Steal or no steal | Subaru AWD all-stars

2022 marks 50 years since the first all-wheel drive Subaru; it's been quite the half-century

By PH Staff / Saturday, 17 September 2022 / Loading comments

Subaru Impreza WRX STI (JDM), 2007, 92k, £13,995

Just when you think you’ve found the right Impreza WRX STI, another one comes along to tempt you away. Not only are there an infinite number of special editions, each with their own minor but often significant differences, there are also some major differences between UK and JDM cars. Go for the UK model and you’ll get the distinct Impreza burble, which is lost on the Japanese cars as they use equal-length headers. However, JDM machines get twin-scroll turbos, automatic water spray for the intercooler and tougher engines. Though you may pay a little more for one, JDM cars are typically the way to go if you want the ultimate Impreza WRX experience.

That’s why I was surprised to find this 2007 Hawkeye, with 92,000 miles on the clock, for a little under £14,000. Now, UK Hawkeyes saw the introduction of the punchy 2.5-litre boxer, which wasn’t nearly as sturdy as the 2.0-litre forged motor the JDM version came with. It also earned a higher rev limit, which helps make up for the lack of exhaust burble.

This one’s easy to overlook because it’s covered in rally stickers, which is usually a sign that it’s been tuned beyond recognition, though it appears to be completely standard. And it’s in WR Mica with gold wheels, aka the perfect STI spec. Seriously, if someone doesn’t buy this soon, my house deposit will be taking a bit of a hit…

Subaru Legacy Spec B, 2009, 127k, £3,995

Any Japanese car with ‘Spec’ in its name is going to be expensive. Look at Spec C Imprezas for proof of that. Or V-Spec Skylines. Or even M-Spec ones, for that matter. Everything but the Spec B Legacy, in fact. Which makes it a bargain basement route into all that’s great about all-wheel drive Subarus.

The early cars reserved just for Japan are still affordable, despite plenty of Impreza-donated parts and almost 300hp – this one is still comfortably under £10k. But we can do even better than that for a Spec B bargain. The later Legacy to gain the badge might not have been as hardcore, switching the EJ20 turbo for a 3.0-litre flat six and aimed more at the compact executive class than rally reps, but it had plenty to recommend it as well. That included Bilstein suspension, a rear limited-slip diff for the four-wheel drive and the SI-Drive mode selector. Maybe it wasn’t a Subaru icon with a slightly aloof driving experience, but then the icons don’t cost £3,995 anymore…

Yep, that’s all this Legacy Spec B costs, complete with what’s described as ‘great’ service history for its 127,000 miles and ‘immaculate’ condition – bizarre bonnet ornament and all. A 3.0-litre flat six and automatic gearbox won’t make it cheap to run, but boxer-engined, all-wheel drive Subarus with more than 240hp don’t come cheaper.

Subaru Forester 2.5 XTEn, 2009, 98k, £3,991

While this list could easily have been a lot longer and compiled entirely of Imprezas, we’d have been remiss not to mention the other all-wheel drive Subarus that have been made in the past half a century. Not least because those without WRC heritage are rather more affordable.

Coming in at a few quid less even than the Legacy, this Forester XTEn boasts so much of what has made the Subaru legend: turbocharged flat-four engine, manual gearbox, four driven wheels and the sort of hardy dependability that keeps them farm-friendly to this day. Again the larger 2.5-litre motor used here isn’t quite as tough as the earlier 2.0-litre, though the Forester looks to have survived almost 100,000 miles of use with plenty of life intact. There’s no escape when the original owner has gone for sand leather…

As with all the cars on this list – as with so many Subarus really – old-school turbo power and permanent all-wheel drive mean the Forester will be pricey to run. On the other hand, it’s a lot of performance for the money, which was always fundamental to the Subaru appeal before the famous ones got so expensive. Being the less cool one never looked so tempting.

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