Ride & Handling

My first drive of the 2012 Impreza was on dry, warm pavement, where both the 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels lent a comfortable ride. (I didn't drive the base 15-inch steel wheels.) You're always aware of the road surface, but the harshest impacts are damped out, and I wasn't fatigued after a day of driving. Subaru has clearly softened the car for 2012, as it has done in recent models, including the WRX. Unfortunately, with the softening has come pronounced body roll — a shortcoming that is not the inevitable trade-off we once accepted from more compliant suspensions. Note that a rear stabilizer bar comes in the Premium and higher trim levels I drove, so the base 2.0i can only be worse in this regard.

The Yokohama Avid all-season tires provided enough grip that the car held on through winding roads with no drama, and the electric power steering is among the better executions in this class. The car's limits aren't easily found, thanks to the all-wheel drive, but it felt to me like something was missing. Even without the opportunity to slide about, the nose felt heavy, and the body roll made me feel like I was pushing a car to do something for which it wasn't intended. Will sportiness be the sole province of the WRX and STI?

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