From Car Buying: Subaru's Impreza line of cars was perhaps its greatest triumph. It allowed the company to forget about the SVX and Justy in the North American market and offer a car with more versatility than a Swiss army knife. One of its best kept secrets is the little gem known as the '98-'01 2.5 RS. Here are a few simple reasons you should own one.
Subaru's Impreza line of cars was perhaps its greatest triumph. It allowed the company to forget about the SVX and Justy in the North American market and offer a car with more versatility than a Swiss army knife. One of its best kept secrets is the little gem known as the '98-'01 2.5 RS. Here are a few simple reasons you should own one.
Photo by Clifton on Flickr
5. It's rare.
The GC8 generation Impreza 2.5 RS isn't a rare car by regular production car standards, it's more rare than some exotic supercars. I'll give you a quick example: The most popular Ferrari in the late '90s and early '00s was the Ferrari 360. In its 5-year run, over 16,000 cars were made. Subaru, on the other hand, produced just over 14,000 examples of the 2.5 RS in its 4-year run, including both 4-door and 2-door variants. That means that if you're driving a 2.5 RS and get into a fender bender with Doug DeMuro, you're more likely to find his front bumper in a junkyard than your rear bumper.
This rarity only increases as time goes on, because unlike a Ferrari, a Subaru Impreza isn't a priceless heirloom that gets passed down from hard-working parent to entitled trust fund baby. It's a cheap daily driver for the vast majority of its owner base, which means that it gets totaled by newbie drivers in numbers that GM would describe as "concerning". For this reason, it's one of the rarest 90's Japanese cars on the used car market in good condition, although even finding a rough example is a bit of a challenge.
A decent unit would set you back around $5000, with the "unicorns" (read: doesn't exist) going for nearly twice that, although cars that are one check engine light away from the junkyard can be had for less than $2000, but they'd likely require more reconditioning than the car is worth. Try to find one on Ebay, I dare you.
4. It's the most "Subaru" looking car ever made.
If you asked anyone born in the early '90s to describe a Subaru, they would likely show you a picture of the GC Impreza WRC rally car. Either that, or describe something that can be driven comfortably in crocs.
Photo by Tony Harrison on Flickr
The GC Impreza is the car that gave Subaru a firm grip on not only professional motorsport, but the entry-level car market. It defined the brand, and no car since then has been able to capture the initial wonder and inherent Subaru-ness present in the simple, yet iconic lines of the GC chassis.
The 2.5 RS's rally-inspired front end, with its huge fog lights, enormous hood scoop and wide-mouth opening is, in this writer's opinion, one of the best looking of any car ever made in the last 2 decades. Although the RS didn't get the wide fender wheel arches that the 22B WRX STi in Japan got, there are plenty of aftermarket manufacturers that offer kits that transform your pretty run-of-the-mill Subaru into a unadulterated knockout.
Photo by Kontra Zoltán on Flickr
3. Its All Wheel Drive system is fantastic.
Before torque vectoring and electronic differentials were all the rage, Subaru came up with an ingenious solution to make a car go around a corner without understeering hilariously into something fortunate, or seriously into something unfortunate. Their system was called Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive. Without becoming too technical (you can read about that here), it means that the torque coming from the engine is split evenly between front and rear axles, where a traditional system would give either the front or rear a significant bias. The drivetrain was also placed in the physical center of the car, giving the car's handling more predictability than 35-year marriage.
In the 2.5 RS, this means that the car won't hesitate to get you home in a snowstorm, light flood, or those surprise rally stages that happen from time when no one's looking.
2. It's Versatile.
At the very base of the 2.5 RS is an economy car that's made for many hundreds of thousands of miles, through tough seasons exposed to the elements. It's made for baby seats, melted crayons, and the occasional drink spill. It can do a cross-country trip at a moment's notice, and doesn't mind driving all the way back because you forgot your Kenny G collection. You can likely fix it on a 2-figure budget, and rebuild it on a 3-figure budget. Its parts are easily accessible and the aftermarket support rivals anything made for popular Toyotas, Hondas, or Nissans. With the right suspension and tire setup, it can give you an experience that requires a chiropractor afterwards, all while returning just shy of 30 miles per gallon and having the ability to make one hell of an awesome and iconic exhaust note.
It's the darling of nearly every type of motorsport, from autocross to the loud new kid on the block - drifting:
Photo by Aatomotion on Flickr
1. WRX/STi Engine swaps
The stock 2.5 engine, in both the single cam and dual cam versions weren't bad powerplants by any means, putting out a max of 165 horsepower, but they were overshadowed in every conceivable way by the WRX and STi turbo variants, which are to this day, some of the most sought after engines in all of tuning culture. Subaru's ingenious method of making nearly all of their drivetrain parts interchangeable make the STi/WRX a no-brainer for anyone that wants to transform their 2.5 RS into something that will have the BRZ owner frantically running back to the dealership for a refund. There are tons of tutorials and hundreds of possible combinations of engine mods for a variety of budgets and styles, culminating in a car that can give you neck-snapping grip and more usable power than anything offered by Subaru today.
It's a diamond in the rough, and if you can find one, get it, because it certainly won't be around for long. What are you waiting for? Go get one!
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.