SUBARU Impreza Coupe/Outback

LOOKS . Nike On Wheels
HANDLING . Capable
QUALITY . Honest
STEREO . Pretty Good
HEADS TURNED . Sports Fans
EMOTION . Surprisng
CACHET . Road Jock


Sticker . $17,968/$18,963
Power . 135 horsepower
0 to 60 . 9 to 10 / 10 to 11sec.
Test Mileage . 23.1 / 20.4 mpg
Seating . 4
Trunk . 11 / 26cubic feet
Parking . Plant & Pivot


Finally something to be imprezzed about. Forget everything you think when you hear Subaru - weird, slow, oddball. Think fast, cool, well-engineered. A simple case of bigger motor/better car. We liked the Subaru Impreza before, but the '96 versions get a new engine option that boosts the rating into the LUV-IT column. Subaru's have earned a loyal following, delivering sophisticated AWD, practical utility and commendable reliability. They are now working on the joyride angle. We tested 2 flavors of Impreza: a 5 speed coupe and an automatic Outback sport wagon. Keen on both.

The 5 speed showcases the new 135 horse motor; just enough juice to keep it amusing. A fat surge in first gear as you dart off and a smooth torquey passing flash that makes for a quick tour to the shore. The slick shifting gearbox is perect mate to the somewhat rorty flat four. The automatic Outback is less quick, but strong enough to drive easily. Manual transmission works best for me. California road, tight curves, sunlight & redwoods, sweet small car, cant beat that.

AWD in either combination remains one of the best due to Subaru's super sohisticated system. Trust me - not all AWD systems are equal. It shows in the handling. Accurate, well damped, no free play steering tracks like a dream through the attractive and comfortable wheel. Speaking about attractive, its got that too. The coupe seemed ready to pounce with cherry flake paint, tasty mags, big meats and a no extra charge spoiler. The Outback had the endearing chic of a high tech sneaker for the road. Not a real wagon, it still swallowed a 10 speed without complaint.

So we get a pair of a Subarus nice enough to do the do around town and off to the mountains, too. Insides on the grey side, a little plain. Warmed by an 80 watt stereo that did not look very 80 watt,but sure did sound like it. They engineered this one. I like crisp details like the temp needle that stays right in the middle of the gauge. I like chasing all the runty little cars and beating them. Put your foot down it goes (5 speed version especially). I like the ride and the cornering. I like the size and the room. I like these cars.