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The Soviets were famous for tough and durable, if not especially flashy, military equipment. Stuff that really worked, no matter the conditions. The AK-47 assault rifle was not as pretty as the M-16 rifle used by our side, but it got the job done — and then some.
You could say the same things about Subaru's pugnacious 2002 WRX Impreza sport sedan. This car is the pumped-up descendant of the previous 165-hp 2.5 RS Impreza, formerly Subaru's hottest compact road rocket in the U.S. market.
It’s not much to look at from the outside: only the bulging hood scoop and 747-sized driving lights suggest anything out of the ordinary. But it’s priced far below similarly-equipped and similarly capable "status" sports sedans, such as the BMW 3-Series, Lexus IS 300 and Audi A4. The WRX has the goods where it counts to clean their clocks.
How about a high-boost (14.2 psi) intercooled, 2.0-liter engine pushing out an astounding 227 hp? That's 113.5 horsepower-per-liter of piston displacement, enough to whump the 225-hp BMW 330, the IS 300 and both versions of the Audi A4 (the 170-hp 1.8T and 190-hp 2.8 V-6, respectively).
And you can get your claws on this potent little beast in either sedan or wagon form for all of $24,995, about what you'd pay for a well-equipped (and utterly ordinary) Taurus or Accord.
The WRX also comes with a very capable viscous-coupled, full-time all-wheel-drive system standard. Similar gear is available on the A4 and the BMW 3-Series (the Lexus IS 300 is rear-drive only), but you've gotta open your wallet. And open wide, too. A comparably equipped all-wheel-drive BMW 330Xi sedan carries the formidable MSRP of $35,740; even the non-AWD BMW 330i will set you back $33,990.
2002 Subaru Impreza WRXEnlarge Photo