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Subaru Impreza WRX

Jamie KitmanwriterIan Dawsonphotographer

The pocket rocket is at least as old as the fine idea of putting a big engine in a small car. But Subaru, to borrow a phrase from ubiquitous chef Emeril Lagasse, really kicked pocket rocketry up a notch when it spiked the formula with turbocharging and all-wheel drive in its Impreza WRX. Both the Audi Quattro Coupe and Lancia's Delta Integrale went there first in the 1980s. And Mitsubishi's Lancer Evolution is another undeniably great car worthy of huzzahs. But it was Subaru that first brought the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive package to the masses at a price they could afford-albeit not to the American masses until the second-generation WRX. By then, the car's street cred already extended from Tokyo to Topanga Canyon, thanks to three World Rally championships in the mid-'90s and starring roles in a series of video games. The WRX is as dependable, comfortable, and practical as any other economy machine, but with its flat four suitably goosed and boosted, the WRX can reach 140 mph, and 0-to-60-mph times close in on five and a half seconds. On short tracks that reward its compact size and limpetlike grip, the WRX can hang with the very best; in the real world of potholed streets and inclement weather, it can often outrun them. With supercar performance and rally-car thrills in a plain, economical wrapper, the WRX changed the trajectory of pocket rockets forever.