The Subaru Impreza S201 Is A Rarer, Faster Unicorn Than The 22B

Thought the 22B was the ultimate GC Impreza? Think again
Subaru Impreza S201, front
Subaru Impreza S201, front

Think of the ultimate GC8 Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Your mind will probably go straight to the 22B, maybe even the Prodrive P1 for those of us with a UK bias. The purists may even go for the Version 6 Type RA, the closest any road car came to the rally monsters. No matter which you picked, you’re wrong.

It’s this, Subaru Impreza S201, the fastest, rarest and most interesting of the GC8s.

Built for a very short period in 2000, the final year of GC8 production, the S201 was STI peacocking, throwing everything it had in its locker at the time as an answer to the Mitsubishi Evo VI Extreme (well, the Zero Fighter JDM equivalent, but that’s one for another day).

If the plan was to make everyone forget the Evo on looks alone, STI nailed the brief. Predating The Fast and Furious yet looking straight from its set, the S201’s body kit is certainly polarising.

The rear wing was developed by Fuji Heavy Industries' aerospace department
The rear wing was developed by Fuji Heavy Industries' aerospace department

Although looking like stick-ons for an RA, the bumpers and side skirts were bespoke for the car from fibreglass and given a dark grey finish to contrast the silver every S201 left the factory with. Perhaps a little mind-boggling it didn’t come in Subaru’s trademark WR Blue, but at least it got a set of gold Rays wheels.

Most questionable looking of all is the gigantic triple-decker rear wing, but its outlandish design was functional. STI called in the help of Fuji Heavy Industries’ aerospace arm just for it.

More than just tweaking the bodywork though, the S201 saw some serious mechanical changes. With an ECU reworking and an uprated exhaust system, it produced 296bhp from the factory - making it a rare JDM performance car of the era to officially break the 276bhp Gentleman’s agreement and the most powerful road-going Impreza to that point.

300 were set for production, but just 87 are documented as being built
300 were set for production, but just 87 are documented as being built

Helping to cope with that extra power was a reworked suspension setup, including manually adjustable dampers fitted as standard. With all that extra effort to make this the fastest and most extreme GC8, it’s a wonder why STI chose the four-door version instead of the coupe.

Though a production run of 300 was planned, and suggested by each car’s interior plaque denoting a build number, only 87 chassis have been documented with its six-month production run briefly overlapping the introduction of the GD Impreza.

It’s over four times as rare as a 22B in that case, and even faster. Worth more? It’s very rare an S201 comes up for sale, but when they do, values fall shy of the WRC celebration special. There’s one currently available in Japan for ¥3,890,300 (approx. £22,000) and in pretty good nick too, which seems an absolute bargain.

It’s a polarising car, but as a footnote in Impreza history, it’s one of the most interesting. On paper at least, it’s also the ultimate.


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