The 2024 Subaru Impreza RS marks the return of a nameplate that harkens all the way back to the late 1990s, when Subaru was busy tearing up rally stages across the world. This is supposed to bring back all sorts of memories for car enthusiasts who grew up during that era, including myself. This is why I was genuinely curious to drive this version of the Impreza, but also because the car is all-new for the 2024 model-year. Did the RS live up to my expectations? Not really, but there’s a still a lot to like here.
2024 Subaru Impreza RS Review: Seriously Diluted
In order to properly understand what the 2024 Subaru Impreza RS is, you first need to know what the original RS was. That thing came to our market in 1998, way before Subaru introduced the WRX in 2002. While Japan and other parts of the world got the rally inspired cars and the batshit crazy 22B homologation car during the 1990s, we basically got the lukewarm, normal Impreza.Until Subaru shipped us the RS, a car that sort of looked like the 22B minus the widebody kit. It had the hood scoop, sporty bumpers, big wing and rad gold wheels, like the rally car. But it didn’t have the engine. I mean, it did have a larger 2.5-liter unit than the base 2.0-liter car, but minus the turbo. Still, it looked super cool and came with some minor chassis, suspension and brake tweaks that allowed it to qualify as pocket rocket material. Back then, 165 horsepower was a lot for a small car. Plus, the RS came with Subaru’s famed all-wheel drive system!So, for North-Americans, the RS nomenclature means a lot. It was the precursor to the WRX we know and love today. So, when Subaru announced that it would slap it onto this 6th generation car, many people, including myself, we’re seriously intrigued. The end product is not exactly a reincarnation of the old RS. I mean, fine, this gets the larger 2.5-liter Boxer four, which is new for this generation of the car. It’s good for a healthy 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, figures that a considerably better than that old RS. This new RS also looks a tad sportier than the rest of the lineup thanks to model-specific wheels, some blacked out body accents and RS logos here and there. But that’s about it.Because, no, there’s nothing else on this car that distinguishes from the rest of the Impreza lineup. That engine isn’t even unique to the RS. You can also get in Sport-tech trim. Oh, yeah, one more thing: the RS doesn’t even come with a manual transmission, not even as an option. As a matter of fact, none of the new Impreza’s trim levels get the stick. The only gearbox available is a fucking continuously variable transmission (CVT). Yeah, I know.At least the car now comes standard with brake-operated torque vectoring, but that’s not an RS feature neither, because it’s now standard on all Imprezas. Here in Canada, you’ll need to pay $34,106 if you want one. The RS is the third of four available trim levels.
Fun, But Not RS Worthy
Is the 2024 Subaru Impreza RS fun to drive? I mean, sure, it is, but not more so than the regular Impreza. I’d know, because a few weeks prior to driving this one, I was driving the Sport-tech for another outlet, basically this but with fancier wheels and options. It drove the same.Dynamically speaking, there’s absolutely nothing about the RS that spells Rally Sport, and that sucks, because that nomenclature deserved some kind of suspension tuning, heck even maybe a sportier intake and exhaust. You know, just to give it a bit more bite. Subaru could have pulled a Corolla Apex with this and I’m sure Subaru fans would have been totally happy.Because with the STI now gone, the gap between a normal Impreza and the performance model is huge now. A slightly spicier RS equipped with a manual gearbox would have been a nice contender to, say, the Golf GTI or the Civic Si.There is, however, some hope, as the 2024 Subaru Impreza is a fun car to drive out of the box. That’s thanks to a stellar chassis – a result of Subaru’s Global Platform – quick steering and what is arguably the best all-wheel drive system in the world. That 2.5-liter unit also has ample grunt, with great low-end pick up and a linear power delivery throughout the rev range. It also comes with the expected Subaru rumble that’s just an aftermarket exhaust away from sounding like a rally car. That’s cool.Handling is therefore well planted, allowing you to really throw this thing hard into a corner as it claws to the tarmac. That torque vectoring system maybe simulated, but it does magic to rotate the car at the limit. Brakes are also rather good, with consistent bite, stable body motions and a surprising amount of endurance considering their OEM spec.The CVT – that elephant in the room – is fine. It’s basically the same setup as in that Forester I drove a few weeks back. All CVTs suck, but at least Subaru’s setup works the way it should. It doesn’t spend too much time hunting for power and gives you what you need when you ask it to. There’s also a gimmicky S mode that changes its performance characteristics and, well shit, it works!This is not, by all means, a hot hatchback, but the 2024 Subaru Impreza does harvest some hot hatch elements, like decent acceleration, solid handling and a massive amount of grip. The rest is all common sense Subaru stuff which, to be fair, are the kinds of things you want during the daily grind.For instance, its cabin, while not stylistically appealing, is functional, well put together and ergonomically brilliant. By that I mean that everything is easy to find and grasp, while the massive Starlink infotainment tablet is quick to react and enjoyable to use thanks to its large icons. The fact that it can be operated wearing a pair of gloves during winter is an added bonus.But this system does lag during cold starts, which is why, I believe, some of the car’s controls do deserve physical buttons or knobs. Rear seat head and leg room is ample for adults and hell, the Impreza’s hatch will engulf up to 578 liters of your gear. That’s better than a Mazda3 hatch, but a tad behind five-door Civic.Ok, so slapping the RS badge on the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s trunk without adding a bit of extra performance is a serious insult to automotive enthusiasts. In my book, this is a missed opportunity to sell a WRX lite at a lower price point. The RS is nothing more than a botched marketing job to attract buyers into showrooms. The good news, I guess, is that the Impreza itself is a great little car. But Subaru, please, bring back the stick. The RS nameplate deserves at least that.
Review of the 2024 Subaru Impreza RS by William Clavey
- Effective all-wheel drive system.
- Spacious and practical.
- Well put together.
- RS trim is only cosmetic.
- A turbo would be nice.
- Lack of a manual gearbox option.
7 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Subaru Canada
Photography: Guillaume Fournier
Contact the author: [email protected]