Subaru's Impreza line has been freshened for 2006 with new exterior styling, including a three-section, mesh-type grille, restyled headlights with smoke-tinted lenses, new tail-lamp clusters, and wide-body fenders on the sedans. The Impreza 2.5 RS models have been renamed 2.5i for 2006, making their model names consistent with other Subaru models. Impreza 2.5i gets a boost in horsepower, and all Impreza models get new dual-stage front air bags, while the Impreza 2.5i and Outback Sport models gain front-seat head/chest side-impact air bags as featured in the WRX. Also for 2006: a new base model WRX-the TR-that sports a value-oriented interior and takes its exterior trim from the Impreza 2.5i Sedan. The WRX family of models gain more power, aluminum front suspension links, a quicker steering ratio, 17-inch alloy wheels, wider, lower-profile tires, and larger, more powerful brakes. The 300-hp Impreza WRX STI profits this year with additional all-wheel-drive performance: the power distribution ratio in its central differential has been optimized and uses a new mechanical limited-slip center differential in place of the previous hydraulically controlled unit. The addition of a steering sensor to the differential's control inputs further enhances torque transfer and overall performance of the AWD system.
Subaru's venerable Impreza is available in no less than five trim levels: the base 2.5i sedan and wagon; economical, road-hugging WRX TR sedan; rally inspired WRX sedan and wagon; up-level WRX Limited sedan/wagon; and racy WRX STI sedan. Powering the Impreza line is a 2.5L, horizontally opposed, four-cylinder engine in various levels of tune. The 2.5i sedan and wagon receive a normally aspirated version making 173 hp; WRX TR sedan, WRX sedan and wagon, and WRX Limited get a turbocharged and intercooled variant developing 230 hp; while the top-line WRX STI gets a high-boost turbo and water-misted intercooler that bumps output to 300 hp. All are available with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission, save the STI, which only receives a 6-speed manual.
All Imprezas get permanent all-wheel drive, while the STI's system offers a driver's center differential adjustment. Safety features include dual front air bags with driver's seat position sensor and front-passenger seat occupant detector, side-impact air bags, seat belt pre-tensioners, ABS-assisted brakes, and daytime running lights.
Standard features on the Impreza 2.5i models include a sport-tuned suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, sport-design front seats, a four-wheel independent suspension, four-channel/four-sensor anti-lock brake system with electronic brake-force distribution, air conditioning with an air filtration system, power windows/mirrors/door locks, remote keyless entry, an AM/FM stereo system with single-disc CD player, a tilt-adjustable steering column, a security system, and an outside temperature gauge. Besides the increase in performance, the WRX TR adds 17-inch alloy wheels and front seats with higher bolsters. The WRX gains a 140-watt premium audio system, automatic climate control, and performance-inspired front seating. Choosing the Limited option gains leather upholstery, heated side mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer, dual-mode front seat heaters, and a rear spoiler. Opting for the STI nets rally inspired bodywork, high-performance suspension tuning, a Brembo brake package, 17-inch BBS wheels, and race-inspired front seats.
Models in the Compact Sporty segment in which Impreza competes frequently perform dual roles: mild-mannered, fuel-sipping daily drivers on the weekdays and canyon-carvers on weekends. The segment has become a fun market to watch over the past few years, especially with Mitsubishi and Subaru competing for the title of "highest performance for the dollar."
According to the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report,SM the segment is led by the best-selling Scion tC (74,415 sales in 2005), followed by the Subaru Impreza (33,637), and Mitsubishi Lancer (27,849). Also competing in the segment are the Hyundai Tiburon, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and newcomer Pontiac Solstice. Joining the group later in the 2006 calendar year are four new entrants: the Saturn Sky, Subaru Outback Sport, and two new models from Volkswagen, the Eos and GTI.