MY97 - 1997 Impreza 2000 Turbo AWD

The Impreza Turbo after four years of production was changed extensively over the previous 1996 model with modifications to the bodywork, chassis, engine and interior.

Standard road going Impreza 2000 Turbo AWD Saloon 1997 model (Copyright © Subaru UK)

The new 1997 Impreza range was released at the 1996 NEC Motor Show. In comparison to the previous MY96 model, the styling was now more angular with the bonnet creased noticeably upwards in the centre rather than down on the 1996 (although you could say the 96 is flat in comparison). The front grill is no longer horizontally split but now a single opening. The front head lights are squarer and less rounded.

Inside is the biggest difference. The seats are more sporty and supportive. Not as good as Recaros but a lot better than the 1996 standard ones (unless you are on the more portly size). Also the roof is lined material rather than plastic, which along with other improvements makes it quieter. The dash board switch gear for the heater controls was changed from three rotary controls plus a push button to two rotary plus two central sliders. The in car entertainment is courtesy of a Subaru badged Philips radio cassette.

The suspension has been uprated with a larger anti-roll bar which was featured in the MY96 Prodrive upgrade. One feature with the MY96 was the ability to beat the synchro in the gear box if too fast a change was attempted (or a quick shift fitted). The syncho mesh mechanism has been revised on the MY97 as a result.

Standard road going Impreza 2000 Turbo AWD 5 Door 1997 model (Copyright © Subaru UK)

Probably the most important changes are to the engine, and what a difference they have made!

Turbo engine bay
1997 Impreza Turbo engine bay (Copyright © Steve Breen)

Maximum engine power remains the same at 208bhp but this is now developed 400 rpm lower down the rev range at 5600rpm. Maximum torque has increased is again attained lower down the rev range.

Power 208bhp@5600rpm (400rpm lower)
Max torque now 214lb ft@4000rpm (13lb ft increase and 800rpm lower)
0-62 is now quoted as 6.4sec. (but see below)

Hows it all done?

Compression ratio is up from 8.5 to 9.7:1 reducing turbo lag.
Pistons are low friction molybdenum coated.
Cylinder head cooling improved.
Engine management improved.
Revised turbo intake and straighter turbo port.
Larger intercooler.
Smaller turbo.
Maximum turbo pressure up to 90,000Pa (13.05psi)
Better sound deadening of exhaust.

A special edition MY97 was released in March 1997 to celebrate Subaru winning the manufacturers World Rally Championship in 1996. As the championship was clinched on the Catalunyan Rally what better to call the model than the Catalunya. Finished in an exclusive black mica paint (a hint of red metalic), colour matched door mirrors, Catalunya badging on the side and rear it is also fitted with gold versions of the standard 15" alloys fitted to the Sport.

The interior has been refitted out with black material, trimmed with red on the seats, and the instrument dials have a carbon fibre surround.

Carbon fibre dash

There is a short rally style gear knob, but disappointingly this is just as it says a shorter gear knob, NOT a quick shift. Finally there are Catalunya badged car mats, air conditioning as standard and a individually numbered badge on the dash to indicate which of the 200 you own (again probably 199 off).

Red/black seats!

First released in March 1997, for an on the road price of 21,610. The official Subaru UK Press Release is available here.

Click here to read about my own Catalunya.

Test drive and reviews

So whats it like on the road? I managed to get a test drive a week before I took delivery of my own car and here are my first impressions....

Standard road going Impreza 2000 Turbo AWD Saloon 1997 model (Copyright © Performance Car)

The first thing you notice are the seats as you fall into them. They are much better than the pre 1997 model giving a lot of lateral support but the lumbar support seems a little too far down for someone my height (5 foot 10 in) and with a thick leather jacket on are a bit tight and a pain around the shoulders. As it was about 6 months since I drove the 1996 spec. car I can not say whether it is much quieter but I have been assured it is.

(Copyright © Performance Car)

Turning the key the engine burbles into life and as soon as you pull away it definately feels different. By reducing the size of the turbo it has reduced the turbo lag. Bringing the power and torque further down the rev range the car is now even more fun to drive. As soon as you touch the throttle the car is pulling from just 3000 rpm like the '96 car never did. In fact you can be quite lazy in the way you drive. Even though the demonstrator I was playing in was quite new and I was asked to keep it under 5000rpm I was just laughing to myself all through the test drive at how much fun I was having!

Several magazines have tested the 1997 model and here are a few figures....

Performance Car magazine tested a select choice of vehicles over the 1/4 mile drag strip at Santa Pod Raceway in the November 1997 issue (subscriptions 01858 435337). The Subaru Impreza was included....note these are one way times only down a grippy drag strip and with only driver and minimal fuel.

0-60mph : 5.03sec
0-100mph : 13.56mph
Standing 1/4 mile : 13.72sec @ 100.6mph
Max g : 1.09

November seems to be the month of the Impreza with Top Gear magazine undertaking a group test featuring my favourite saloon, and thrashing them around Thruxton road racing circuit (subscriptions 01483 733744).

(Copyright © Top Gear magazine)

0-30mph : 1.8sec
0-60mph : 5.2sec
0-100mph : 14.5sec
Standing 1/4 mile : 13.9sec @ 98mph
30-50mph in 3rd : 4.0sec
30-50mph in 4th : 4.9sec
50-70mph in 5th : 9.0sec
Max speed : 140mph
Braking 70-0mph : 55.1m

As you can see above, test driver and Lister Storm GT1 driver Tiff Needell really like the car! What other car could you think of which he could award 5/5 for sensibility and 5/5 for grin-ability!

Following on from November we have the Impreza holding its own in a group handling test around Castle Combe Circuit in CAR magazine (subscriptions 01858 435337). It was faster around the circuit (76.83s lap time) than a Porche Boxster (77.52s), Honda Integra-R (78.94s), BMW Z3 2.8 (79.02s), and a Lotus Elise (79.05s)!

Their summary of the Impreza was "The Subaru has similar power to the Boxter. It lapped faster. It's a four door saloon. And if it had been wet or bumpy the difference would almost certainly have been greater. An amazing car." And a final caption on a photo...."Impreza Turbo: power, grip, balance. Buy one."

In an end of year round up 17-26 December issue, Auto Express (subscriptions 01454 620070) placed the Impreza 5 door as winner ahead of stiff competition such as the Honda Integra Type-R, Fiat Coupe Turbo and Nissan 200SX. "Four wheel drive makes the Impreza increadible safe - many cars trying to corner at similar speeds would end up in the scenery."

The 1997 model was further revised in 1998 with the MY98 model.

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Page last updated 9th March 2003. Copyright © 1996/7/8/9/2000/1/2/3 Steve Breen
Copyright © of photographs remain with source. Used here by permission and may NOT be copied for any purpose.