Prodrive is a British motorsport and advanced engineering group based in Oxfordshire, England. It first became well known for its involvement in the World Rally Championship with the Subaru World Rally Team, developing championship-winning cars for the likes of Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg, which now reside in the Prodrive heritage collection at the group’s new Banbury headquarters. The Subaru World Rally programme ended in 2008 but today its motorsport manufacturer programmes include Aston Martin Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, Bahrain Raid Xtreme in the Dakar and FIA World Rally-Raid Championship and The X44 Team of Sir Lewis Hamilton in the Extreme E championship.
The WRX Prodrive marked the beginning of Subaru’s relationship with the performance specialists which was extended to other products in Subaru South Africa’s line-up. The most obvious signs that these are no ordinary WRX models are the seven-spoke Prodrive wheels and the bespoke spoiler. The latter was developed by Prodrive and while similar to that fitted to the STI, it features additional vertical stays, engineered to aid high-speed stability by increasing downforce but without increasing drag.
The 225/40/18 Bridgestone Potenza tyres mounted on the eight-inch-wide wheels, along with a 25mm lower ride height (courtesy of a Prodrive suspension package), enhance the Impreza’s already impressive road holding and steering response. On the inside there’s a Prodrive gear knob milled from solid aluminium and a Prodrive mat set.
The engine enhancement package is built around a Prodrive-licensed upgrade to the Electronic Control Module and unlike with ‘grey market’ electronic conversions, all safety parameters remain unchanged. The electronic upgrade fuel and ignition values are set to a pre-programmed ‘map’ written specifically for South African conditions.
Another significant element of the conversion is a Prodrive performance exhaust system. Comprising a revised centre section with one of the car’s two catalytic converters removed and a rear portion with ‘Prodrive’ scripted around its tailpiece, it sounds slightly more aggressive under full throttle, but is barely any louder at cruising speeds, and still meets stringent European emissions standards. With a less restrictive exhaust and engine management changes, there is a hike in power from 169kW at 5600 revs/min to 185 at 5000, with torque rising 40Nm to 360 at 3000 revs/min.
There are also significant gains against the clock: tested at Reef altitude against a standard WRX, the 0-100km/h sprint is shaved from 6.85 to 6.1 seconds, with the standing kilometre covered in a ballistic 26.4 seconds at a terminal speed of 196.4km/h. By comparison, the standard car takes 27.2 seconds, crossing the 1000m mark at 192.1km/h.
Improvements to in-gear flexibility too is marked: 80 to 120km/h is dispatched in 6.9 seconds in top gear, versus 8.4 seconds for the standard car. Sixty to 100km/h in fourth takes just 5.2 seconds, making the Prodrive WRX the ideal overtaking machine; few cars can gain speed in-gear as briskly, making overtaking safe and effortless.