Should have Kept the Subaru

Look, it's not that I regret buying the Audi... wait. I regret buying the Audi, any time I'm not actually driving it, which has been less than two months in a year so far. But maybe those regrets will vanish as I continue to iron out problems. It's that I really miss my Impreza.

I used to have a 1993 Impreza GC5 LS. Yeah, 1.8 liters with a slushbox. 100hp, around 150 ft-lb, and a 6k redline which seems absurdly low. The only modification was WRX wheels, with decent rubber on them. Around here, you don't want a hard suspension anyway; this is pothole country, but even when you successfully dodge them it's damned bumpy. When I moved here, I was driving an '89 240SX with full race suspension, and it had to go.

The Impreza was a joy in almost every way. It was a little loud at freeway speeds, but it had ample space for my ample frame and it was surprisingly easy to work on. I had heard repeatedly about how difficult it was supposed to be to wrench on all Subarus, but the Impreza was very much designed to be the basis of a race car and it honestly does show. The wrench access is sublime. Changing an axle shaft, for example, can be done even by an inexperienced person with minimal tools in just an hour or two, or much much less once you know what you're doing. Working on the engine is similarly simple, because it's puny.

Driving the Impreza was also a smile-inducing experience in all conditions. It weighed only as much as my 240SX, a mere 2,750 pounds, even though it had all wheel drive. And that all wheel drive system, while primitive, did have a trick up its sleeve; an electronically locking center differential that could be forced to lock by activating a "manual" button on the shift lever and dropping it down into first. You can't even force the Audi into first if you don't have a tiptronic shifter, and I don't. The lowest you can shift via the stick is 2.

On the other hand, the A8 is also quite a grin-maker; it just isn't as natural as the Impreza because you have to account for all that weight. That makes it a whole lot less tossable, especially when the roads have gravel and dirt on them as they so often do around here. My car was made in very early 1997, and they didn't add in ESP (AKA "AYC", or active yaw control) until the end of the year, so my car doesn't do any magic beyond basic traction control, and of course "EBD". EBD is when you use the ABS to emulate a limited-slip differential (LSD) by clamping the spinning wheel. However, it's only used at speeds up to 40 kph. After that, the lack of a rear limited slip differential (which was present on the car's precessor, the poorly-named Audi V8) is felt somewhat in loose conditions.1

The problem with the A8 is that it's a PITA to work on. Wrench access was at least twice as good in the Impreza, and there is a horrible tendency for anything dropped under the hood to end up beneath the motor on the cross member. Sadly, the Audi V8 engine is prone to oil leakage, and even more sadly, the harness runs where the oil can easily leak on it. The transmission is a serious weak point, and A8 enthusiasts typically replace the automatic with a six speed manual at significant expense, easily up to $3,000 with a quality clutch. And you'll need one, because the engine begins making torque quite low...

I miss the Subaru.

  • 1. It is supposedly possible to use the torsen diff from the V8 in the A8...
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