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The Subaru Impreza 22B Is the Ultimate WRX

As a dream car, it has its flaws. But the Subaru WRX is nevertheless an impressive performance car, both on pavement and on a rally stage. It’s thanks to rallying that the first Subaru Impreza WRX was even built. Though, as is typical with many JDM cars, the US didn’t get the earliest models. Plus, while the latest special editions have been available in the States, quite a few never made it here. And one of the most desirable is the 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi.

The 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi vs. the WRX

Blue 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi in front of a gray metal wall
1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi | Silverstone Auctions

In 1998, Motor Trend explains, Subaru was at the top of its rallying game. The Japanese automaker had won 3 consecutive WRC titles and was celebrating its 40th anniversary. To celebrate these milestones, Jalopnik reports, Subaru decided to create a special version of the Impreza WRX: the 22B STi.

RELATED: What are the Differences Between the Subaru WRX and WRX STI?

At the time, the standard all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza WRX came with a 217-hp open-deck 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, Car and Driver reports. But the 22B STi uses a closed-deck 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, featuring an air-to-air intercooler, a new exhaust, new intake pipes, forged pistons, and more turbo boost, The Drive reports. That closed-deck design makes the engine more durable, DriveTribe explains, which meant it could handle more power.

The engine bay of the 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi
1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi engine bay | Silverstone Auctions

As a result, the 22B produces a claimed 280 hp—which is more than the modern-day WRX, MT reports. However, because of Japan’s ‘gentleman’s agreement,’ the output was likely higher than that. In fact, Car and Driver found that the 22B produced closer to 300 hp. In a car that’s roughly 640 pounds lighter than the current WRX.

Regardless, the Subaru Impreza 22B STi can go 0-60 in 4.3 seconds, keeping pace with a contemporary Corvette. Not for nothing did Car and Driver call it “the Subaru from hell.”  

Then there are the 22B STi’s other modifications. It has 4-wheel Brembo disc brakes, Bilstein dampers, Eibach springs, and aluminum control arms, Roadshow reports. The 5-speed close-ratio manual has a metal-and-ceramic clutch, Hagerty reports, to better withstand the heat and abuse of repeated launches. Its front and rear bumpers come from the WRC car, and the hood is unique to the 22B. Plus, the rear wing’s adjustable.

RELATED: The Base Subaru WRX is the Ultimate Minimalist Sport Sedan

And, of course, it has gold wheels and a widebody kit. Those wheels were larger than the contemporary Subaru Impreza WRX’s and WRX STI’s wheels. And the kit was designed by the McLaren F1’s designer, Bring a Trailer reports.

What’s it like to drive?

Doug Demuro recently got behind the wheel of a Subaru Impreza 22B STi, and discovered a few more of the car’s quirks and features.

RELATED: Jay Leno Was Pleasantly Surprised by His Drive in a Subaru WRX STI

Firstly, the 22B comes with water injection for the intercooler, something only found on a handful of cars even today. At the time, the only other car which offered it from the factory was the Toyota Celica GT4. And in the 22B, there’s both a manual and automatic water-spray option.

In addition, the 22B STi has an adjustable locking differential. But, rather than a button, it’s a dial that can be turned from full-lock to open. And, interestingly, despite being a Subaru, the Impreza 22B STi uses a Nissan-branded plastic seat-belt holder.

Driving the 22B STi, Demuro calls it “fast fast.” As in, fast even by modern standards. It’s also extremely grippy, thanks to the AWD and wider-than-standard tires. The suspension is stiff, Car and Driver reports, but it makes for excellent handling. That, plus the low weight and compact dimensions, means it’s fun both in a straight line and in the corners.

Getting your own Subaru Impreza 22B STi

Unfortunately, not only did Subaru not sell the Impreza 22B STi in the US, it barely sold it anywhere. Only 400 were made for the Japanese market, Hagerty reports, with an additional 21 going to the UK and Australia. And because the 22B is a 1998 model-year car, it’s not eligible for US importation quite yet.

However, waiting for it to be US-legal does give an opportunity to save up some cash. In 2016, one sold at a Silverstone auction for the equivalent of $91,900. And as of this writing, Silverstone is auctioning another one predicted to go for over $100,000.

RELATED: What Does Consumer Reports Have Against the Subaru WRX?

Fortunately, it’s possible to turn a normal Subaru Impreza WRX or WRX STI into something which apes the 22B, Super Street reports. Polish company Radical Tuning, for example, sells a 22B-style widebody kit for 1993-2000 models. And, although it isn’t cheap, it’s possible to swap-in a closed-deck WRX engine.

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