All Imprezas got a facelift and interior enhancements for the 2004 model year, taking cues from the ultra-high performance WRX STi. A drive in an `04 WRX sedan immediately afterwards found it to be much better in the real world, with only slightly less performance and considerably greater comfort.
All 2004 Subaru Impreza models have bolder front styling, with a sculpted hood that emphasizes new complex headlights that peek from behind triangular covers that have circular inboard sections. The upper grille is an upside-down trapezoid, similar to that of the previous model, but it’s now integrated better with a larger lower grille in a flat lower bumper fascia to give a competition-ready look.
The regular WRX engine is unchanged for 2004, and no changes were needed. If the compact horizontally-opposed turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter twin cam, 16-valve engine’s 227 horsepower (at 6,000 rpm) and 217 lb-ft of torque (at 4,000 rpm) is overshadowed by the STi’s 300 of each, the regular WRX’s power is much more accessible. It’s strong right from the start, with a very healthy midrange and little fade up near redline.
Turbo lag, even with 13.5 lbs of boost, is nonexistent once revs are over 2500 rpm; throttle response is as immediate as a naturally-aspirated engine’s, and power delivery is very linear. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a four-speed automatic available. The five-speed is the best choice for performance, with less weight and more and more closely-spaced gear ratios, but the engine’s strong torque should make the automatic a functional option for anyone who accepts the realities of today’s commute traffic.