In The Merchant of Venice, the prince of Morocco opens a golden casket and finds a scroll inside. It begins: "All that glisters is not gold/Often have you heard that told."
And in the automobile business, an "all-new" model isn't always all that new. Not infrequently, it is the result of manipulating mirrors and billows of smoke. The "redesign" can be little more than a fresh suit and a new pair of loafers covering the same old bones and organs.
Happily, that charge can't be leveled against the 2017 Subaru Impreza, a compact sedan and five-door hatchback arriving in showrooms this month. In fact, this markedly improved machine borrows little from its predecessor.
"It really is all-new," said Todd Hill, the Impreza car line manager, speaking at a recent regional media preview. "Ninety-five percent of it is new."
He smiled and added: "This Impreza comes with the first new door handles we've had in 17 years!"
So, how is this 2017 Sube all-new? Let us count some of the ways:
For openers, it sits on a brand-new "global" platform that will be the foundation of future Subaru models, which will include hybrids and EVs. That new architecture provides this car with much stronger structure than its predecessor. That enhanced structural rigidity translates into all sorts of good things. The car's agility improves, as does its straight-line stability. Ride comfort goes up while cabin noise, vibration, and harshness go down. Sound suppression is further enhanced by insulating tactics like thicker window glass.
The Impreza's 2-liter, horizontally opposed boxer engine has been fitted with direct injection for 2017. This system allows the fuel to be delivered to that point in the combustion chamber where it can be burned most efficiently. Since direct-injected fuel is cooler than that injected into the hot valve port (conventional port injection), it permits higher compression ratios, which provide more power and fuel economy. In the case of the new Impreza, the compression ratio went up a whopping two points: from 10.5-1 to 12.5-1.
The net result is gains in fuel economy and horsepower. The base 2.0i sedan with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) has EPA mileage ratings of 28 city and 38 highway - not bad for an all-wheel-drive automobile.
The car now has 152 horsepower, which I found quite sufficient in a car that weighs only a little over 3,000 pounds.
Being built for the first time in the U.S., the Impreza comes in four flavors, all of them with AWD. The base 2.0i starts at $18,395 as a sedan with the five-speed manual gearbox and $1,000 more with the CVT. The hatchback model tacks $500 on the tag.
The 2.0i Premium (CVT only) has an MSRP of $21,195 as a sedan and $21,695 as a hatch. The 2.0i Sport sedan is $21,995 as a manual sedan, and $22,795 with the CVT. The Sport hatch is $22,495 with the manual and $23,295 with the automatic. The loaded 2.0i Limited (CVT only) weighs in at $24,095 for the sedan and $24,595 for the hatch.
I test-drove the Sport sedan and the Premium hatchback, both with the CVT. Both were attractively styled with handsome interiors that had a soft-touch, upmarket feel. This new car is a bit roomier than the outgoing model and quieter. The seating, like the ride, is comfortable and the goodies, like heated seats and mirrors and wiper deicers, abound.
Of the two, I preferred the Sport model, whose sporting qualities went beyond the cosmetic. Its active torque vectoring and bigger tires enhanced cornering, while its stiffer shock absorbers significantly reduced body roll in the corners without any appreciable degrading of ride quality.