Subaru's throwing a birthday bash of note next year, celebrating a half-a-century of operations here in the states.
Founded on February 15, 1968 in Pennsylvania, Subaru of America (SOA) took cautious baby steps, hawking the quite forgettable and short-lived 'Subaru 360.'
Subaru will host numerous celebratory events, and debut a series of special edition models early next year. A quick calendar glance has Feb. 15, 2018 falling smack dab in the middle of the annual Chicago Auto Show (running Saturday, February 10 through Sunday, February 19, 2018); an expansive, welcoming venue more than capable of hosting a Golden Anniversary hoopla of this magnitude.
Subaru's U.S. sales in 1968 totaled a very countable 332 units. Fast forward forty-eight years and those baby steps became thunderously louder, blossoming exponentially to a record 615,132 units.
The priced-to-sell '360,' ($1,290), bore a suspiciously similar silhouette to the established VW Beetle costing $300 more. Within two years, the dome-like 360 was replaced by the FF-1, the first front-wheel drive offering sold in America from a Japanese manufacturer. At the time, a majority of vehicles depended upon rear wheel drive.
All-wheel drive comes standard in all 2017 Subarus; well...almost all. In 2012, Subaru launched the niche BRZ, a sporty two-door with performance-oriented rear-wheel drive. It's now the automotive twin of the Toyota 86. Prior to 2016 the Toyota 86 was branded as the Scion t/C. Toyota quietly retired its 'youth-oriented' Scion division last year, folding many vehicles into the Toyota nameplate.
No pickups or truck-based Sport Utility Vehicles adorn Subaru's lineup; just all-wheel-drive sedans, crossovers and the two-door, rear-drive BRZ.
Subaru's compact Impreza debuted in 1993 with the 2017 effort representing an all-new, next-generation effort. Wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) grows an inch, now measuring 105.1-inches. Overall length adds 1.6 inches while width grows 1.5 inches.
Subaru relocated Impreza production to the Midwest heartland at the company's sole U.S. assembly plant, about a three-hour drive from Chicago in Lafayette, Indiana. Previous-generation Imprezas called Japan home. The Lafayette plant opened in 1989 and also assembles Outback crossovers and mid-size Legacy sedans. Since the 1989 opening, approximately five-million Subarus have rolled off the Hoosier line.
Impreza pricing starts at a very competitive $18,395, a mere $100 higher than the outgoing 2016 effort. It's also the first Subaru built from an all-new global platform architecture, designed to enhance safety, agility and comfort all while keeping production costs in check and shared among multiple vehicles.
Next-generation Subaru Outbacks and Foresters will build upon this same universal architecture, which increases Impreza's body rigidity by more than 70 percent.
Impreza stands as one of a handful of compact sedans also offered in a five-door hatchback body style. Trim levels in 2017 include: Base, Premium, Sport and top-line Limited.
A five-speed manual transmission comes standard. Add $800 for Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), operating with the same ease as a conventional automatic transmission. Continually variable transmission employees an infinite number of forward gear ratios rather than a set number of planetary forward gears (five or six speeds) delivering smooth, but at times uninspiring zero-to-60 times.
Our Sport trim started at $21,995 and added $800 for CVT and $2,045 for the 'Eyesight' package of upgraded radar-enhanced safety nuances. The bottom line reached $26,560 with $820 destination charge.
Sport trims include larger 18-inch wheels, a sports-tuned suspension and Active Torque Vectoring, keeping Impreza stable while balancing power output during spirited cornering.
Subaru's 'Eyesight' package includes adaptive cruise control, automatically speeding and decelerating from a set speed depending upon Impreza's distance from vehicles ahead. Other Eyesight radar-enhanced goodies; rear cross traffic audio alert, lane departure and sway warning, lane keep assist and blind spot monitor.
Returning under hood is Subaru's most notable differentiator; a horizontally-opposed Boxer engine. Pistons are laid flat at 180 degrees, riding shallower in the engine compartment, lowering the center of gravity for improved handling and agility. Subaru and pricier Porsche branded vehicles employee boxer designs.
Impreza's naturally aspirated (non turbo) 2.0-liter inline four cylinder Boxer engine tweaks horsepower up to 152 horsepower from last year's 148. It's the sole powertrain. At a government-rated 28 miles per gallon city and 37 mpg highway, fuel economy registers very respectable, factoring in Impreza's symmetrical all-wheel-drive. Regular 87-octane fuel fills the relatively small 13.2-gallon tank.
Unlike large crossovers or luxury sedans with power seats maneuvering up and down, Impreza's buckets remain at a constant height, but the somewhat elevated level provides good visuals in multiple directions thanks to four side windows and large rear glass.
Included as part of Subaru's Starlink 8.0 multimedia plus system; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interaction, connecting portable Smartphone functioning seamlessly with the Sport trim's eight-inch in-dash touchscreen (a 6.5-inch screen comes aboard other trims). Two good-sized twist dials interact nicely with the color screen. Bluetooth hands-free phone and texting connectivity also comes standard along with Pandora and Aha audio platforms.
While this in-dash screen displays band selection choices (AM/FM, XM), 'APPs' from connected Smartphones and cell phone information when paired, a second, rectangular screen situates inside uni-
brow-like housing atop the dash with seven tutorials summed via a steering wheel push button. Two portable electronic plug-in ports and a 12-volt outlet are found inside the armrest/storage bin between front buckets.
A third 'driver information' screen cozies up inside the instrument panel between two circular analog gauges backlit in bright red hues. This window also commands from the steering wheel's left side, but through a series of three pull-push tabs.
Ventilation controls conveniently monitor via three in-line diminutive textile dials (fan speed, temperature, direction) below the in-dash screen. No tiny push buttons to locate and mess with.
Second-row backrests fold down flat onto seat cushions with a 60/40 split once pull tabs atop outboard corners manually pull upward. Row two accommodates a pair of adults in optimal comfort with decent head and average leg room.
Impreza's exterior brings along many visual cues from the previous generation, including a large, square rear window intersecting with a diminutive trunk lid. Our Sport trim included a body-color-and-gloss-black rear spoiler following the curved contours found of the lid.
The front grille includes a hexagonal, honeycomb-filled grille with Subaru's oval, six-stared logo front and center. Narrow 'Hawkeye' headlight housing stretches and connects with side fenders.2017 Subaru Impreza
Price as tested: $26,560
Engine: 2.0-liter four cylinder
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Overall length: 182.1 inches
Overall width: 70 inches
Overall height: 57.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,179 pounds
Fuel economy: 28 mpg city/ 37 mpg highway
Assembly: Lafayette, Indiana