Spring has finally come to California wine country and I’m clipping through tight two-lane roads through vineyards and wineries around Paso Robles. I’m doing my best to keep eyes on the road, but the greenery and mountains are simply magical. Yet, the roads and this car demand attention lest I end up a visitor center lawn ornament. As invigorating is the drive, this little hatchback could just as easily take Miles and Maisey to cello lessons. I’m driving the completely redesigned 2024 Subaru Impreza RS.
Exuberant Familiar Style
From the hotel carpark, it didn’t look dramatically different from the outgoing model. The grille is wider and narrower, fenders have more form, and aero panels have been added underside to enhance fuel economy. Base and Sport models look handsome, but the RS is my favorite with 18” dark alloy wheels, black trim, vivid Oasis Blue Pearl paint, and RS logos that incorporate horizontally opposed piston heads in reference to its Boxer engine.
Sedans have been eliminated, leaving just hatchbacks. Only about a quarter of Imprezas were sedans anyway, but customers made clear they wanted a sporty car that could accommodate their active lifestyles. Hiking, Running, and spending time with pets are favorite activities. A wide rear threshold and mounting points for a roof rack allow easy loading of kayaks and bicycles too. Lift the hatch, fold rear seats, and toss gear into a cavernous crossover space. A bicycle – or cello – should fit.
Up front, there’s a new tablet-sized infotainment touchscreen with auxiliary buttons/knobs for key climate functions, volume and tuning. Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and console charging easily connect phones. Seats heat faster, Harman Kardon audio sounds sweeter, and the power sunroof makes the interior brighter. Additional sound insulation quells engine noise. Step up to the RS for red seat accents and alloy pedals. Safety, a Subaru hallmark, is enhanced with a new three-camera EyeSight system to better employ automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, and newly added crash-avoidance steering.
More Mature Manners
Putting the sport into utility are two available powertrains: Base models with a 152 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder or the RS with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder developing 182 horsepower. Both connect to continuously variable automatic transmissions. If given a choice, I’d take the 2.5 and not just for power. It only gives up 1-MPG (rated 26/33-MPG city/hwy) and gains 30 horsepower. Pretty easy choice. There’s no manual transmission, but you can paddle-shift eight pre-set ratios to better connect with the car in the twisties.
A 10% stiffer body structure allowed engineers to recalibrate the suspension to firmly grab corners by the scruff and also be more compliant during daily commutes and long trips. Tip the car into a corner and you notice how the horizontally-opposed engine keeps weight balanced low in the chassis, torque-shifting all-wheel-drive solidly connects to road, and the all-capable WRX’ power steering provides precise feedback. This car can do very sports car things very competently without any penalty during regular use.
Back at the hotel, sipping wine after a day of driving spirited enough for some of my compatriots to become ill and require a snack of Dramamine, the Impreza came into focus. It’s a practical car with the utility of a crossover, able to cover long distances comfortably, but with impressive dance moves. The 2.5-liter engine is more powerful than the 2.0-liter engine, and it could certainly use more power, but this car is more about finesse than straight-line acceleration. And, that’s what should be the RS. Besides, if you want a turbo, Subaru will happily sell you a WRX.
Funny enough, this isn’t my first drive in a Subaru 2.5-liter RS. Way back in May 2000, before there was a U.S.-version WRX, I drove a 2.5 RS sedan. It was only the second Subaru I had ever driven. Even then it was a special car, endowed with 162 horsepower Boxer four-cylinder engine, able to run 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds, and shifting power to standard AWD through a 5-speed manual transmission. I’d like to have that manual on the new RS, because paddles only go so far, but would toss the rest toot sweet for the 2024 edition.
So, what does the overhauled Impreza cost? Base models start at just $22,995. Step up to the Sport for $24,995 or the resurrected RS for $27,885. All offer incredible value, utility, and driving enjoyment without penalties of a true sports car.
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2024 Subaru Impreza RS
Five-passenger, AWD Hatchback
Powertrain: 2.5-liter I4, CVT
Output: 182hp/178 lb.-ft. torque Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Fuel economy: 26/33 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Gunma, Japan
Base/As-tested price: $22,995/$27,885