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Subaru's WRX, based on the Impreza model, is available in both sedan and wagon versions.

2002 Subaru Impreza WRX Road Test
Fast and sticky

By Bill Roebuck

Need a wagon? Want the security of all-wheel drive? Like to have fun driving  lot of fun? Then Subaru has built the car for you with the new 2002 WRX Wagon version of its Impreza.

The WRX, which comes in both sedan and wagon versions, is simply a high-performance design of the already-quick and fun Impreza. It's a street-legal cousin to the WRC, a model which competes quite successfully in the World Rally Championship.

Just because the WRX drives like a rally car doesn't mean it's not without comforts. Besides large, electronically controlled analogue gauges with illuminated needles, it features a six-speaker stereo with cassette and six-disc, in-dash CD changer. The seats are comfortable, although the side bolsters may feel tight for drivers who are not skinny.

Other amenities include air conditioning, cruise control, tilt-adjust steering wheel, power windows and locks, heated mirrors, keyless entry, fog lamps, dual tailpipes, and 16-in. aluminum alloy wheels with V-rated tires. A manual, five-speed transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is an option. Stopping power is supplied by four-wheel, four-channel, four-sensor antilock brakes that have a firm pedal feel.

The performance image of the WRX is enhanced with new, sharp-looking headlamps, a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel, and drilled aluminum alloy pedals (on the manual transmission models), as well as aerodynamic side ground effects. There is good visibility all around through the front, side and rear windows, although the outside mirrors are small.

The powerplant is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine producing 227 hp. It runs quietly and smoothly, yet produces a sporty rumble at idle. The engine's boxer design -- featured in all Subarus -- provides a low centre of gravity, which reduces body roll when cornering. That's a good thing, because it's easy to take corners fast, thanks to the sporty suspension setup and the all-wheel-drive. The WRX really accelerates quickly, especially when the tachometer passes 3,000 rpm.

Limited-slip all-wheel-drive is standard. A variable torque distribution system comes with the automatic. It works to improve stability by controlling power distribution and torque between the front and rear wheels in response to road conditions. A very rigid body structure adds to the sporty handling and improves protection against deformation in a collision.

A functional hood scoop directs cool air to the engine's integral intercooler. The torque curve is almost flat above 2,500 rpm and peaks at 6,000 rpm; 80% of peak torque is available at 2,200 rpm.

Compared to previous Imprezas the new models are slightly larger inside, with more head, leg and shoulder room, although the rear seat space is very tight for adults. Cargo space in the back of the wagon is 790 litres, or 1,745 litres with the rear seats folded down.

The base WRX Sedan is $34,995 as tested. Other Impreza models include the 2.5 RS sedan, TS Sport Wagon and Outback Sport. The Impreza TS Sport Wagon, for comparison, starts at $21,995. Non-WRX Imprezas are powered by a 2.5-litre, low-emissions engine producing 165 hp. Further details can be found on the special WRX website,

© Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2002.

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