2008 Subaru Impreza Preview - New York Auto Show: Subaru has a problem - its turbocharged WRX model casts a shadow so long and dark that it nearly obliterates any desire for the base Impreza. Company officials openly acknowledge that as a result of the WRX's success, the Impreza model fails to register with many shoppers. But with the simultaneous launch of redesigned versions of both iterations, it's not like the company is taking great strides to shift that inequality. Still, for buyers seeking a small all-wheel-driver, one with 170-horsepower and sedan or five-door hatch configurations, the 2008 Subaru Impreza might be worth a look. Or, given its overly conservative exterior styling, maybe it's best to go directly to the test drive.
Plain and simple, Subaru wants you to buy more of its cars. In an effort to achieve that goal, the company is updating its lineup, from the Tribeca crossover to the Legacy sedan and Impreza. The Impreza is especially important because, with its smaller dimensions and four-cylinder engine, buyers scared smaller by higher fuel prices may grant the Impreza more consideration than ever before. The continued availability of four- and five-door variants makes it all the more suitable for a variety of prospective owners.
Surprise, surprise - not all Imprezas are turbocharged WRXs. For less sporting types, Subaru does indeed sell a base Impreza, which for 2008 features a 2.5-liter, single overhead cam, Boxer four-cylinder engine mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed Sportshift automatic transmission. Output registers 170 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and an equal amount of torque at 4,400 rpm. Symmetrical all-wheel-drive is a Subaru family trait, and as such is included as standard fare on the 2008 Impreza. Behind the scenes are a suspension system composed of struts up front and double wishbones out back, four-wheel antilock brakes, and 16-inch alloy wheels rolling on 205/55R16 tires.
It's the 2007 New York Auto Show, where Subaru succeeded in creating and subsequently filling a void all within the span of 24 hours. The debut of the 2008 Tribeca marked the death of the brand's fugliest ride, but just when you thought the funk had left the building, the 2008 Impreza took the stage early the next morning. There's nothing as offensive as the outgoing B9 Tribeca's schnoz, but the '08 Impreza's lines are boring and simulate what would result from tossing previous generation Hondas, Mazdas, and Toyotas in a blender. It's almost as though designers responded to styling complaints with "Fine. We give up." Dimensions have grown in all directions.
Consider the 2008 Subaru Impreza to be a diamond in the rough. The rough is the exterior that we're guessing will either turn people off or put them to sleep, while the diamond is the smartly-designed interior. Borrowing a dual-cockpit from the B9 Tribeca, the redesigned Impreza's cabin features a curvy, sculpted dash that offers a contemporary splash, with soft shapes elsewhere filling in as the supporting cast. An extra two inches of interior width ensures that passengers will enjoy a bit more breathing room. Buyers may opt for a navigation system with MP3 and video input jacks, while front-side and side-curtain airbags are standard.
Subaru wants to hit 230,000 annual sales in the U.S. by 2010, a feat that will require moving an extra 20,000 or so units per year. Part of that growth is supposed to come from the redesigned Tribeca crossover, and company officials suggest that the redesigned Impreza will be part of the deal, too. Marketed on points including safety and a "fun to drive" character, Subaru views the 2008 Impreza as part of its plan to "provide the market with the products it wants, while putting the customer first."
It used to be that one purchased a Subaru because of its all-wheel-drive technology, or maybe for its affordability or versatility. The sometimes funky look was almost a badge of honor. Times have changed. Today you can buy all-wheel-drive Lincoln sedans, the market is flooded with versatile rides of all sizes and dimensions, and funky styling is just, well, funky. Clearly, we're not overwhelmed by the look of the new Impreza, at least not in a positive way. But the interior is nicely done, the car comes with some desirable features, and a 170-horsepower four-banger, one with 170 lb.-ft. of torque no less, is nothing to scoff at.