Old Impreza goes out with a bang (and a suitably epic rear wing)
This is it then, the end of an era. The new Saab/Mazda 3/BMW 1-series-shaped Subaru is on its way and the shape that hasn’t really changed much since Colin McRae was wearing blue and yellow overalls is on its way out. Of course, it would be rude of the old car to leave without one final special edition, so here we have the GB270.
The GB refers to Rally GB, Subaru’s most successful WRC event over the years, while the 270 refers to the number of Pferdestärke that the flat four has (equivalent to 266 of our bhp). ‘But…’ I can hear you clamouring, ‘…a standard STI has got 276bhp!’ And so it does, but despite the utterly monster rear wing, this is not an STI. This is the STI’s little brother WRX wearing a suit of finest WRC.
The lesser Impreza has always been a bit of a sleeper, its five-speed gearbox and symmetrical four-wheel-drive seeming slightly old-fashioned next to the STI, but the truth is that the WRX is damn near as quick down a B-road and a bit less frantic in the process. The GB270 turns the STI-baiting capacity of the WRX up to maximum.
The first step is to add the Prodrive Performance Pack to the 2.5-litre flat four. The PPP takes power up from 227bhp to the aforementioned 266bhp at 5700rpm, but more importantly it bolsters the torque by a huge 74lb ft, swelling it to 310lb ft at 3000rpm. That’s 21lb ft more than an STI and 15lb ft more than the new V8 M3…
Long term tests
On the road the result is an engine that seems happiest in third, fourth and fifth gears, which is where the GB270 becomes your new flexible friend. The punch is big-lunged all the way from 2500rpm to 5500rpm, although it seems slightly to run out of enthusiasm for the final push to the limiter. There’s a quickshift gearchange on the GB270 too, which tightens the ’box up nicely. The five ratios remain the same though, so, with the throttle squeezed all the way into the special-edition mats, progress is made in wonderfully long, elastic strides. The bigger exhaust included in the Prodrive pack gives you a bit more warble too, which is nice.
After the PPP, the second most noticeable upgrade is the suspension, which has been lowered (30mm front, 10mm rear) and attached to 18in wheels. Dropping a car closer to the ground and then slapping big wheels on it might sound a very low-tech, Vauxhall Nova sort of way to try to improve a car, but it’s worked. The rolling gait of the standard car has been replaced with a flatter, harder cornering attitude, yet it still retains a more fluid balance than the grip-fest STI, while the less extreme Pirelli P Zeros also make slides more progressive. You have to work more to get the best out of the chassis than you would in an STI, and as a result you tend to think more about the way you’re driving. The most fun is to be had entering a corner on the brakes (firm and strong), the rear mobilising as the nose locks onto the apex. It makes you want to master using your left foot on the middle pedal – I suspect it would open up whole new worlds of enjoyment.
For some people the whole point of the WRX is that they don’t want to look like they’ve emerged from a Welsh forest, and for them I would suggest one of the 100 GB270 wagons – they get the same mechanical treatment but they’re grey with some pretty cool black alloy wheels and, apart from a small rear waist spoiler, they still look more supermarket than Super Special. If, on the other hand, you’ve never had a problem with Blue Mica paint and gold wheels, then you’ll probably agree that the GB270 saloon’s front-end treatment looks great, and that if you’re going to have a big rear wing then you might as well make it as big as possible…
The Alcantara interior and ICE pack fitted to our test car are £1400 and £1750 cost options respectively, but while the other extras that come as standard on the GB270 would cost over £7K to add to a WRX, the GB270 costs just £22,995 – only £3K more than the standard car and over £3.5K less than an STI.
The GB270 is an intriguing, really well sorted car and its balance conjures up quite an old-school Impreza flavour, which is appropriate really. It’s a fitting final fling. The new car has a lot to live up to.
|Engine||Flat-4-cyl, 2457cc, turbo|
|Max power||266bhp @ 5700rpm|
|Max torque||310lb ft @ 3000rpm|
|Top speed||143mph (claimed)|