Forget the 22B; this is the ultimate 90s Scoobie
By Cam Tait / Monday, 9 January 2023 / Loading comments
It’s the late 1990s and the Impreza craze is in full swing. In Japan, Subaru fans are treated to the full array of performance models from the company’s performance arm STI, including such gems as the STI wagon and hilariously over-styled S201. But for us Brits, revelling in Burns and McRae fever, the best we got were the (admittedly brilliant) Impreza Turbo 2000 and a handful of 22Bs. More on that later.
With STI not launching as a fully-fledged performance brand in the UK until the second generation model, it was down to Subaru’s rally team Prodrive to serve up the hot Imprezas diehard fans were craving. Dipping its toes in the water with the Series McRae and Catalunya editions, which used the Turbo 2000 as a base, Prodrive really got into its stride with the RB5 in 1998. Created to celebrate the successes of future rally star Richard Burns, before his championship win with the team in 2001, the RB5 featured an aggressive new look, stickier Pirelli P-Zero tyres and, with the optional Prodrive Performance Pack, a power increase to 240hp. Not quite at the same level as the 22B, but the RB5 was over £10,000 cheaper and still relatively rare with only 444 units produced.
Then, at the turn of the millennium, Prodrive launched what many consider to be one of the greatest Imprezas ever made – maybe the greatest. Based on the Japan-only Type R, the P1 (derived from its codename: Prodrive 1) was officially the first two-door Impreza available in the UK market – and boy was it worth the wait. The upgrades were extensive over the imported car, namely a new ECU that increased power from the 2.0-litre flat-four engine to 280hp and 253lb ft of torque. Performance was blistering, especially with the P1 weighing as little as 1,295kg, meaning 0-60mph time of 4.6 seconds was possible. Or around 0.6 seconds faster than a contemporary WRX STI.
Best of all, Prodrive put the work in to set the P1 up for the UK’s naff roads, with some suggesting it’s more cosseting than the 22B. That being said, the P1 is still a fair bit firmer than the base Type R. Stiffer springs and dampers were fitted to improve body control, as were anti-roll bars lifted from European-spec Impreza Turbos. For reasons that escape us, the firm ditched the car’s Driver’s Control Centre Differential (DCCD), so no toggling torque between the front and rear wheels. Nevertheless, it chucked in ABS, air conditioning and a radical body kit designed by Peter Stevens (you know, that bloke who designed the McLaren F1) to sweeten the deal.
A very sweet deal it was, too. Not only did the P1 undercut the 22B on price, but it’s widely considered to be the more competent car. The 22B may have rally looks and that bespoke 2.2-litre engine, but when everybody’s favourite Japanese car show, Best Motoring, pitted it against the standard Type R – the 22B lost out. With the P1 effectively being a pumped-up Type R, you could argue it would likely triumph over Subaru’s golden child in a straight fight.
That’s all speculative, of course – what isn’t complete conjecture is the fact that a tidy P1 will cost you a fraction of the cost of a 22B. This 63,000-mile example looks to be a minter, which can’t be said for most Imprezas approaching their 23rd birthday, and it still has its original P1-engraved sports exhaust. The seller’s asking £44,995 for it, whereas this 22B will likely set you back well over £200,000 when it goes up for auction next month. We could argue all day which is the more desirable, but I’d take the P1 and drive it without worrying about resale values, thanks.
SPECIFICATION | SUBARU IMPREZA P1
Engine: 1,994cc flat-four, turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
Year registered: 2000
Recorded mileage: 63,000
Price new: £31,496
Yours for: £44,995
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