Subaru Impreza

The Turbo version builds upon the strengths and addresses the faults of the original

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The RB320 offers £6,000 worth of extra kit, but costs only £3,500 more than the standard model. Yet the best thing is that it builds on the Impreza’s strengths and addresses some of its faults. The engine is more gutsy and the revised suspension should boost ride and handling. In fact, the worst thing about the RB320 is that 200 of the 320 cars being made have already been sold.

It’s a mark of the respect Subaru and Prodrive held for tragic rally star Richard Burns that the new RB320 exists today. His heroics (and subsequent world championship) in the current model’s predecessor certainly helped the company to develop the cult status its Impreza enjoys today.

This is the second Subaru/Burns-badged tribute car, and follows the highly regarded RB5, launched in 2003. On sale in March, the RB320 uses a similar formula to the original. Cosmetic enhancements are limited, and most of the £6,000 worth of extra kit is to make it better on the road.

Key to the appeal is a Prodrive Performance Pack that boosts the 2.5-litre engine to 320bhp. There are also new springs and dampers, which see the ride height lowered by 3cm at the front and 1cm at the rear.

People will still know you’re driving something special, thanks to the Obsidian Black paint. Yet the most stunning part of the RB320’s makeover is the nose. A lip added to the spoiler and the chrome finish to the grille make the standard WRX STi seem a bit dowdy in comparison.

The graphite-grey 18-inch alloys are more understated than the usual gold rims, but the gold calipers stand out as a result. Inside, however, the Subaru is largely unaltered. Although there are tasteful logos for the Richard Burns Foundation charity on the mats, gearknob and seats, the emphasis is on function over form.

And as a driving machine, this tweaked incarnation of the Impreza won’t let you down. You particularly feel the extra power out of corners. Maximum torque is now 450Nm – up by 58Nm – and it’s on tap lower in the rev range, so the car leaps away as soon as you plant the throttle. The quickshift gearchange is a bonus, making an already precise box even more enjoyable to use.

Our drive in the first limited-edition model was on a track, and this demonstrated the new Impreza’s excellent traction and impressive lack of body roll. Judging the ride quality was difficult, but the overwhelming impression was that this was improved, too, making the RB320 an even better all-rounder than the standard car.

It’s undoubtedly a great tribute to Burns, who died of cancer in 2005. What a pity he’ll never drive it himself. We are sure he would approve.

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