New Subaru Forester launched – and it’s a hybrid

New Subaru Forester hybrid off-road

The all-new Subaru Forester has gone on sale in the UK. The general recipe remains familiar, but the big news is the fitment of a new petrol-electric hybrid powertrain.

Called e-Boxer, the system pairs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 148 hp with a 16 hp electric motor. It’ll deliver 34.7 mpg on a WLTP combined cycle – a 10 percent improvement on the outgoing Forester.

Around a mile is achievable on electric power up to speeds of 25 mph, bringing the CO2 emissions figure down to 154 g/km.

It’s not particularly quick: zero to 62 mph takes 11.8 seconds, while the top speed is 117 mph.

New Subaru Forester hybrid

The electric motor and battery pack are aligned longitudinally, with the heavy motor placed near the Forester’s centre of gravity. Positioning the battery and other components above the rear axle delivers “noticeable handling improvements”, Subaru claims.

The new Subaru Forester hybrid’s off-road ability is likely to be of more interest to its core audience, who have made the Forester Subaru’s best-selling car in Britain.

To this end, the familiar symmetrical all-wheel-drive system is retained and is combined with 220 mm of ground clearance. A revised X-mode off-road system can now switch between modes to adapt to extreme weather and road conditions.

X-mode has two modes: snow/dirt for use on slippery road surfaces, and deep snow/mud for surfaces where the tyres can become buried.

New Subaru Forester e-boxer

Body strength is up 40 percent compared to the old Forester, while Subaru’s excellent EyeSight driver assist technology is fitted as standard.

The system includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, pre-collision throttle management, lane sway and departure warning, lane keep assist and lead vehicle start alert.

Other safety features include blind spot assist, rear cross traffic alert and, for the first time in a Subaru, facial recognition.

A camera is installed on the visor of the multi-function display to monitor the driver’s seat area. It will alert the occupants if it senses the driver is dozing off. The system will also configure the seat position, door mirror angle and some settings based on who is sat at the wheel.

New Subaru Forester hybrid interior

The new Subaru Forester hybrid is 20 mm wider and 30 mm longer than before, creating more interior space. The towing capacity is up to 1,870 kg.

Standard features include an eight-inch touchscreen, LED headlights, keyless entry, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and heated seats.

The standard Subaru Forester 2.0-litre XE Lineartronic costs £33,995, while the 2.0-litre Premium Lineartronic is priced at £36,995.

For the additional £3,000, the Forester boasts leather seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, satellite navigation, privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels, sunroof and an electric tailgate.

New Subaru Forester boot open

The new Subaru Forester hybrid is on sale in the UK now and benefits from a five-year/100,000-mile warranty. We’ll let you know what it’s like in the new year.

Subaru Impreza is the UK’s most clocked car

Subaru Impreza is the UK most clocked car

The Subaru Impreza is the UK’s most clocked car, according to a study conducted by Rapid Car Check.

The car history check specialist tested 50,000 vehicles in July 2019 to discover how many have a ‘dodgy’ mileage.

For the purposes of this study, this meant a vehicle that had its mileage reduced between MOT tests, or a vehicle with a mixture of odometer readings in kilometres and miles.

Of the 50,000 vehicles tested, 3,964 had a mileage discrepancy of some kind, giving a fail percentage of 7.92 percent.

A total of 3,664 vehicles had their mileage reduced, with 510 showing a mixture of odometer readings. This means 7.32 percent of the 50,000 UK cars tested have likely been clocked.

Clocking a car

Earlier this year, we revealed that as many as one in 14 cars have been clocked – a process that involves ‘winding’ the odometer back to provide a lower reading.

With a fail rate of 17.72 percent, the Subaru Impreza tops the list of the UK’s most clocked cars, ahead of the Ford Transit, Toyota Yaris, Renault Clio and Vauxhall Vectra.

Subaru also topped the manufacturer table, with a fail rate of 16.98 percent. This put it ahead of Mitsubishi (13.89 percent), Toyota (13.73 percent), Mercedes-Benz (10.83 percent) and Renault (10.63 percent).

‘Almost impossible to tell a clocked vehicle’

Clocked car

It’s difficult to spot a clocked car, but checking the service and MOT history will lower the chances of ending up with a dodgy motor.

You can also ask HPI to check the car against the national mileage register. Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at HPI, said: “It can be almost impossible to tell a clocked vehicle just by looking at it, which makes a vehicle history check an even more vital form of protection for buyers.

“A clocked vehicle could be hiding serious levels of wear and tear, especially if it has been previously used as a high mileage private hire vehicle for a couple of years, meaning the additional cost of unexpected repairs or even a potentially serious safety threat to driver, passengers and other road users.”

Top 10 clocked cars in the UK

Make and model Total checked Total failed Fail rate
Subaru Impreza 220 39 17.72 percent
Ford Transit 906 142 15.67 percent
Toyota Yaris 303 38 12.54 percent
Renault Clio 640 73 11.40 percent
Vauxhall Vectra 365 38 10.41 percent
Honda Civic 626 62 9.90 percent
Mini Hatchback 699 63 9.01 percent
Volkswagen Passat 558 48 8.60 percent
Ford Mondeo 537 45 8.37 percent
Volkswagen Golf 2,846 219 7.69 percent

Toyota and Subaru to develop new electric car platform

Toyota and Subaru to develop electric car

Toyota and Subaru have agreed to jointly develop a new all-electric platform for mid-size and large passenger vehicles.

In a statement, Toyota said the “two companies will apply Subaru’s all-wheel-drive technologies and Toyota’s vehicle electrification technologies”.

The Japanese companies signed an agreement in 2005, with the joint development of the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ the most high-profile result of the partnership.

Toyota said both companies “are required to conduct technological development with a sense of speed across a broader-than-ever spectrum of initiatives”, with all-electric vehicles and self-driving cars requiring a huge amount of investment.

Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Subaru used Toyota’s plug-in hybrid knowledge during the development of the Crosstrek Hybrid in the United States, but is in desperate need of an all-electric vehicle ahead of the expected surge in demand for EVs.

It also needs to mirror its success in the US with stronger sales in Europe. Subaru of America sold 680,135 vehicles in 2018 – its best-ever year – with its Indiana plant producing its fourth millionth car in April 2019. 

Toyota has been at the forefront of the hybrid and plug-in hybrid sectors since the launch of the Prius in 1997, but it has fallen behind its key rivals in the race to bring all-electric vehicles to the market.

‘Crossing over industrial boundaries’

Toyota Prius PHV cutaway

“It is necessary to pursue a business model that goes beyond convention, crossing over industrial boundaries together with various types of other entities that share their aspirations”, said Toyota in a statement.

Subaru added: “Following this agreement with Toyota, Subaru will now shift its existing BEV (battery electric vehicle) development resources to this new joint project. Within this new framework, Subaru will continue its efforts to create an attractive BEV SUV for our customers, while improving efficiencies in terms of engineering, development, purchasing, and other areas through the new joint project.”

The platform will accommodate multiple vehicle types, including C- and D-segment class saloons and SUVs, with the first vehicle expected to be a C-segment SUV sold under each company’s own brand.

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Rallying cry: 30 years of hot Subarus

Rallying cry: 30 years of hot Subarus

Rallying cry: 30 years of hot Subarus

April 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of Subaru’s performance brand – Subaru Tecnica International, or STI for short. To celebrate we’ve delved into the archives, so expect lots of blue paint and gold wheels to feature.

1989 Subaru Legacy RS

1989 Subaru Legacy RS

The performance Subaru story started with the fairly innocuous first-generation Legacy saloon. It may have looked plain, but beneath the bodywork was a 220hp 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four engine and four-wheel-drive combo that would become the trademark of the brand.

In January 1989, STI used four modified Legacy RS models to set a new world endurance record in the scorching heat of Arizona. Covering over 62,000-miles across 20 days, the Legacy RS proved to be both quick and reliable, averaging a speed of 138mph.

1993 Subaru Legacy RS Group A

1993 Subaru Legacy RS Group A

Marking the link between Subaru and Banbury-based Prodrive, the Legacy made a limited World Rally Championship debut in 1990. More WRC events followed in 1991 and 1992, with a certain Colin McRae picking up British Rally Championship titles in the same years.

However, 1993 would mark the introduction of sponsorship from the State Express 555 tobacco company, creating the now iconic blue and yellow livery. The year would also see the Legacy take Subaru’s first WRC win, with McRae tasting success on the Rally of New Zealand.

1993 Subaru Impreza 555 Group A

1993 Subaru Impreza 555 Group A

Subaru may have been successful with the Legacy, but the WRC field was turning towards smaller, nimbler cars. This made the recently launched Impreza perfectly placed to start competing, with its first outing at the 1993 1000 Lakes Rally. Starting as it meant to go, the Impreza would finish second on its debut, with Ari Vatanen proving the ability of the new car.

1994 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000

1994 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000

The Impreza was launched to UK buyers in 1993, but it wasn’t until May 1994 that the real fireworks began with the release of the 211hp Turbo 2000 model. Although the power output might seem tame today, at the time it pitched the Impreza into direct competition with the Lancia Delta Integrale and Ford Escort Cosworth.

It may have looked apologetically drab, but performance of 0-60mph in 6.0 seconds, combined with the offbeat burble of the flat-four engine, helped the Impreza win fans.

1994 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Version

1994 Subaru Impreza WRX STi Version

Japanese buyers had been able to purchase a 240hp Impreza WRX saloon since late 1992, but 1994 saw the launch of the first STi-branded model. Built to order in limited numbers of 100-200 per month, the WRX STi saw a 10hp boost in power, courtesy of a special handmade version of the flat-four engine.

Also added were bigger alloy wheels, a taller rear spoiler, strut bracing for the suspension, with new sport seats inside.

1995 Subaru Impreza Series McRae

1995 Subaru Impreza Series McRae

Just two years since the introduction of the Impreza, Subaru and Prodrive found World Rally Championship success in 1995. Colin McRae, with co-driver Derek Ringer, overcame retirements early in the season to beat teammate Carlos Sainz to clinch the WRC drivers’ title.

To celebrate the success of McRae and the Impreza, Subaru UK offered a limited edition of the Turbo 2000. Only 200 cars were produced, all wearing gold Speedline alloy wheels, dark blue paint, and special commemorative decals.

1997 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000 Wagon

1997 Subaru Impreza Turbo 2000 Wagon

The four-door Impreza Saloon may have been the one claiming wins on rally stages, but mere mortals could also have 4WD fun with a practical five-door hatchback/estate bodyshell. It may have looked slightly awkward, but the Impreza wagon brought greater boot space to the party.

Japanese customers were able to enjoy the five-door version in full-fat STi specification which by, 1997, had been pumped up to an impressive official output of 280hp. The real figure was closer to 300hp, but claimed as lower to honour a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with other Japanese manufacturers.

Subaru Impreza WRC 97

Subaru Impreza WRC 97

With a new set of rules and regulations for the 1997 World Rally Championship, Prodrive picked the two-door Impreza coupe model as the basis for Subaru’s new WRC-specification car.

With less need for WRC cars to closely match their road-going counterparts, the WRC 97 featured wider bodywork, extra aerodynamic appendages, and a boost in power to 300hp. The Subaru team picked up another Constructors’ trophy, but Colin McRae would lose the Drivers’ championship by just one point.

1998 Subaru Impreza 22B

1998 Subaru Impreza 22B

Arguably the closest to a road-going Impreza rally car, the 22B was built to celebrate Subaru’s three successive WRC Constructors’ titles, and the 40th anniversary of the company. Limited to just 400 examples in Japan, the entire allocation of cars sold out almost instantly. A further 16 cars were imported to the UK under the Single Vehicle Approval scheme.

With a more powerful 2.2-litre version of the turbocharged flat-four engine, power was rated at 280hp with UK-spec cars capable of 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds. Yet it was the addition of the extra wide bodywork from the WRC machines that made the 22B stand out. Today, values are more than double the £39,000 original asking price.

1999 Subaru Impreza RB5

1999 Subaru Impreza RB5

Somewhat more affordable, but still highly regarded in Impreza folklore, the RB5 was launched to celebrate the return of the late Richard Burns to the Subaru WRC team. The 444 examples produced received metallic grey paint, titanium-finished 16-inch Speedline alloy wheels, special decals, and unique interior trim.

An optional Prodrive WR package saw the addition of a new exhaust and modified ECU, boosting power to 240hp. A larger rear wing also came as part of the deal.

2000 Subaru Impreza P1

2000 Subaru Impreza P1

With Subaru UK almost besieged by ‘grey imports’ of Japanese-specification Imprezas, Prodrive was once again called on to help. The plan was to offer an Impreza that matched the performance of the JDM machinery, but would meet all the relevant EU regulations.

Launched in May 2000, the P1 – standing for Prodrive One – featured the 280hp engine as used in the Japanese WRX STi. More important was the use of the two-door coupe bodyshell, with each of the 1,000 examples painted in Sonic Blue and fitted with 17-inch OZ Racing wheels.

2000 Subaru Legacy B4 Blitzen

2000 Subaru Legacy B4 Blitzen

Proving that Subaru didn’t only concentrate on developing performance models of the Impreza, the third-generation Legacy received special treatment in 2000. Developed in collaboration with Porsche Design, the Blitzen featured a bodykit and set of alloy wheels developed by the German company.

Mechanically, the Blitzen matched the regular Legacy B4, meaning a twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre flat-four engine with 280hp was mated to an automatic gearbox. Naturally the power was sent to all four wheels, with the Blitzen offered in both saloon and estate bodies.

2000 Subaru Impreza WRX

2000 Subaru Impreza WRX

If the original Impreza had been labelled as looking bland, the second-generation car sought to change that immediately. Perhaps cruelly labelled as the ‘Bug Eye’ Impreza, the large headlight units polarised opinion amongst Subaru fans. Also out was the unique names for the UK market, with the Turbo 2000 now badged as a WRX – just as it would be in Japan.

Only marginally larger than the outgoing car, in the UK the new WRX retained the same 218hp 2.0-litre flat-four turbocharged engine as its predecessor.

Subaru Impreza WRC 2001

Subaru Impreza WRC 2001

With no two-door coupe in the ‘New Age’ Impreza lineup, Prodrive was forced back to the four-door saloon as the basis for its latest WRC contender. The bodyshell of the second-generation Impreza was reported to have been widened specifically to make it better suited for rallying usage.

The looks may have been new, but beneath the surface the 2001 WRC car was mechanically similar to the previous generation. Richard Burns would go on to claim the Drivers’ title for Subaru, before departing for Peugeot at the end of the season.

2002 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Subaru Impreza WRC 2001

British buyers had their first opportunity to purchase a bona fide Impreza WRX STi model in 2002, with the launch of a specific Type UK version of the four-door saloon. With a 265hp version of the turbo 2.0-litre flat-four almost 80% different to the normal WRX, and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, the STi model was a substantial step up from the regular car.

An optional ‘Prodrive Style’ version added a giant rear spoiler, deeper front bumper, and more shapely side skirts inspired by the WRC car. Inside was a riot of blue suede, with added extras including a button to spray water onto the intercooler.

2002 Subaru Legacy S401 STi

2002 Subaru Legacy S401 STi

Built as a celebration at the end of the second-generation Legacy, the Japanese-market only S401 was created with special help from STi. The 2.0-litre flat-four engine used sequential turbocharging to produce 293hp, and borrowed the six-speed manual gearbox from the new Impreza WRX STi.

With only 400 examples produced, the S401 is decidedly rare, but marked out by fancy 17-inch BBS alloy wheels, an STi-branded grille, and a unique bonnet scoop.

2003 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

2003 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Stung by the criticism of the new Impreza, Subaru acted quickly to create a facelifted version which went on sale in 2003. Designed by Peter Stevens of McLaren F1 and Lotus Elan fame, the ‘Blob Eye’ Impreza toned things down with a more conventional look.

The interior also featured a number of key tweaks, with the large Momo steering wheel replaced with a smaller diameter one more suited to WRC-esque arm twirling.

Subaru Impreza WRC 2003

Subaru Impreza WRC 2003

The 2003 changes to the Impreza clearly helped the WRC contender, with Norwegian driver Petter Solberg claiming the Drivers’ championship in the same year. Solberg took things down to the wire, sneaking the title at the final round by just one single point over Sebastien Loeb. Another Manufacturers’ crown eluded Subaru though, with the team managing only third place in the standings.

2004 Subaru Impreza WR1

2004 Subaru Impreza WR1

Somewhat predictably, Subaru opted to reward Solberg’s success with another limited edition celebratory model. 1,000 examples of the WR1 were produced, with 500 alone sent to Prodrive to cater for the UK market.

Special Ice Blue paintwork, a stainless steel front grille, extra decals, and seven-spoke Prodrive alloy wheels were the important visual changes. Power was increased to 320hp, achieved by a new ECU and exhaust system, both of which needed to be fitted after registration to circumvent EU rules.

2005 Subaru Forester STi

2005 Subaru Forester STi

With an image considered somewhat left field, despite impressive all-terrain ability, the Forester SUV has been a niche product in the UK. However, in Japan it was still on the receiving end of the full STi treatment.

WR Blue paint and gold wheels may be obvious changes, but there was also a 265hp version of a 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four engine, along with a six-speed manual gearbox.

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Seemingly not content with just one mid-life facelift, Subaru had another go at the Impreza in 2006. This time the ‘Hawk Eye’ front end design was claimed to have been inspired by the aeronautical origins of the company, with a fuselage and wings formed by the grille.

Changes were also afoot beneath the bonnet, with the old 2.0-litre turbo engine now replaced by a bigger 2.5-litre unit. Standard power for the WRX STi was 280hp, but Impreza fans were more upset about the new exhaust system which muted the classic flat-four burble.

2006 Subaru Impreza RB320

2006 Subaru Impreza RB320

Following the tragic death of Richard Burns in 2005 due to a brain tumour, Subaru decided to commemorate its most recent WRC champion with a limited edition Impreza WRX STi.

Featuring a Prodrive Performance Pack that boosted engine output to 320hp, along with Eibach suspension springs and Bilstein dampers, the RB320 was suitably impressive on the road. All cars came in Obsidian Black with black alloy wheels, plus stainless steel grilles.

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

If Impreza fans had been shocked by the face of the second-generation car, the third-generation one rendered them speechless. Gone was the saloon, replaced with the sole UK offering of a conventional five-door hatchback. The frameless side windows were also ditched, and it left many wondering just what the WRX STI now stood for.

Somethings did stay the same at least, with a familiar 2.5-litre flat-four engine underneath the bonnet, but this time producing 300hp. It was still four-wheel-drive, even if Subaru would announce its withdrawal from the WRC at end of 2008.

2010 Subaru Impreza Cosworth CS400

2010 Subaru Impreza Cosworth CS400

Possibly in a move to placate UK Subaru enthusiasts incensed by the hatchback-only third-generation, 2010 saw a new special edition Impreza created in collaboration with Cosworth. More famed for their work with Ford, Cosworth did at least live up their reputation by producing an impressive 400hp and 400lb-ft version of the flat-four Impreza engine.

A bigger turbo and uprated internals helped the CS400 do its thing, with 0-60mph taking just 3.7 seconds. Only 75 examples were produced, but a £49,995 price tag made it hard to stomach despite the performance on offer.

2011 Subaru WRX STI Saloon

2011 Subaru WRX STI Saloon

The four-door Impreza had never really gone away, having been offered in Japan and the USA from the outset of the third-generation car. By 2011 the saloon version was back in on sale in the UK market, but missing two key ingredients.

Firstly, there was no substantial rear spoiler bolted to the boot lid and, more significantly, the Impreza name tag was absent. Keen to further the WRX STI as its own brand, the Impreza name was now reserved for more mundane offerings. A hefty price increase was one of the few things the 2011 car did gain though.

2014 Subaru WRX STI

2014 Subaru WRX STI

A fourth-generation of the car formally known as Impreza arrived in 2014. Even if the name was still missing, the giant rear wing had at least returned, and the 300hp 2.5-litre flat-four engine continued where the previous model left off.

The world had moved on though, with hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R offering the same 300hp and four-wheel-drive ability, but in an upmarket package. By comparison the WRX STI looked decidedly old school, even if the driving experience was still fun.

2016 Subaru WRX STI Time Attack

2016 Subaru WRX STI Time Attack

Despite waning interest in the UK, Subaru of America were still keen to promote the potential of the WRX STI. The result was a series of lap record attempts, including one for the Isle of Man TT Mountain Course. Manx rally driver Mark Higgins set a new record on the 37-mile long circuit in 2011, before bettering it in 2014 and 2016.

The same Time Attack WRX STI, driven by Richie Stanaway, also set a new saloon car record at Nurburgring in 2016. A lap time of 6 minutes 57 seconds being faster than a Porsche 918 hypercar around the German circuit.

2017 Subaru BRZ tS

2017 Subaru BRZ tS

Proving that contemporary STI action isn’t all about the WRX, the BRZ coupe got some attention in 2017. The ‘tS’ part of the name stands for tuned by STI, but that doesn’t mean any increase in power – perhaps the one thing BRZ fans wanted the most.

Offered for the North American market only, instead of more horsepower there is more carbon fibre in the form of a huge rear wing, along with improved brakes, bigger wheels, and uprated suspension.

2017 Subaru Levorg GT BTCC

2017 Subaru Levorg GT BTCC

Keen to reinforce the idea that Subaru was no longer about rallying and gold wheels, an entry into the 2016 British Touring Car Championship with the new Levorg was an unexpected move. Using a Mountune-developed 2.0-litre flat-four engine, but powering just the rear wheels, this was a radical departure.

While 2016 was a testing time, things came together in 2017 when Ashley Sutton claimed the Driver’s championship for the Subaru team. We’re now anxiously awaiting a ‘Series Sutton’ special edition Levorg…

2017 Subaru WRX STI Final Edition

2017 Subaru WRX STI Final Edition

With Subaru deciding to bring the current WRX STI to an end in the UK, the last hurrah came with a limited edition of 150 cars. Being branded as the ‘Final Edition’ is certainly a definitive move, but the buyers of the last cars will benefit from a range of subtle modifications.

The centre differential is electronically controlled, there are larger 19-inch alloy wheels, and the bigger Brembo brakes feature yellow-painted calipers. Power, of course, is from a 2.5-litre flat-four turbo engine.

2018 Subaru WRX STI RA

2018 Subaru WRX STI RA

Across the Atlantic, there is still life in the WRX STI, and Subaru is keen to celebrate the recent lap record successes. Enter the RA model, with the name standing for ‘Record Attempt’ and offering up a seriously modified machine.

Not only is the roof made from carbon fibre, but there is also Bilstein suspension, gold 19-inch BBS alloy wheels, a power boost to 310hp, and a big rear spoiler. Just 500 American buyers will have the chance to claim an RA model, and then surely need to find somewhere to set their own lap records.

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Subaru WRX STi Final Edition

This is your last chance to buy a new Subaru WRX STi in the UK

Subaru WRX STi Final Edition

Subaru has revealed a limited-run special edition WRX STi as it announces that the legendary super saloon will soon be no more in the UK.

The WRX STi, previously known as the Impreza WRX STi, can trace its roots back nearly 25 years. It’s the car that Colin McRae made famous, and one of the first affordable performance cars on the market.

But, as hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf R get ever more competent, versatile and affordable, the WRX STi has been living on borrowed time. It’s no surprise, then, that Subaru is wielding the axe on its legendary flagship model. Unfortunately.

If you want to get your hands on a brand new WRX STi while you still can, get your order in for Final Edition as soon as you can. Subaru’s taking orders now, with just 150 available and prices starting at £33,995.

This isn’t a half-hearted special edition. While the standard 300hp 2.5-litre turbocharged flat-four remains, the WRX STi now boasts 19-inch alloys. This isn’t just for aesthetics – they house bigger Brembo brakes with yellow calipers, offering better fade-resistance and performance when driving on the limit, says Subaru.

A multi-mode driver’s control centre differential, meanwhile, shuffles power around to provide maximum traction at all times.

The front bumper has been redesigned with a more aggressive look, while the grille has been enlarged to aid cooling.

Red stitching and seatbelts along with glossy black inserts brighten up the interior, while heated front seats add a touch of comfort. There’s also a larger 5.9-inch infotainment screen at the top of the dash, incorporating DAB radio and a reversing camera (just in case you can’t see over the large rear wing).

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Colin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

Colin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for saleThe word ‘iconic’ is dished out like grease-burgers at a grassroots motorsport event, and more often than not the car in question isn’t worthy of the elevated status. But in the case of the Subaru Impreza WRC car of 1997, it’s more than justified.

Put it this way: gather a group of rally enthusiasts to don their team jackets in order to discuss the most successful – and yes, iconic – rally cars of all time, and the 1997 Impreza will be mentioned. Which is why the auction of ‘PRO/WRC/97001’ is a big deal.

1997 World Rally ChampionshipColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

Subaru arrived at the 1997 World Rally Championship on a high, having secured two consecutive constructors’ championships. Victory in 1997 would see Subaru enter the history books as the first Japanese car to win three consecutive trophies.

FIA’s new World Rally Car rules included a relaxation of the homologation restrictions, giving the teams greater freedom. To a firm like Prodrive – the company behind Subaru’s success – this was like being let off the leash and told to go and play.

Chassis 001Colin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

Chassis 001 – which is being sold by H&H Classics at its Woodcote Park auction – was the Impreza unveiled to the public and used as the primary test and development car. The drivers – including the late, great Colin McRae – would spend hours at the wheel, preparing for the 1997 season.

This was the year in which all the planets aligned. Continual development of the Impreza and the earlier Legacy had led 555 Subaru and Prodrive to the point at which a true star could be born: the Impreza WRC of 1997.

Four doors good, two doors betterColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

The most obvious visual change was the switch from four to two doors, with the new rally car based on the two-door Retna coupe. Peter Stevens – he of Lotus and McLaren F1 fame – was responsible for the bodywork, which included a new angled grille and airdam.

At the back, the 1997 car featured a larger boot lid spoiler, along with flared arches to match the front, and an exhaust moved from the left to the right of the car. Crucially, the Impreza now generated downforce at speed, and not lift.

Testing timesColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

Testing took place at the MIRA proving ground and in Spain, which allowed the engineers to compare the 1997 car with the old version. Speaking to Autosport magazine, Colin McRae said at the time:

“It feels good right away. There’s a lot more suspension travel and so the car doesn’t get airborne in the same way as the old one. It’s a lot wider and so that makes it very much more stable in the corners. I can’t wait to get this car to Monte Carlo next January.”

Monte Carlo or bustColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

McRae’s optimism was not unfounded. At the hands of Italian Piero Liatti, the Impreza WRC car finished first at Monte Carlo, ahead of the Ford Escort of Carlos Sainz and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV of Tommi Mäkinen.

This was Liatti’s first WRC victory and a debut win for the new car. Colin McRae – who was on course for a top five finish – was forced out of the Monte when he skidded on black ice.

Swede dreamsColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

There was further disappointment for Colin McRae at the next round in Sweden, where a spin resulted in the Scot slipping to fourth place. There were no such problems for the Swede Kenneth Eriksson, who drove the Impreza to victory in his home race.

A near-perfect start for the Subaru team, then, although back-to-back third place finishes for Tommi Mäkinen would suggest that the Anglo-Japanese team wouldn’t have things entirely its own way.

Kenya dig it?Colin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

And so to Kenya, where Colin McRae overcame a number of issues to secure his first victory in the new Impreza WRC car. This just happened to be Pirelli’s 100th victory, too.

The win put McRae at the top of the drivers’ championship, while a hat-trick of victories put the Subaru team comfortably on course for its third consecutive constructors’ title. Not that Subaru and its drivers would have things entirely their own way.

Problems in PortugalColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

Two retirements in Portugal and back-to-back victories for Tommi Mäkinen in the Rally Portugal and Rally Catalunya gave the upperhand to the ‘Flying Finn’. McRae won in France, although four consecutive retirements in Greece, New Zealand, Finland and Indonesia meant that Mäkinen was on course for ultimate victory.

McRae responded in the only way he knew: maximum attack. Victory in Italy, followed by success in Australia – the race in which Subaru secured the constructors’ title – meant that it was all to play for ahead of the final race in Great Britain.

Close, but no cigarColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

Tommi Mäkinen needed a single point going into the Network Q RAC rally to finish ahead of McRae in the drivers’ championship. The Scot won, but Mäkinen finished sixth, which was just enough to secure the title.

Tommi Mäkinen scored 63 points in 1997, just one ahead of McRae. At least the Subaru team could take heart from a convincing victory in the constructors’ championship, in which it finished 23 points ahead of Ford and 28 points clear of Mitsubishi.

What happened next?Colin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

Colin McRae finished third in the 1998 WRC, before switching to Ford to drive the Focus WRC in 1999. Subaru won the drivers’ title in 2001, when Richard Burns finished ahead of McRae, and again in 2003, this time with Petter Solberg at the wheel.

But what about Chassis 001?

78 starts and 19 victoriesColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

The eWRC-Results website suggests that Chassis 001 made a total of 78 starts, securing 19 victories in the process. Its maiden victory was at the Boucles de Spa in 1998, where it was driven by Grégoire de Mevius and Jean-Marc Fortin.

Chassis 001 was initially road-registered as ‘P555 WRC’, but is better known by its long-term moniker ‘P18 WRC’.

Acid in-houseColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

According to H&H, the Subaru was given a “superficial cosmetic refurbishment” prior to entering its current ownership. The previous keeper had commissioned Prodrive to restore it to original condition, which it completed using only original Subaru rally team parts.

Acid dipping revealed that Chassis 001 had endured a busy rally life, but retained its original Prodrive bodyshell, which was repaired by the same team who had fabricated it in 1996.

Yours for £200,000?Colin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

In 2009, Chassis 001 was sold via Prodrive for £85,000, before going under the hammer in 2015 with a pre-auction estimate of £175,000 – £200,000. It sold for £155,000.

Today, it comes with the same estimate, but given the current popularity of modern classics, there’s every reason to think that it could command more in 2017. We’ll have to wait until June to find out.

Valentino RossiColin McRae’s iconic WRC Subaru for sale

Interestingly, an extra slice of provenance is provided by the fact that nine-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi drove Chassis 001 in the 1999 Rally di Monza. The Italian finished eighth, just behind Jean Alesi in another Impreza.

The Impreza will go under the hammer at the H&H Classics auction, which takes place at Woodcote Park on 6 June 2017. If you can’t stretch to Chassis 001, a 2001 P1 is also on sale for a more affordable £18,000 to £22,000.

Accidental thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

Thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

Accidental thief returns stolen car with a note and petrol money

A Subaru owner in America was gutted to find her car missing from her driveway on Tuesday night – only for it to be returned the next day with a handwritten apology and $30 to cover the fuel used.

Erin Hatzi, of Portland, Oregon, posted the escapade on her Facebook account. It started when her car went missing, with CCTV showing a lady slowly opening the Subaru with a key and driving away.

Police were confused by the theft, as CCTV footage suggested the thief wasn’t in a hurry to get away with the car.

“She actually spent seven or eight minutes in the car texting before she drove off,” said Hatzi.

The next Facebook update came a day later, when Hatzi announced the car had been returned – along with a picture of a note that had been left in the car.

It said: “Hello, So sorry I stole your car. I sent my friend with my key to pick up my red Subaru at 7802 SE Woodstock and she came back with your car.

“I did not see the car until this morning and I said, ‘That is not my car.’ There is some cash for gas and I more than apologise for the shock and upset this must have caused you.”

The letter also provided the writer’s name and phone number.

“So so sorry for this mistake,” she added.

The car’s bemused owner says that police have confirmed that keys for some older Subaru models are interchangeable.