We've gone through a few WRX projects in recent years. It seems as though right when we start getting one sorted out, an updated version comes along to replace it. Our last one didn't make it very far past its introduction before it was hauled off. Well, we just took delivery of an all-new 2008 Impreza WRX from Subaru. To avoid any confusion, we'll call it Project WRX V.08. This one is slated to stay in our fleet for a few years and we're not wasting any time. Research and development are already well under way.
It might appear as if this project is moving a little too fast. Normally, the speed of development is governed by the need to test the car after each modification. But this time, our short-term objective is a little different-and coming up really quickly. We have to prepare the car to be displayed in Subaru of America's booth at the 2007 SEMA show, which will have passed by the time you read this.
If it looks like we've gone to full-on Pimp My Ride status, don't worry. There'll be plenty of time to reverse-engineer and test everything after the show. But for now, we're blazing forward. At the time of writing, we've had the car for a little less than a month and we only have a couple of weeks left to get it ready. Here's a brief rundown on what we've done so far.
To save time and avoid future embarrassment, we've taken a fairly conservative approach. Instead of loading up with unfamiliar products, we're working with aftermarket companies that have already proven their worth within the Subaru tuning community. Without taking the time to really shake the car down, it's hard to say if certain modifications are really necessary. But going with established tuners gives us the best shot at making our WRX better.
The first stop for Project WRX V.08 was Stillen subsidiary Brake Pros. With the entire staff of SCC being track junkies, we knew this project would be spending a good deal of time doing threshold braking. After a few hot laps, the brakes are usually the first things to go away. The crew at Brake Pros took measurements and put together a front brake kit using 13-inch diameter two-piece rotors and four-piston AP Racing calipers. The front mounting points on 2008 WRXs are exactly the same as older 2002-on WRXs, so many existing brake kits will fit the new model.
A big plus for the AP Racing kit is that, amazingly, the larger brakes manage to fit under the stock 17-inch wheels. This will be great, as we will still be able to use the stock wheels and tires on rainy days. While Brake Pros finished the rear kit, we grabbed the car to get the next group of parts started.
Aside from the obvious association between K&N Engineering and rally racing, the company really made its mark in the Impreza community with its Typhoon intake system. Powder-coated in wrinkle red, to match the STI's intake manifold, the Typhoon drew plenty of attention. However, power increases proved that it was more than just a showpiece. After two days of prototyping, K&N adapted its Legacy 2.5 GT cold-air intake to our Impreza, netting impressive peak horsepower and torque gains of 27 wheel-hp and 32lb-ft, respectively. FThe K&N intake doesn't affect driveability at all, but it does raise the 'wooshing' noise of the turbocharger compressor and the stock bypass valve significantly.
The car was becoming more fun to drive as we headed from K&N over to APR Performance. While the car still looked bone stock, the turbo was now screaming "I am not a Camry." Still, you couldn't help but notice that no one else found our WRX worth a second glance. That was about to change.
KC Chow handles all the R&D at APR. His work can be seen on several former USCC entrants and on many current time attack cars. Our car got the usual treatment, included a large 3D carbon fiber rear wing, relatively small carbon fiber side-view mirrors, plus a front splitter and subtle air dam insert that fit just right.
Our conservatively styled sedan (on stock wheels, at full ride height and with a giant wing) now turned lots of heads, but not in a good way. It was also difficult to see out the back. Perhaps one could adapt to the mirrors eventually, but we had a hard time judging closing speeds out of them. Before going to paint, we pulled off the mirrors and wing-though we'll keep them to test on the track later down the line.
In keeping with SCC's heritage, we decided to paint our new WRX flat black. But this car was going to be displayed in the Subaru booth at SEMA. We really couldn't get away with another rattle-can Krylon job like on our old Project STi.
Our good friend Marc Maksimow has a reputation for knocking out SEMA-quality paint jobs on tight SEMA-car timelines. He welded up the holes in the trunk (from both our stock and APR wings), then sanded and masked the body. During the prep phase, we decided to dump some of the hideous side body molding and added the must-have, Subaru dealer-option mesh grille. For paint, we went with a real spray gun and paint booth, and shot Project WRX V.08 with the R-M Carizzma Flat Black satin finish from BASF. The results came out better than anyone expected (other than the BASF guys). Maintenance is extremely low as well; the paint doesn't require any color sanding after being shot (just let it dry and it's ready to go), and cleaning the car doesn't require any waxing. Even Coleman is now considering having Project Silvia shot with the stuff.
The BASF paint made all the difference. Project WRX V.08 finally felt like a real SCC car. Something had to be done with the suspension, though. Despite the updated design (see Nov 2007, p104) the stock suspension still allows a lot of roll, squat and dive when the car is driven hard.
But, with an all-new suspension design and a tight time frame, we knew we'd have to go with a Japanese set-up, taking advantage of their earlier Impreza release date and resultant aftermarket R&D lead time. TEIN Japan had just finished developing one of its (unfortunately named) Super Street coilover systems and Katsuma Nakai, R&D manager at TEIN USA, was eager to test it out. He installed and adjusted the new springs and dampers. Our initial impressions are that it's a good compromise between comfort and performance on the street, but we'll save final judgment until after we test it at the track. The beauty about working with TEIN USA is that the company can re-valve the dampers in-house. It also has a wide assortment of spring rates in stock, so we can stiffen things up as we increase power and tire sizes later.
The final upgrades for this installment are the wheels and tires. For wheels, we chose Prodrive's forged GC-06H and selected the widest 5x100 bolt pattern size that was confirmed to fit-18x7.5 with a +48mm offset. Prodrive has a long history with Subaru through rally competition and we really wanted to bolt some of that mojo onto our car. Besides, the wheels just look good. They are readily available in gold and gunmetal, but white can be ordered specially. We wanted our set in white, but Prodrive was out of stock. Believe it or not, the wheels on our car were originally British Gold. We dropped them off with Sander Huang at The Wheel Supply in Walnut, California, to have them acid-dipped and powder-coated in white.
We really weren't sure how much tire could fit under the stock fenders. We eyeballed it and measured the wheel wells, but with only a stock 205-width tire, we went with a conservative 225/35/18 Advan Neova from Yokohama. Editor-in-chief Leh has us under strict orders not to crash the car before SEMA, so, like so much else, you'll have to wait for the next update to see how well the tires perform.
In the next installment of Project WRX V.08, we'll let you know just how much we got done before SEMA. You can look forward to rear spoiler number three, a little more pep under the hood and some fine touches to the interior. Shortly after that, engineering editor Chen and I will get this puppy out to the track and find out how well everything works together.