Turbocharged Power

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine from last year's WRX really is a hoot to drive, and it's just as strong in the 2009 Impreza 2.5GT. Whether you're cruising around the city or driving on the highway, mashing the gas pedal brings a broad band of power and the unique sounds of the boxer four-cylinder. There isn't a high-pitched turbo whine to give away what's under the hood, though knowledgeable people will know when they see the hood scoop. This kind of fun doesn't come free, however, and the cost Ч in terms of gas mileage Ч is rather high, as the 2.5GT gets an EPA-estimated 19/24 mpg city/highway.

The 2.5GT's four-speed automatic transmission didn't skip a beat during testing Ч its shifts are smooth and refined, and it makes quick kickdowns when more power is needed for passing. All the same, it's a little short on gears; five- and six-speed automatics are relatively common. Adding an extra gear or two would help the 2.5GT on the fuel economy front, too.

While the automatic transmission offers fine performance, I'm disappointed a manual isn't offered in the 2.5GT; you now have to choose the new WRX or the high-powered WRX STI to get a manual transmission in a turbocharged Impreza.

What sets the 2.5GT apart from many of its competitors Ч along with the base Impreza Ч is that it comes standard with all-wheel drive. Subaru calls the system Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, and in the 2.5GT it features an electronically controlled clutch that apportions power among the wheels. While some hatchbacks, like the Vibe and Toyota Matrix, offer all-wheel drive, few make it standard like Subaru has.

The 2.5GT has standard all-disc antilock brakes. The pedal has a nice, firm feel under your foot, and the brakes respond to small pedal-position changes with a corresponding change in braking performance.

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