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Trans-Europe Express


arches and shapely rump harping back to Subaru’s four-door heyday. The press car that I had wasn’t equipped with the high level rear spoiler, which I have to admit, appealed greatly. In my old age, and approaching my fourth decade, the Impreza’s current lower-key demeanour and respectable engine outputs make it the perfect ‘Q’ car. Just the thing for keeping under the radar when pressing on. Not that we would advocate speeding outside of Germany of course, but in theory, if I were to be doing over 70 mph on HM’s highways and byways, this understated saloon wouldn’t draw any unnecessary attention.. Perish the thought…


DAY ONE. THURSDAY. NOTTINGHAM UK TO FINNENTROP DE, DISTANCE = 555 MILES With the dawn providing its own beautiful backdrop, it was time to pile my many bags and camera gear into the STI. There’s always something special about driving a quick car this early in the morning, when traffic and plod are scarce and the dense morning air keeps the turbo on song. Having treated the WRX to a tank full of Super-unleaded the previous evening, I gave it 15 miles or so to get everything fully warm, before turning the throttle switch to ‘Sports Sharp’. This was to prove to be an expensive mistake, for once you turn this innocuous looking switch onto the secondary, more focussed engine map, the resultant urgency and instantaneous throttle response prove addictive. Once it was there, it was to stay there for the next seven days.. with enjoyment escalating and fuel consumption depleting in a linear fashion… The drive down to Dover was to prove almost entirely traffic free, allowing me to really enjoy the 320R’s performance and get to know the car better. Funnily enough, the last time I had undertaken a similar pan-European dash like this was behind the wheel of my much loved 22B back in 2002. The uncompromising nature of that superb car had made the journey great fun, but for its many, many qualities, motorway cruising always felt like a bit of an ask for its short-legged JDM ratios. The new WRX on the other hand, was simply devouring the miles down to the docks, meaning that I was to arrive with an hour or so to spare before we sailed. Plenty of time to grab a coffee, top up the tank with more super and stick the mandatory beam deflectors on. Now, I know it’s the current vogue to hit the tunnel when crossing the channel, but for a spot of inexpensive luxury,


Faced with a 2,000 mile round trip - and the choice of either low cost airlines and soulless hire cars – or a week behind the wheel of the new 320R.. guess which one Paul Cowland chose?..


I


nvitations to Germany are a little like buses, it seems. You wait for one for ages.. and then three come along all at once. As thus it was for yours truly just a few months ago, when a welcome trio of cordial invites dropped into my inbox. Not only were they all within the same rough geographical radius in the fatherland, but by mad coincidence, all within the space of seven consecutive days. The events in question were all most definitely in the ‘rude not to’ category as well; spring giant Eibach was celebrating an impressive 60 years in the business. Subaru was launching the XV and BRZ prototype at the Frankfurt Motor Show and damper legend Bilstein wanted to show me behind the scenes at its many cutting-edge facilities. Plugging the bewildering itinerary and co-ordinates in Google maps showed me that the logical thing to do would be to fly to Dusseldorf, bag a hire car and then schlep around between various parties, knees-ups, speeches,


presentations and tours.. Yeah.. that would be the logical thing to do. However, faced with the tantalising opportunity to legally fly down the many hundreds of miles of un- restricted autobahn at the kind of speeds that will see you do prison time in the UK, I wanted my choice of transport for the week to be something that was more than happy to rub arches with the numerous Teutonic titans that regularly rattle off their rev- limiters on that same tarmac. Subaru’s new 320R package seemed like the perfect riposte to these ‘bahn-stormers’, so with my request duly dispatched, I found myself at Subaru UK’s Coleshill HQ on the day before my trip, picking up my travel companion. A car that would need to tick all sorts of boxes over the next 7 days, 2000 miles and some five different countries.


I’m a big fan of the new saloon shape. I think the proportions look good, with the balance of the flared


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