You could be forgiven for thinking that Dan and I had both sold our Subarus, given that until last month he hadn't provided an update for more than a year and I've been nearly as bad. RacingPete has even bought a WRX STI wagon in that time; the bug is clearly spreading in the office, but at least it's the kind of STI we'd all like to have...
Despite buying back my old Megane in November, then, the Impreza keys have been the first to be picked up when it comes to going out for a drive on the weekend. Especially during the cold winter months, with wet greasy roads proving the ultimate playground. You can't be fooled into thinking four-wheel drive will give you grip everywhere, though, as one of my friends discovered as he went sideways through a slippery roundabout; I laughed but he seemed petrified by the unprovoked slide.
When I bought the car I knew it had the big belts service looming. So after researching my options, I drove the 300-mile roundtrip from Kent to Loughborough to Scoobyworld to get the job done. The service and advice I've had from the team there has been fantastic, so it made sense to go and meet them and I don't need an excuse for a drive. While it's no Golf, I have to say it's an incredibly comfortable car for a long trip, even on the motorway. In sixth gear the exhaust burble is noticeable but it's not overpowering and doesn't drone. The seats are super comfy and with an upgraded Apple CarPlay head unit, the three-hour journey was over in no time at all.
The drive I've been most looking forward to, though, was the first PistonHeads Sporting Tour of the year, taking place on my doorstep in Kent. If you're yet to see what we've been up to with our driving tours, they are one-day routes on open public roads, navigated by a Tulip route book in full rally driver and co-driver fashion. For the more competitive amongst the group, we have timed autotests just before lunch, taking place at Brands Hatch this time around on a section of the GP circuit and the tarmac rally stage. Enter the Impreza; even Pete tagged along in his wagon.
My co-driver and event organiser, Tony Clements, rallies his own Evo X so I was reticent to tell him what we'd be driving. I didn't get a single complaint all day, though, and I'm sure I caught the odd smile too. I'll admit I love an Evo as well, but you were either an Evo person or an Impreza person when it came to rallying and I was obviously the latter growing up. I do still have Tommi Makinen and Colin McRae's autographs on my wall at home from my first ever rally my dad took me to as a boy, but I digress.
I've been content over the last year enjoying the car on weekends through the summer and mostly driving it in the dry, but my god does it come alive in the wet. The grip is astounding and so predictable, you never feel like you're not in control, yet the 300hp the Prodrive Performance Pack provides is the perfect amount to keep you grinning ear to ear as the Boxer rumble echoes around you.
My car is still on its standard suspension, so the ride was relatively soft and perfect for gently making progress across the 170-mile route through Kent. I was absolutely in my element as Tony called out directions while we peered over the bonnet scoop at the quiet Kentish lanes. With the chirps from my dump valve and the bassy Boxer exhaust notes, it's the closest I'll get to my rallying dream without venturing into the forests.
Car: 2003 Subaru Impreza WRX STI Type UK
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: July 2018
Time for a new exhaust
Ben finally gets himself a Impreza