Short of the WRC machines once driven by McRae and Burns, you’re looking at the ultimate Subaru Impreza. And, with no coincidence whatsoever, it’s being built by the same people: Prodrive.
Called the Prodrive P25, and making its debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this week, this is the Impreza formula taken to its logical conclusion. The name is something of a hint as to its reason for being, at 25 years since the two-door Impreza WRC made its debut, and a reference to the 25 cars Prodrive will build.
1997’s Impreza WRC replaced Subaru’s Group A machines which took the WRC constructors’ titles in 1995 and 1996 – as well as taking Colin McRae and Derek Ringer to WRC driver and co-driver titles in 1995.
WRC regulations introduced in 1997 changed the series’ homologation requirements. While manufacturers still needed to build 2500 units of a particular body style, they no longer needed to build a specific homologation special.
This divorcing of the road and the stage meant that more manufacturers could take part – the era saw the introduction of WRC machines from the likes of Skoda and Peugeot, without wild all-wheel drive machines in their roadgoing ranges – and led to more extreme shapes on the stages.
This brought about one of the great misconceptions about the road car this new Prodrive P25 most closely resembles: 1998’s Impreza 22B. While wide-arched like its rally cousin, those arches weren’t actually required for homologation – the 22B was simply a deeply desirable homage to McRae’s weekend wheels.
That’s more or less the purpose of the Prodrive P25, too, though here things are a little more serious than they were with the 22B.
The underlying structure is the same: a two-door Impreza WRX, as originally sold on the Japanese market. But here they begin to diverge, with extensive use of carbon composites for the front and rear quarter panels, bonnet, boot, roof, sills, bumpers and rear wing, as well as carbon door cards and lightweight race seats inside. Peter Stevens, who was involved with the original Impreza WRC, has turned his hand to this one too.
Prodrive’s fitted a rally-style dash display and data logger, and rather than faffing around with mood lighting and DAB radio, the car’s functions instead let you change useful things like throttle response, engine mapping and anti-lag. You also get dual handbrake functionality: a modern electric handbrake for boring things like parking, and a WRC-style fly-off lever for doing skids.
Not that it hasn’t been trimmed nicely though: it’ll still seat four (unless you ask them to ditch the rear seats and install a cage), and there’s a mix of leather, Alcantara and carbon trim.
There’s a bit more under the bonnet than the 22B had too. Prodrive has taken Subaru’s latest 2.5-litre flat four and reengineered it, swapping out the pistons, connecting rods and cylinder liners, and given it a new valvetrain with variable cam timing.
It’s also attached a Garrett motorsport turbo, a new intercooler and airbox, and slung an Akrapovic titanium and stainless steel exhaust system underneath. The upshot? More than 400bhp and 440lbs ft, along with a 3.5-second 0-62mph time.
If you’re a “save the manuals” type then there’s good and bad news about the transmission. The bad is it’s not an old-fashioned H-pattern manual, the good is that it’s a racing sequential with helical-cut gears, and 80-millisecond changes via a steering column paddle. Oh, and WRC-style launch control to help with those acceleration runs. Front and rear limited-slip differentials, and an active centre diff apportion power to all four wheels.
The Impreza’s basic suspension layout is as you’d expect – struts at all four corners – but the uprights are machined aluminium, the track has grown to 1770mm, and the dampers are adjustable units from Bilstein. Springs and anti-roll bars are new too, naturally, while unsprung mass comprises 380mm and 350mm front and rear discs, Prodrive 8.5x19in wheels and 235-section Bridgestone tyres.
The car you’ll see at Goodwood will be Prodrive’s development mule, with extensive testing due after its public appearance. Customer car deliveries begin later in the year – at £460,000 plus VAT (£552,000) a pop. Even at that price, those 25 cars will no doubt find homes fairly easily – perhaps more than a few of them alongside authentic WRC cars of the era…