Archive for the 'Subaru Impreza GB270' category

Winter tyres vs 4 wheel drive

This is the second winter I’ve put winter tyres on the 330d. It’s also the second winter we’ve had the Impreza. Last winter it didn’t snow properly; this year, we’ve had a proper dollop!

Elsdon snow 2013-01

This situation quite naturally raised the question that I’m sure was on the nation’s lips this weekend: is four wheel drive on summer tyres better in the snow that rear wheel drive on winter tyres? Admit it, you’d love to know, wouldn’t you?!

Impreza snow scoopInitially I thought I’d take the Impreza out, so I brushed the snow from its nostrils. Last year we had a one inch coating of snow one morning and I recalled it being the superior vehicle. Certainly it’s a lot of fun. With all four wheels properly locked together with a mechanical centre diff, and a limited slip diff at the rear, it goes where it’s told and it oversteers on the way. Brilliant, brilliant fun. It doesn’t stop too well though. Or corner well off throttle.

I think the Impreza does better than many other cars on summer tyres because it’s light (just over 1,400kg) and the four wheel drive system locks the wheels together in such a way that even off throttle, wheels don’t slip as much as they would otherwise.

So let’s take out the BMW next and see how that goes.

330d snow 2013-01

Just look at those tyres! What a machine!

The 330d of course suffers from terrible snow woe. There’s really not much weight over the driven wheels, but the car is heavy at nearly 1,700kg. Changing velocity is therefore a challenge.

Winter tyres make an amazing difference. Pulling away isn’t as easy as it was in the Impreza, but after that, the 330d is better. Its ability to put the power down on snow and ice is simply remarkable when compared to its attempts on summer tyres. There have been years where we simply couldn’t get it off the driveway! That was easy enough today, but it also gathers pace very smartly indeed on snow.

Braking though, is where there can be absolutely no doubt that the BMW is the better car to be in. Despite a near quarter-tonne weight penalty, the 330d stops and even turns while stopping significantly better than the Impreza. It also has DSC (dynamic stability control) which means that if you don’t want to go oversteering everywhere, it’ll look after you. Not sure why you’d want to do that though.

So in conclusion, if I knew there was no one else on the road and I wanted to bop about on the snow for a bit of fun, I’d choose the Impreza. If I had to hill start on the snow, I’d choose the Impreza. For everything else, otherwise known as real-world driving, the 330d on winter tyres wins hands down. I can only imagine how good the Impreza would be given winter boots!

Subaru Impreza Wagon Bass Enclosure

Wow it has been a long time since I’ve blogged! An email out of the blue has reminded me that I’ve done a bunch of work on the Impreza since I got it, and what better place to start than to cover the audio situation. I’m not looking for any car show worthy mega-bass, but I am of the opinion that the standard audio system leaves a lot to be desired at the lower end of the audio spectrum. Without fail I’ve been able to do a reasonable job of improving matters by adding a bass enclosure and reducing the low frequency burden on the standard speakers, so I chose to pursue that avenue again.

I started one sunny day in late March. Having owned BMWs for a decade my first hurdle was rather novel; the battery was in the engine bay! BMW tend to pop the battery in the boot for weight distribution purposes, so I haven’t needed to breach a bulkhead for a very long time. After much rummaging around in the passenger footwell having removed the fan assembly I found a boot to feed the power cable through and sealed that all up nicely.

Next I ran that power cable and the ‘stereo is on’ signal from the head unit to the boot.

Eventually I ended up in a position to test I could power and switch an amplifier in the boot.

That took a day – a considerable amount of faff breaching the bulkhead took the majority of this time. For my next trick I measured up, ordered a 12″ driver, and cut a sheet of 12mm thick MDF to size.

Looks pretty awful until it’s painted.

After some research I managed to find a 12″ driver with a relatively low mounting depth in Halfords of all places.

Guess what? It fitted a treat – “Slick” indeed! So I mounted it and the amplifier to the board.

The final product looks nice and smart, and of course is totally hidden when the upper boot floor is in place.

At first I wasn’t so excited by the result until I realised I’d got the polarity wrong. Once I’d corrected the phase it was obvious we were in business! A great, rounded sound, and no compromise at all on boot space and functionality. Result! :)



Wyedean rally 2012

Yesterday I made my annual trip to the Welsh border to see Alex and spectate at the Wyedean rally. I think this is the sixth consecutive year we’ve been, and the first time I’ve not taken a BMW.

I took the Impreza, and as you can see, we had another snowy event. I must now wax lyrical about that car’s practicality. We arrived in the snowy car park to find it full, so we simply made the car park bigger by parking on a frozen, muddy bit of bog-land on the edge. When we needed to leave I popped the car in reverse and it happily chomped back onto the then ice-rink-like car park, and we naffed off, leaving others in two wheel drive vehicles spinning their wheels and generally rueing the day they failed to acknowledge the glory of proper all wheel drive, no matter how unsubtle it may appear.

So, back to the rally. With well over 200 cars running at (we guess) 60 second intervals we figured two special stages should be about right for the day. We chose to spectate on Serridge 1 & 2, basically because we’re a bit lazy like that. As ever, we hunted down corners that were most likely to provoke mistakes. As it turned out we can’t have done such a good job as previous years, as we didn’t so much as need to push anyone, but we certainly saw some action.

Now here’s another testament to four wheel drive and good tyre choice. After a 360° spin, this Evo rolls backwards off the track. Both rear wheels are suspended over that ditch; the front wheels are on sheet ice. Did it need pushing? No. They just boiled it up, and the Evo dragged itself forward on its belly panels to the point where the rear wheels could get a good purchase on the edge of the ditch, whereupon it leapt out, ripped up the ice and shot off back on track.

Even so, my real heroes are of course those who manage all this, quickly, with just rear wheel drive. Legends, one and all.

In the afternoon we carefully located a really slippery 90° corner. It didn’t disappoint!

I’m annoyed that – yet again – I took too many stills and not enough video. The juniors and classics run though the course first, but then the open competition come through. The top seeds – cars potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds – come storming through the forest like monsters. It starts with popping and cracking exhausts in the distance, escalating rapidly to a full roar accompanied by dump valves hissing, straight-cut gears whining, tyres scrabbling, hot brakes, flaming exhausts and general rage. Car 21, a Lancer Evo IX, sounded absolutely terrifying and only after it had passed it occurred to me to take some video. Sadly by then the real animals had been and gone, but hopefully this selection gives a good idea of the atmosphere.

Here’s a wonderful bit of RWD from a MkII Escort. Note I’m silent during filming, but one of the other spectators was clearly getting a bit nervous!

And now an Impreza turbo demonstrating superior traction up the hill, but perhaps a little too much pace into the corner.

An Impreza digging itself out of a small ditch:

And finally, taken from slightly further round the corner, a general demonstration of the ice-rink conditions competitors had to handle:

Overall a very interesting (and cold!) day out. 45 miles of special stage in the forest on mud, snow and ice. I was fascinated to learn that while the winner was a WRC Focus, and second place went to a Lancer Evo, third place was awarded to a 1.4l Vauxhall Nova, proving that the conditions really were a playing field leveller.

All my stills from the day can be found here – note that’s a 40MB page though. ;)

2007 Subaru Impreza GB270 Wagon

Back in July, with the impending arrival of my daughter, I sold the M5. It really wasn’t getting used much (less than 4,000 miles a year), and without isofix points for child seats or room for Snoop that situation was unlikely to improve. The plan was to cut down to a single car – the 330d does every we need, after all.

Except it doesn’t. It has two major failings.

First of all, it can’t be used in two different places at once. This limits our progress through various chores at weekends, and means that if one of us goes out in the car, the other is marooned at the house. Also, were it to break down, we would be well and truly stuffed.

The other problem I’ve got with the 330d is that, capable as it is, it’s a bit dull. I really like cars, and I like them to be interesting – a bit special. There’s nothing special about the 330d in the way that my previous 5 ‘M’ cars had a certain following and inherent entertainment value.

So a second car was required, and it had to be capable of both entertaining me and carting the family around. E61 M5s were out of budget, and I just couldn’t get excited about an Audi. I’ve had an itch for an Impreza for about a decade, and when I found out about the run of just 100 limited edition GB270 wagons produced in 2007, I got more than a bit interested, and bought one. I’m its third owner, and it arrived with just 29,500 miles on the clock.

Yeah, so it’s a bit brash. Twin spoilers and a massive zorst on display there. The GB270 has the Prodrive Performance Pack giving it 270PS and 420Nm, along with different suspension and a bunch more bling. The power figure isn’t particularly impressive when stacked up against the M5’s 400hp, but at only 1,425kg and with four wheel drive this is faster to 60mph in just 4.9s.

From the side the lack of subtlety in the colour scheme becomes apparent, as does the frankly ridiculous bonnet scoop.

Inside it is all a bit flimsy compared with a BMW, but it is all so light. The bucket seats don’t offer much adjustment but are certainly very comfortable and supportive. The car came with a standard CD and cassette (yes, cassette, in a 2007 car…) head unit. Fortunately Ben Smith still had his touch-screen head unit from his 2004 Impreza, so today he kindly both donated and fitted it. Thanks Ben!

This car is an absolute hoot to drive. It makes a fantastic sound, delivers power in such a playful yet competent way, and grips and grips and grips. It won’t oversteer, which in many ways is probably for the best! It’s certainly a welcome addition to the driveway.