'All or nothing' could be said of the RB5, except you never actually drive it slowly. You climb in, barely noticing the businesslike but bland interior, fire-up the throbby flat-four… and then something strange happens: you turn into a complete nutter. You demand everything from the engine, you torture the P Zeros, you have no mercy on the brakes and drive like the devil is filling your mirrors. On these roads the RB5 is uncatchable.
Uncatchable and mind-blowing fun. The engine pulls hard from 3000rpm and never seems to die off, the chassis feels poised and ready to react to any input, and the ride is so supple that the RB5 seems to glide from corner to corner. It’s big steering wheel is never truly alive with feedback, but you still feel in touch with the road surface and it’s not long before you nudge up to its limits.
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When you do, it’s the front tyres that lose grip first, then as the engine continues to scale its torque curve you can feel drive being shuffled to the rear, neutralising the balance and firing you on to the next straight without a wasted joule of energy. Understeer can be avoided, though. Keep the engine right in the powerband (this is no trouble as it’s so elastic), brake hard and deep into the corner and feel the rear step out. Now you’ve got no lock on, all four tyres drifting in unison towards the apex. Feed in some power and lateral motion is controlled by forward drive, slingshotting you through the corner and making you hungry for the next.
The RB5 is truly outstanding, each ingredient perfectly in balance with the next – power to grip, weight to damping force. You can get the 276bhp P1 for around £10,000 too, but I reckon this blend of pace and adjustability is about as good as it gets in the Impreza dynasty. If you find an honest, unmodified RB5 then don’t let the opportunity slip; it’s one of the great four-wheeled experiences.
|Engine||Flat-4, 1994cc, turbo|
|Max power||237bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Max torque||258lb ft @ 3500rpm|
|Max speed||143mph (claimed)|