Imprezas Impress: 2008 Subarus Times Two

In many ways, the Japanese automakers always seem to be just one step ahead of their American, and sometimes their European, counterparts. While the Big Three in Detroit struggle to reintroduce and reposition their lines for a changing world, the Japanese are unveiling cars that seem to be a perfect fit for the current, ever-changing automotive climate.

For proof, just take a look at the 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i and its high-performance sibling, the 2008 Impreza WRX, both of which were unveiled recently at the New York Auto Show. A few years ago, at the height of the SUV craze, these cars would have been lost in the crowd. But in this day and age of high gas prices and a renewed emphasis on efficient motoring, the Impreza twins take the lead in a new class of high-tech, high-performance compact sport cars.

Both Impreza models are available in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback versions, and both feature a new, more rigid chassis and a longer wheelbase than the previous year’s models, yet both are lighter in weight than earlier versions. In addition, the engines are placed lower in the chassis, lowering the center of gravity. When you do the math, it all adds up to better handling and a sportier ride.

Adding to the cars’ performance are two new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines that have been modified to improve emissions and fuel efficiency, while delivering improved torque at lower speeds for true high-performance driving. A standard four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower is dropped under the hood of the Impreza 2.5i, while the WRX gets a turbocharged version of the same engine, producing 224 horsepower.

Both models are equipped with Subaru’s Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, as well as all-new double-wishbone suspension. New exterior styling details such as new grilles, rooflines, and rear spoilers are also part of the packages, as are new sculpted door panels, more comfortable seats, and an available nagivation screen that can double as a display for hand-held video games, which can plug right into the system. So while the passenger plays video games, the driver can be play his or her own game behind the wheel of the Impreza over the hottest stretches of road in the country. The two new Imprezas will be available globally starting this summer, so sharpen your driving — and your game-playing — skills.