz
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