Impreza P1 by Prodrive

Early Magazine reviews

Most if not all car magazines then carried P1 articles through the months of November and December. November 1999 saw EVO with a similar development story to the Autocar article. Then the January 2000 Car magazine (subscriptions 01858 438820) front cover was an Impreza enthusiasts dream. Not one but six different versions featured!

Copyright ©Car Magazine

The article covered the standard UK Impreza, an RB5 with Prodrive performance pack, a standard UK car which had been 3rd party modified, a 22B-UK, an STi Type R version 5, and the P1. The conclusion was that the P1 was the winner.....

You would probably assume from the article that back to back testing had taken place but the P1 "featured" in the photographs was only a show model, with only one real P1 in existance being the white development car seen in the original Autocar article. In fact the poor delivery driver had frozen on the way to the photo shoot as non of the heating controls were working! Comparisons between the featured cars and the P1 (which had been driven a number of weeks before hand) should thus be taken with a pinch of salt.

Cars in your showroom now!

Well they've finally started to hit the showrooms around the country and we can finally get to see the specification which is to be supplied. It seems there has been a few cut backs and a few rumoured niceties have fallen by the wayside. 

As the original Subaru/IM/Prodrive press releases and development articles mentioned the quicker steering making a large improvement on the feel of the handling it is especially disapointing to me that this feature has been dropped. Several reasons have been given the main one being that after exaustive testing Prodrive found it did not make that big a difference and the extra cost of fitting it (it would be a post production line item fitted in the UK) was not warranted. I am a bit mystified by this statement as the WRX RA has such a steering rack. Further statements have said that the feel in the dead ahead position was not as good as the standard rack, and not good for motorway driving. Finally it has been said the car is too twitchy with said rack and constantly needed correction from the driver.

The first production P1 test drive was seen in the 5th April 2000 edition of Autocar. With front page billing of "Impreza P1 First Drive" with not one 8 page article but also a 6 page head to head shootout with an EVO6 and an Audi S4. The Audi quickly fell behind but the reviewer thought that the P1 was no match for the EVO6. One line summed up the review for me "It (the P1) glides across bumps and ruts that the Audi and Mitsubishi thump down into, its superior damping providing a level of composure that is genuinely hard to link with the astonishing body control the car displays over high-speed crests."

I know of several ex EVO owners who have found the cars extreme fun for short blasts but not easy to live with on a day to day basis due to the uncompromising suspension. Both sold them and bought STi, whilst another in a similar position has the luxury of a standard specification UK Impreza Turbo for normal everyday use and the EVO6 for weekend blasts.

The EVO also beat the P1 in acceleration tests, 0-60mph in 4.7sec for the P1 but 4.1sec for the EVO. Is this surprising when you realise that the EVO is shorter geared but also in the text lies a vital clue..."It seems that a RalliArt EVO at £30,995 is well worth the extra £3000 or so over a grey importer. If nothing else, it ensures you'll get a crisper car in a straight line thanks to RalliArts adjustments to the boost solenoid, not to mention a three year warranty." Interesting fact which my local Mitsubishi dealer did not know about, or the owners I know. It is rumoured that the car supplied for the test was not standard.

Another part of the test refers to under engineered brakes. These are the same ones as fitted to the STi models, and as the option list says, upgrades are available for the late brakers amongst us. By the way most EVO owners suffer from warped discs after a while and end up upgrading their calipers and discs too.

The steering comes in for some critism, as quite rightly we were all expecting the quick rack. The steering is in fact lifted from the STi models and so does have a bit more feel than a UK specification, and the article text just states "...standard Impreza rack...".

The May edition of EVO magazine also featured the P1, this time in a 29 page back to back test against 15 other cars to find the best drivers car in the real world. The P1 took on all comers such as the Ford Racing Puma, Honda Integra R, Porsche Boxster 2.7, Honda NSX, Lotus Elise, Toyota MR2, Caterham Superlight, Nissan Skyline GT-R, etc around MIRA's wet handling circuit and then across Wales. It was only against the Ferrari 550 Maranello did the P1 falter. Second to a £143,700 super car...I can live with that ;-)

There was though some critism levelled at the magazine for not including a Mitsubishi EVO 6 in the test even though the same issue had one in a back to back pairing with an STi6 (the EVO won). The July edition addressed this with a two page article taking us through the logic. In 1999 in the search for the ultimate 4WD super car the RB5 had won the decision between STi, EVO6 etc, and as the magazines opinion was the P1 was a better car than the RB5, then by default it must be better than the EVO 6.

What must ammount to the strangest car test of the P1 was found in the June edition of Car Magazine. I'm glad I read it standing in the newsagents. Comedian Alexi Sayle test drove the P1 with the conclusion there was no point to the car as he had spent most of the time in traffic jams, or cruising at the national speed limit on the motorway.

The 16th of August edition of Autocar retested the P1, this time fitted with the 18in alloys, Recaro seats, Hella gas discharge driving lights, replacement rear silencer and bigger brake calipers from the WR range. Incorrectly dubbing the car the P1 WR they praised the cars handling and decided finally (ITHO) the P1 had the measure of the EVO6...but at a £37,000 price tag!

 P1 Driven

So what is it really like to drive? I was lucky enough to get a test drive on the 25th April 2000 and here are my thoughts.

The test drive took just under an hour around a mixture of roads varying from dual carriage way A roads to back water country lanes. It was interesting to compare the car to my MY97 Catalunya as I had to drive over an hour to get to the car, and then an hour back again gave me time to reflect. Also at the end of the day it is this car the P1 will be if it didn't impress after this little back to back test then I knew it was definitely not for me!

The journey there was quite miserable, all on A roads with not much dual carriage way to help get past the traffic. Some spirited over taking maneuvers in my Cat proved to me that the Impreza Turbo in any form is really a great all rounder. As time was getting nearer my appointment I was overtaking a bit more than my normal rate ;-)

So we arrive, and the car is brought round to the front...

Looks...phew I don't really hate Sonic Blue after all ;-) That rear wing sticks out quite a bit and will take a bit of getting used to. From some angles it looks quite bulky and solid. The front looks fairly tidy and nothing like the early pictures which we all loved to hate although it does look a bit OTT still. The Peter Stevens bit is strongly bonded to the standard item and looks quite good in close up, but maybe makes the car look a bit front heavy? I am also worried the first time the car visits my driveway I will end up with a standard spoiler :-( This car is fitted with the Hella gas discharge option and they are *bright*, but in operation sort of have a 1 second warm up. No answer on the cost of replacement bulbs though.

Inside there is not much difference to an MY98/99/00 and some idiot has put the indicator/windscreen wiper controls on the wrong sides for me! (pre MY98 were the other way around to current...I only flashed the lights once whilst trying to wipe the screen:-). The seats fit slightly better than my MY97 Cat seats and I start wondering about the Recaro or leather options and if they could be any better. On asking about them I was told there might be a few changes to the brochure colours. I said that IMHO the leather wasn't to my taste...the reply from my host was that IHHO they were worse in real life! Looking in the rear view mirror that spoiler is quite visible but I doubt if it will be that distracting. It is probably just the right height to obscure a set of lights on top of a police car though :-(

And we're off...This was the same car that IWOC members Keith and Jonathan test drove the other week (see link below) with the Prodrive upgraded calipers so braking performance is improved over the standard P1 but due to the weather and slightly greasy roads (and my driving style I might add) I never got anywhere near their performance. This is the second car I have driven with these calipers and the other (an MY99 WR Sport but on a summers day) was exceptional.

Ride in the P1 was a lot harsher than my Catalunya MY97 on its bouncy 15in rims but not much more than the same car on its 17in Speedlines. I did feel immediately at home though and as we got near the interesting twisties I found the car to be more positive and it was only when was invited to look down at the speedo I was pleasantly shocked at how rapid I was going ;-) No complaints with the steering and it felt more accurate than my MY97.

The engine redlines to around 8000rpm and reminded me of my long gone 1.6 litre MR2 which happily raced to the redline. No harshness at all on the P1 at redline and also happy to trundle along at 2000rpm as well. I am a lazy driver (see reference to brakes above) and was worried that the bigger turbo would give me a problem after Keith mentioned getting caught out by the lag. I had been impressed with the WR Sport with performance pack a year ago but was even more so in the P1, and no PPP exhaust rasp either which I found distracting. I was really impressed when, on the first occasion of accelerating in 3rd from 4000rpm.... it was nothing like my MY97. I can see what you Sti owners have been going on about now. I think I could get hooked on this ;-) An invite to take it to the red line in second from a road junction was not to be missed and soon dispatched the car in front.

The slightly shorter gearing also made the car more fun and along with the quick shift and higher rev limit it was quite easy to drive without thinking if you know what I mean. The quick shift by the way was very positive and made my Catalunya feel pretty sloppy.

The drive home was uneventful...too uneventful really. The Catalunya felt soft on the suspension, the steering a bit inaccurate, the engine harsh, lumpy, and gutless would be too strong but it certainly did not feel as fast, and I had to watch my braking points ;-) By half distance though it did not feel that bad but I knew that moving upto a P1 was worth it for me.

For a review of the car by the two IWOC members, Keith and Jonathan see the favourite posts section under the reviews section.

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Page last updated 20th August 2000
Copyright © 1999/2000 Steve Breen
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