The Impreza is a favourite in the FC office, but we’ll admit at times that there are more practical cars out there. The Classic in particular, whilst being a perfectly comfortable road car, doesn’t have the biggest loading space. There was a solution to this problem however, when Subaru introduced the Wagon.
Available in 276bhp STi form the car is not only quick, but also practical. Luggage space is vastly increased, and with the split/fold rear seats, you can create a decent loading platform so the car’s ‘outdoor lifestyle’ image can be fully utilised. With factory-fit items such as dog guards and tonneau covers available, it’s entirely possible to have a practical all-round performance road car which also happens to boast a hugely tunable engine!
The red-top STi engine is the topic of much tuning-based discussion and even with relatively straightforward upgrades you can see yourself approaching 400bhp without too much bother. Bearing in mind that these are available dirt cheap, and probably less if you find one that needs a bit of work, it doesn’t take long to realise you’re getting a lot of car for your money.The STi interiors aren’t luxurious but remain perfectly respectable places to be, but the important thing is the 2ltr EJ20 STi motor you’re getting – with an 8250rpm redline out of the box, it loves to rev and with a bit of tuning, can really be opened up.
Subaru Impreza STi Wagon (1996-2000)
Engine: 1998cc boxer
Top speed: 150mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
As a Jap-only import, check out for dodgy aftermarket boost controllers and underbonnet wiring that looks suspect. The bottom-end on the STi engine is prone to going if not looked after, and it’s a strong recommendation to fit an upgraded oil pump as soon as possible. Check for the last cambelt change too, and if you’ve got no proof, then change it anyway. Look for turbo smoke, dented panels, general crash damage and ripped interiors, and look for signs of the car being clocked if the speedo has been converted to mph – if the interior looks tired, then it’s probably not done the 40k miles the seller is telling you.
TUNING A STI
If you’re looking for a car to tune, you could do a lot worse than buy an Impreza. The car responds well to tuning, and there’s a wide variety of parts to choose from. The stock Impreza exhaust system is a known restriction, so look into a decent turbo-back system with bell-mouth downpipe. It depends how far you want to go, but a front-mounted intercooler is highly recommended, and with upgraded headers, induction, fuel pump and turbo you can find yourself over 400bhp fairly easily. You’ll be looking at an upgraded clutch at this power level, though. After that the world really is your oyster, it just depends how deep your pockets are. The five-speed gearbox is a known weak point, the good news is that the six-speed from the new-age models fit, the bad news is that they’re quite expensive.
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