Caffeine&Machine cultofmachine Yard Visitor Britain’s Impreza: the P1

Britain’s Impreza: the P1

Take rally hero Subaru. Give to rally expert Prodrive. Make more power. Enjoy.

The Subaru Impreza is one of those cars – one that’s left an indelible mark on not just car culture, but pop culture as a whole. Colin McRae’s iconic 1995 WRC championship, the long-running rivalry with the Mitsubishi Evo, buying a ropey WRX as your starter car on Gran Turismo and turning into a world-beater, the underground world of early 2000s modified car cruises – good or bad, almost everyone of a certain generation has an Impreza memory.

Such a legendary status has made the hot Impreza a proper modern classic, particularly the first-generation GC8, and few are as desirable as the UK-exclusive P1. Back in the 1990s, the STI performance brand hadn’t yet arrived in the Europe, with the exception of a tiny cache of 16 holy grail 22Bs imported by Subaru UK. If you’d missed out on these, the hottest Impreza you’d been able to walk into a UK Subaru dealership and buy was the four-door, 237bhp RB5, developed by Prodrive, the organisation that ran Subaru’s World Rally Team.

All the really quick stuff was restricted to the Japanese market, and plenty of grey imports were making their way over. Subaru UK took note and wanted to get back in on the action. Another call was made to Prodrive, and what resulted was 2000’s Impreza P1.

Developed specifically for the UK, just 1,000 P1s (short for its codename, Prodrive 1) were built. Outside of that small run of 22Bs, it was the first UK Impreza to be sold as a two-door, and the first to reach, on paper at least, the benchmark figure of 276bhp*. Nobody seems sure how much power its 2.0-litre turbocharged boxer four really made, but given that it would go from 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds, the answer is probably ‘a lot’.

Although predominantly a racing outfit, Prodrive knows a thing or two about setting up a car for the UK’s uniquely, erm… crap roads. It overhauled the springs, dampers and anti-roll bars to create a chassis setup that was honed for broken, rutted tarmac. Combined with the Impreza’s famed four-wheel-drive system, it was a serious all-weather prospect. You could have your P1 in any colour you liked as long as it was Sonic Blue, and 17-inch OZ Racing alloys – in grey rather than the more obvious, WRC-derived gold – completed the look.

The remit of the hot Impreza has always been to put a smile on the driver’s face, regardless of conditions. This is precisely why this example ended up in the hands of C&M co-founder Dan Macken back in 2018. Having just moved back to the UK to get the business going, he was on the lookout for something that would suit British roads – why not an Impreza that had been developed specifically for them?

“Having previously been in the Middle East, I’d just sold my E92 M3, which I absolutely loved, and was very mindful of petrol costs in the UK versus in Dubai, where it’s effectively cheaper than water. I didn’t want anything with a big chunky engine, but the prerequisite was that it had to make me smile,” says Dan of his hunt for a new car.

“It’s so much fun. It’s a very raw driving experience – there are no airs and graces, you’re bouncing around, it’s noisy… but it’s bone-stock, and that’s why I like it. It’s not been faffed around with.”

For a year or so, the P1 was Dan’s day-to-day car, but with both business and family having grown significantly since, it now lives a more relaxed life as an occasional second car. It’s always ready, though, waiting to get back out and take on the roads it was so expertly created for.

*The benchmark was an informal agreement between the major Japanese manufacturers that ran between 1989 and 2005, stating that they wouldn’t produce any cars making more than 276bhp (equivalent to the slightly rounder metric figure of 280PS). It was very much an ‘on-paper’ thing, which is why there were things like GT-Rs, RX-7s, Evos and Imprezas coming out of factories making a claimed 276bhp while outperforming the cream of the European supercar crop. Weirdly, the first car to break the agreement wasn’t some fire-breathing performance monster but a sedate, wafty Honda Legend.

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