Fall 2005 Forward to a Friend

Just for themselves, the roads off the freeways were worth the trip to California! Cut into the hills and mountains, they offer no relief from pure driving. Boulders and walls of dirt and trees line the roads on one side while steep drop-offs border them on the other. Thread the turns and keep to the right of the center line!

Southern California canyon and mountain roads along with freeway routes to reach them were the chosen routes for gaining first impressions of a 2006 Impreza WRX Limited Sedan. A two-day itinerary included I-405 and I-5 from Torrance toward San Diego, the Ortega Highway from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore and highways 76, 79, S7 and S6 between Oceanside and Julian.

Styling Changes for 2006
Subaru grille design
Front lip design on bumper apron (WRX, WRX STI)
Daytime Running Lights (WRX STI)
WRC roof vane spoiler (WRX STI)
Rear diffuser (WRX STI)
Side-sill spoilers
16-inch wheels (2.5i)
17-inch wheels (WRX)
Lighting assemblies
First Things First – How Does It Look?

The first thing I did when I saw the car was exactly what everyone does – go to the front to see how the new grille and hood look. Their design is fresh and well-integrated – the result of fine-tuning by a designer’s pen (or computer) that thrusts forward the Impreza’s design.

Don’t be afraid of the new look; see it in person. It’s worth the trip.

Then, when sitting behind the wheel, see how the redesign affects your vision – even your attitude. The crest of the hood swoops down from the fender lines. It has a new crispness and the visual impact of driving a two-seat sports car.

Feel Its Strength

The Impreza body has more than good looks. It’s also rigid, to which two full days of driving testified. Tight curves, braking, accelerating – nothing perturbed the body’s sense of solidity. Yet there was nothing heavy about the car. It always felt light, nimble and well-balanced.

Greg Jarem
Mechanical Changes for 2006
i-Active Valve Lift system (2.5i)
Increased compression ratio (WRX)
Redesigned combustion chambers (WRX)
Redesigned intake manifold (WRX)
Secondary air pump replaces pre-catalyst (WRX)
Mechanical limited-slip differential and steering-angle sensor added to Driver Controlled Center Differential (WRX STI)
Planetary gear set (WRX STI)
Engine immobilizer (WRX)
Larger brake rotors (WRX)
Ventilated discs front and back (WRX)
Four-piston calipers in front, two-piston calipers in back – painted red with SUBARU in white (WRX)
Even more indicative of the unitized body’s construction is the sound made when hitting bumps in the road. From the suspension through the body to the driver’s ears, there are no rattles, squeaks, groans or thumps. Instead, the body makes almost a musical tone – a solid “pong” without resonance, something like a tuning fork would make.

Attribute excellent body rigidity to a number of contemporary manufacturing techniques, including the Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frame structure, hydroformed front subframe and side sills as well as tailored-blank welded B-pillars.

Power Flow

For 2006, all Impreza models have EJ25 2.5-liter Boxer en­gines, with changes in the 2.5i and WRX engines wringing out greater power. See specifications in the accompanying chart.

Overall, what impressed me most about the 2006 WRX Limited was the flow of power produced from the engine through the drivetrain – its smoothness and the sense of precise engineering that it evokes as well as the slightly audible “whirr” when cruising at freeway speeds. Combining this with the nimble feel of the suspension and the rigid body makes the car truly a delight to drive – all the way from sea level to approximately 6,000 feet.

The centrally mounted WRX tach reflects the 2.5-liter engine’s capabilities for peak horsepower and torque at lower engine speeds than the previous 2.0-liter WRX engine.

The car was undaunted by the curves and grades engaged on the canyon and mountain roads. I expected more of a delay from the turbocharger. But what little lag there is proves more than livable for the torque and power that the engine produces, whether on the interstate, taking off from a stoplight or snaking up steep mountain grades. Plus it has that distinctive Boxer sound.

All This and Comfort, Too

Heading for southern California at the end of July may seem like madness. Temperatures were close to 100° F, and the plan was to spend two days in a car totally exposed to the sun and heat.

  Impreza Engines for 2006  
    2.5i WRX WRX STI  
  Displacement 2.5 liters 2.5 liters 2.5 liters  
  Air induction naturally aspirated intercooled turbo intercooled turbo  
  Horsepower 173 @ 6,000 rpm 230 @ 5,600 rpm 300 @ 6,000 rpm  
  Torque (lb-ft) 166 @ 4,400 rpm 235 @ 3,600 rpm 300 @ 4,000 rpm  
Greg Jarem

Joseph F. Barstys

Impreza enthusiast Sean Hook (left) and editor Ric Hawthorne discuss California roads and changes for the 2006 Impreza.

Still, the ride was comfortable at all times. Power never seemed to lag due to the air conditioner running, and the seats proved themselves supportive. The WRX Limited’s leather seats are perforated, so air circulates around the body and there’s no stickiness. The front seats’ bolsters complement the performance handling of the car, helping to hold their occupants in place through our route’s seemingly unending series of turns.

Between the climate control system, windows and sunroof, airflow kept occupants cool and alert. Controls are easy to reach.

Joseph F. Barstys
Interior Changes for 2006
Dual-stage Subaru Advanced Airbag System
Standard front-seat head and chest side-impact air bags
Standard air-filtration system
Standard outside temperature gauge
Cargo area side rails
Black or beige leather seating
Dual-mode heated front seats
Windshield wiper de-icer
Heated side mirrors
Trunk spoiler (sedan only)
Holding the steering wheel at the three and nine o’clock positions was easier because it was leather-wrapped. The five-speed manual transmission shifted quickly and smoothly, always with the feeling of precision-made componentry. The standard leather-wrapped shifter fit my hand well and felt comfortably solid – not too heavy and not too light.

That being said, driving the Subaru WRX smoothly will demand practice for some. While the clutch isn’t stiff, start-off and then matching engine
and road speeds in any given gear take acclimation because of the power that’s developed under the hood. This is a common characteristic of performance vehicles.

Although the tire pattern and road surfaces made themselves known on occasion, conversation at normal levels was always possible.

The WRX Limited leans more to the grand touring side of performance. It’s the only WRX model that has an available four-speed automatic transmission.

What This Means – Precisely

Under normal driving conditions (albeit on some extraordinary roads!), the Subaru Impreza WRX proves itself far more than capable. It’s astonishingly nimble and has the feeling of precision and balance. You feel like you could thread a needle with it.

Here you have tremendous performance in a package that can be easy and fun to handle. If you practice smoothness and take this automobile’s power seriously, you won’t be disappointed.

2006 Subaru Impreza Model Line
Impreza 2.5i (i replaces RS)
– five-speed manual standard, four-speed automatic optional
2.5i Sedan, Wagon
Outback Sport Wagon
Outback Sport Wagon Special Edition
Impreza WRX
– five-speed manual standard
WRX TR (Tuner Ready) Sedan
WRX Sedan, Sport Wagon
WRX Limited Sedan, Sport Wagon – four-speed automatic optional
Impreza WRX STI Sedan
(STI replaces STi)

– six-speed manual