The idea of spending more than half a million dollars on a Subaru Impreza that isn’t a works rally car might seem crazy. But why should high-end restomods be limited to traditional classics, like a recreated Aston Martin DB4 or a better-than-new Shelby Mustang? The Impreza’s motorsport glory and cult following mean it can inspire an equally strong emotional connection. That’s something Prodrive has proven by selling all 25 of its P25s, despite a base price (in the UK) of nearly $600,000.
Making Prodrive P25
It’s been a year since we first told you about the British motorsport engineering company’s plans to create the P25—what it claims will be the first-generation street-legal Impreza—and now we’ve had the chance to drive the car on a test track in England. A lot has changed since Prodrive first announced the project last year, with the finished P25 getting new bumpers and lights, redesigned rear wing elements, a different interior—and even a power boost. Last year Prodrive promised the P25 would make at least 400 horsepower, but that has now been bumped up to 450 horsepower, along with what we’re told will be more than the original promise of 442 pound-feet of torque.
The engine is a carefully reworked version of the long-running Subaru EJ25 with a turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four. It’s been given forged pistons, stronger connecting rods, ported cylinder heads, and a new Garrett turbo. It also features an anti-lag mode that pops and throbs to keep the turbo spinning when the car is in what’s meant to be a track-only Sport Plus mode. And the engine blows through a bespoke Akrapovič exhaust system. It’s mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox, plus an active electronically controlled center differential that varies the amount of torque sent to each axle.
The P25 Demonstrator looks neat up close, but unlike most “follow-up” models, it’s nothing new. Underneath is the original Japanese-market two-door Impreza WRX STI, which has been stripped and then restored and upgraded, with carbon fiber replacing sheet metal for the roof, trunk lid, hood, fenders and raised rear wing. All told, Prodrive claims that the P25 weighs just 2646 pounds, a number that seems impossible to modern eyes—the 2023 BMW M2 is around 3800 pounds—but it’s a reminder of how light all-wheel-drive performance cars used to be.
Driving the Prodrive P25
Our drive took place entirely at England’s Millbrook Proving Ground, on a tight 0.8-mile handling circuit that has been designed to mimic the corners and contours of rural British roads—making it the perfect testing environment for a car produced by the same outfit responsible for years Subaru World Rally Championship glory.
Climbing into the P25 reveals what is probably the best quality cabin ever fitted to an Impreza. Not a high bar considering the low-rent plastics of the original car, but now nearly every surface in the P25 is covered in either carbon fiber or microfiber. Even the switchgear has been redesigned: There’s a small rocker panel on the center console, an engine start/stop button (the first generation Imprezas just used a key), and an infotainment touchscreen, as well as a digital instrument cluster. There are large carbon fiber shift paddles on the right side of the steering wheel, but none on the left. This is how Prodrive builds all paddle shift WRC cars for Subaru: Pull to up, push to down.
The engine fires up to a busy mechanical idle. The P25 is loud but less raucous than a true WRC challenger—conversations are possible without an intercom. Sequential transmissions engage first with the clutch, and there is a novelty when having to negotiate with the clutch pedal to move. The clutch feels light; it turns out it actually controls the clutch electronically, because Prodrive decided a two-pedal system would be too brutal for road use. But when moving, both upshifts and downshifts can be done without a clutch.
Trust is built quickly, as are memories of driving this generation of Impreza when it was new. The P25 isn’t quite as fun or adjustable as the original car, largely because it has greater grip and a more disciplined chassis. Boost pressure takes a while to build at lower revs, but once it has the engine pulls with deep energy. It’s less keen to rev than the original car; redline is marked at 6500 rpm, while the 22B zinged to 7900 rpm. But there’s so much midrange torque, it never feels like a limit on tight circuits, especially given the gearbox’s lightning-fast response.
The P25 combines soft springs with firm dampers, using wheel travel to fill dip and compression but with Bilstein dampers preventing unwanted secondary movement. There is noticeable roll under cornering load, but only to a degree that helps to orient the driver to the increasing lateral forces. The boxer engine’s low center of gravity is evident in the P25’s ability to change direction.
But the steering feels very different from our memories of the original Impreza, which had a slow initial reaction. The P25 feels more direct and provides clear feedback from the front tires. At Millbrook many of these messages were about the limited grip that the leading Bridgestone Potenzas had to summon; our drive came after several other hotshoe journalists had taken turns, and the front rubber was clearly past its prime, bringing with it the need to manage understeer in tighter corners. But traction is great, and the upgraded brakes, with grooved rotors gripped by six-pot AP Racing calipers up front, provide massive stopping power without complaint.
Prodrive’s engineering team said the goal with the P25 was to create a road-legal car that would be faster than the original WRC-spec Impreza. We can’t confirm that claim, but we can’t imagine that any small group of buyers—at least some of whom are in the US—will ever feel that their car lacks the capacity to create excitement. Let’s hope that at least some of them are driven in anger.
Senior European Correspondent
Mike Duff has been writing about the auto industry for two decades and calls the UK home, although he usually lives life on the road. He loves old cars and adventures in unexpected places, with career highlights including driving to Chernobyl in a Lada.