HAVE you noticed how cars become etched in certain stages of our lives?
I grew up in the back of a Holden FC Station Sedan (and still have the scar on my pinkie where I cut myself on a door), courted in a VC Valiant, drove my first child home in the back of a Mercedes-Benz 250SE, and took my young family on memorable trips to the centre of Australia in a Land Rover Discovery.
We hit another of those significant benchmarks the other month, and this one will forever be connected with our Subaru Impreza.
My daughters have just started their Victorian Certificate of Education, two crowded years of stress, worry and achievement that will lay down the foundations for what they will do for the rest of their lives.
But before they had even cracked a textbook, both were accepted for summer school in the heart of Melbourne; two weeks living on campus right in the centre of the city, more than 100km away.
The Subaru Impreza was tasked with the job of delivering them to their residential quarters. Straight away the Impreza had to swallow suitcases straining with the 30-odd kilograms of essentials that teenage girls apparently need to survive a whole fortnight away from home. We’d never had the Impreza this full before; the equivalent of four adults and what felt like the equivalent of a pallet load of cement bags in the rear.
The effect all this baggage had on the Impreza was quite dramatic. I’ve loved the silky ride of the Subaru’s suspension, which one-up has glided over the road’s imperfections and undulations with barely a hint of them transferring into the cabin. Even with those sticky, low-profile 18-inch Yokohamas fitted, the ride has remained almost luxurious. But fully loaded, the Impreza struggled to make a good impression.
The ride became choppy as the weighed-down suspension – struts up front, and double-wishbone IRS at the rear – dealt with less travel. Sharper bumps suddenly became noticeable, with the rear end rebounding lazily before quickly settling.
The girls arrived safely in their dorms, and the unloaded Impreza stretching its legs for the less taxing lope home, all returned to normal. Except for our house. That’s a place where noise and movement are welcomed.
It’ll be a long fortnight.
Power to the people
I’ve found myself dwelling on the uniqueness of the Impreza’s 2.0-litre powerplant. On paper the FB20 has a peaky 115kW power delivery and a chevron-shaped 196Nm torque curve, but it’s a pretty competitive package in its class. Question is, how long can Subaru hold out its indifference to the in-line four used by all rivals?
Masahiko Inoue, Subaru’s project general manager for both the Impreza and XV, told me last year that he believes the engine’s unique layout will easily adapt to hybridisation – a key to ensuring its longevity.