Subaru Impreza 2.5 GT — comfortable and quick

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Comfortable and quick! That’s how we found the 2009 Subaru Impreza 2.5 GT compact hatchback after several days behind the wheel.

And for good measure, it comes with built in bad-weather prowess because all Subaru vehicles have been for many years outfitted with all-wheel drive as standard equipment.

Those of you who have some familiarity with the Subaru lineup may be wondering as to the 2.5 GT, a new designation for the Impreza. Specifically its last year’s WRX with the automatic transmission. The 2009 WRX now comes with only a manual transmission, a tightened up suspension and 41 more horsepower.

But for the person desiring a quick turbocharged family-oriented vehicle without the headache of shifting gears, the “new” GT very nicely slots into the lineup starting at $28,190 including destination charge. A sedan variant be
gins at $27,690.

You will have to decide if outstanding performance is worth a big price because the standard Impreza hatchback with a naturally aspired 2.5-liter 170-horsepower horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine starts at $19,690, a cool $8,500 under the GT.
Even if you add navigation and satellite radio to the basic hatchback it still stickers for almost five grand less; so a value judgment seems to be the order of the day.

Either way, you will be getting a vehicle that has been heaped with praise over the past months.  Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has recognized the 2009 Impreza 2.5i as “Best in Class” in its “wagons and minivan” category. And the Impreza was named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It also received the maximum of five stars for frontal and side impact crashes in NCAP testing. All models come with stability control, antilock brakes and side-curtain airbags.

While the GT has a host of go-fast goodies and some neat stuff like electroluminescent instrument panel gauges, it can’t be purchased with such popular options as navigation. To get the navigation system you will have to forgo the bigger engine.

The lure of horsepower must be a high priority to make the GT an attractive choice. If even more performance is desired, you can move up to the WRX for 265 horsepower — sans an automatic transmission — and the raw-boned STI with 305 horses and 290 pound-feet of torque that will break five seconds going from 0 to 60, but be prepared to shell out a minimum of 35 grand.

So here’s what you get with the 2.5 GT for your extra cash outlay: First and foremost, you will be the owner of a very lively 2.5-liter turbocharged 224-horsepower 4-cylinder with 226 pound-feet of torque mated to a four-speed automatic. The 2.5 GT is capable of 0-to-60 runs in around six seconds, a speed that surely will put a smile on the face of its owner providing he or she takes care as to where they do their burnouts. On a more practical side, the extra forward momentum helps considerably in passing and merging situations.

The GT retains the more relaxed suspension setup found in last year’s WRX while the “new” WRX gets some retuning toward the stiffer side of the equation. This probably isn’t a bad thing because we found the 2.5 GT a more than adequate handler of fast curves. And the ride remains very civilized.

What we do find perhaps a bit perplexing is Subaru’s continued use of an outdated four-speed automatic in a car that carries a base sticker of more than $28,000. We understand cutting a corner or two in an effort to make a profit in these tough times, but this shouldn’t be one.

Another downside is rather anemic gas mileage from the “boxer” four when improved fuel economy is being stressed — and delivered — by most manufacturers. The GT is rated 19 city and 24 highway on premium gas. Note that the smaller 170-horsepower standard four-cylinder lags a bit also, rated at 20/26 on regular fuel. Most compacts with that size engine are getting at least 30 mpg on the highway.

The 2.5 GT comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, steering wheel cruise and audio controls, power sunroof, heated seats and mirrors, automatic climate control, and an upgraded stereo system that includes a six-disc changer and a 10-speaker surround sound system.

We were underwhelmed with the sound system, however, which proved adequate, but not up to the clear base and sharp trebles found in the premium offerings of rival vehicles.

The cockpit is handsomely outfitted with the aforementioned easy-to- read gauges. An information screen at the top of the dash over the center console dispenses such notes as outside temperature, radio station setting and time.

There’s a convenient cubby for storing a cell phone in the center console as well as two drink holders between the comfortable front seats. Our tester was upholstered with attractive black cloth.

We found rear-seat legroom adequate and the rear seats comfortable as well. Luggage capacity behind the seats is a useable 19 cubic feet. With the second row folded, cargo capacity increases to 44 cubic feet.

And the Impreza is an excellent companion in those crowded, tedious mall parking lots. Its very tight 34.8-foot turning circle makes for easy entry and exit from tight spaces.

We liked the Impreza’s driving position and especially enjoyed seeing the raised scooped hood in front of us. It adds a lot more character than the typical hood that we see in most small cars. In fact, we think the hatchback design, which was all new for the 2008 model year, is a cool look with striking lines. The weak point is the overdone grille.

With a lot of standard equipment the 2.5 GT buyer may be satisfied without adding options. But there’s a long list available including add-on exterior and interior appearance equipment. We applaud Subaru for allowing customers to purchase equipment separately and not in expensive packages. But like all shopping experiences, the more you fill the cart the more you spend.

While the Impreza lags the competition in some areas such as gas mileage and equipment — specifically the four-speed transmission — the compact Subaru has a lot going for it with a full lineup of sedan and hatchback models. And evidently the public feels the same. In one of the toughest years in decades in 2008 Impreza sales increased by six percent in the U.S. and this year while down it is performing better than the industry as a whole.


Base price: $28,190; as driven, $28,190
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 224 @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 226 foot-pounds @ 2,800 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 103.1 inches
Length: 173.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,240 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 19 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 44 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.9 gallons (premium)
0-60: 6 seconds (Edmund's)
Also consider: Mini Cooper Clubman, Mazda3, Volkswagen GTI

The Good
• All-wheel drive standard across the lineup
• Performance-oriented turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
• Comfortable interior

The Bad
• Outdated four-speed automatic transmission

The Ugly
• Fuel economy below average