Why the RS is a Big Deal for the Subaru Impreza

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

With the new 2024 Subaru Impreza, a choice of engines has returned to the lineup, including a more potent 2.5-liter unit in the RS trim. To emphasize why this is important, here’s a quick history lesson on the compact car.

A Bit of History

First introduced to North America in 1992, the Impreza only came with a 1.8-liter engine. For the 1995 model year, those wanting a bit more performance could choose the optional 2.2-liter engine, which would be enlarged to 2.5-liters by 1997.

From the 1997 model year through 2011, the 2.5-liter would be a staple in the Impreza lineup. Initially an upgrade, it would eventually become the standard powerplant in regular Impreza’s. Making around 175 hp depending on the year, it was enough power for those not willing/wanting to go all the up to a WRX model.

For the past 12 years though, the Impreza has only been available with a smaller, 2.0-liter engine, making between 148-152 hp. With the WRX producing 265-268 hp during that same time period, there was a big chasm between the two models.

Return of the 2.5

This year, the Impreza finally gets an optional engine back, once again measuring 2.5-liters, in the RS trim level. Don’t mistake this powerplant with the 2.5-liter of old though, it’s completely different and makes a bit more power, rated at 182 hp.

The Impreza, especially since the 2017 redesign, has a had a great chassis, but with the 2.0-liter engine, it felt lacklustre at best. With roughly 3,200 pounds to motivate while driving all four wheels, the 2.0-liter constantly needs to be wrung out to get the car moving, especially at freeway speeds.

This would offset the fuel economy advantage of having a smaller, less powerful engine. Although a larger engine needs more fuel to operate, it can operate at lower engine speeds which can lower fuel consumption. Just look at these official figures from the EPA. The 2024 Impreza with 2.0-liter engine is rated at 27 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. The larger 2.5-liter unit only loses 1 mpg, rated at 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

How it Translate in the Real World

Although a 30 hp increase may not sound like much, the amount of usable, low-end torque is welcome. With the 2024 Subaru Impreza RS, the car no longer feels strained. Any reasonable amount of speed can be achieved without causing the engine and CVT to thrash into the upper rpm range. Anyone who has driven a modern Subaru will know once a Boxer engine climbs the rev range, it can get loud. So, calling on full power from the 2.5-liter engine less often doesn’t just help fuel economy, it also makes for a more pleasant driving experience.

In fact, much like the Mazda3, we wouldn’t be surprised if Subaru ditches the 2.0-liter option in the near future and makes the 2.5-liter unit the Impreza’s entry level engine once again.

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Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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