Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Test drive - Subaru Impreza S-GT 2.0 Turbo.

After hearing so much about the Subaru Impreza, I finally got around to test drive one. Because I vowed I would test out a Japanese turbo following the GTi. And the verdict is. Overated? (Ya, I'm sure it would have been a much different experience if it was the 2.5 WRX but it wasn't available for test drive anyway).

Although, I'm no auto-junkie and perhaps don't know as much about turbocharged cars as all you too fast too furious (self-proclaimed or not) automotive gurus out there, but comparing a 2.0 to a 2.0, the Subaru Impreza failed to impress. Don't misunderstand me, the pick-up and drive was very smooth except for some delay in the vehicle's response (due to the 4WD perhaps?) but it was a little too... smooth? It felt like a more powerful Civic 2.0 with a slightly harder suspension. It felt... Japanese.

The S-GT serves a maximum output of 250PS at 6,000rpm versus 200 at 5,100 from a Golf GTi. Although on paper, the 50 extra horses seem impressive but when it comes to the real drive, it should equal out since the S-GT needs to send power to all four wheels instead of the usual two. Also, I think what breathes life into the GTi is the 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox which is a dual-clutch automated manual gearbox that allows faster-than-split-second shifts between the current and the next pre-selected gear, while the S-GT's SPORTSHIFT is a 4AT that during sports drive, some power is inevitably lost due to shifts delay. I think most sporty-positioned vehicles come with paddle shifters these days, but I still prefer stick shifters. Somehow it just feels more... 'authentic'. I don't know if the Subaru has better fuel consumption (I reckon, if you're on sports mode, you don't really think about saving fuel, do you?) especially when it's an all-wheel drive vehicle. But comparing kerb weight, it is lighter than the GTi though which really makes me wonder how much difference in terms of stability, does it make for both vehicles to be running on 200km/h.

What surprised me was, I was half expecting a less-than-comfortable ride with suspension that will tone up your bum over every bump. But the Impreza is really, and I mean, really comfortable. In terms of seat support, I think it's more comfortable than the GTi, for long drives especially. And also, apparently the back passenger seats are longer providing more comfort and support. GTi's shorter, so you get legroom but not the same comfort. Well it depends. If you don't intend to take passengers (which I don't plan to), then...

The interior trim is minimal. What you see is only what truly needs to be there, functionally. Therefore the GTi outruns it in terms of functions and features. The only funky part of the S-GT is the Clarion audio system which glow changes colour. So you get this rainbow glow in your car at night. Hmm. Not sure about that, but hey. It's funky. The overall feel is a little plasticky and I think all Japanese makes purchase their door panels, buttons and knobs from the same supplier. They are exactly the same panels, buttons and knobs. For a hefty RM185k, I think you'd expect something more... substantial?

All Subaru cars have a Horizontally-Opposed engine mounted which they call the Subaru BOXER, which is supposed to stabilize the car further, especially during high speed due to the 'symmetrically-positioned pistons that would counteract each other to cancel out engine vibration'. It was raining quite heavily during my test drive, so although I still managed to hit 160km/h comfortably but I wasn't able to really push the car during corners to test if it sticks as well (hey, with 3 other passengers with me on wet tyres, I'm not that crazy, you know). Just for your info, the Subaru clocks in 6.0s from 0 to 100. The above is the Subaru BOXER from WRX not S-GT.

I'm not exactly sure where this car fits into the people's purse, but it's very niche. Extremely niche. They only sell less than 20 units for the entire year. That's how niche. But all in all. It's been a pleasant experience. For me and one of my more enthusiastic passenger, the drive was considered... boring though. For something in this category. I don't know. Seems like all turbo cars are getting more and more refined. News has it that the new Mk6 GTi will also be more refined with improvements on the suspension in order to put more comfort back to the performance driving experience. More like a BMW thing, isn't it? While everyone says that BMW is passe because they've forgotten what the ultimate driving experience is all about but you have to admit that, they are still the first to put this refinement back into their sporty mass models. And everyone else is still following? If you want the ultimate driving experience. Get an M car.

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