Coming into Subaru's model lineup between the base Impreza and the Impreza WRX, the 2009 Subaru Impreza GT offers more power than the former, but fewer cabin tech options than the latter. Like all Subarus, the Impreza GT has all-wheel-drive and decent fit and finish in the cabin. The sedan body style looks good, with a hood scoop giving it a little more aggressive appearance. But the available options for the car are limited. For example, although it's supposed to be sportier than a base Impreza, it only comes with an automatic transmission, and the only cabin tech is a stereo.
Test the tech: Automatic to 60 mph
The 2009 Impreza GT gets a similar engine as the WRX, a turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter flat four-cylinder, tuned up to put out 224 horsepower at 5,200rpm and 226 pound-feet of torque at a nice, low 2,800rpm. That's a lot of power for this relatively small car, but where the WRX gets a manual transmission, the GT has to make due with a four-speed automatic transmission. Subaru tries to make up for the slushbox by including sport and manual modes, so we put it to the test by conducting zero to 60 mph tests using each mode.
For our first run, we left the car in its standard drive mode and put pedal to metal. The car didn't feel particularly fast off the line, but we didn't feel any excessive turbo lag, either. Giving power to all four wheels, it rolled forward without drama, and we had no problems controlling it. The transmission made some shifts and in 7.21 seconds we were past 60 mph. Digging deeper into the performance computer, we found the car made it to 30 mph in 2.50 seconds.
On to the second run, we moved the gear selector to sport mode. Again, the Impreza GT didn't feel fast off the line, but we saw the revs go higher before each gear change, which is the behavior we would expect. This time, the car got to 60 mph in 6.73 seconds, a half second gain over our previous run. 30 mph was reached in 2.33 seconds.
Then we went to manual mode. On our first run, we watched the tach as we got the car moving. About 5,500rpm we hit the shifter. The ensuing gear change didn't feel like a hard snap into gear like some sport-tuned automatics, but the standard slushbox shift. After third gear we made it to 60 mph and checked the time: 7.18 seconds. Only a little better than standard drive.
Thinking we could do better, we resolved to hold the gears up to redline, so started another run. When the needle ticked over 6,000rpm, we hit the shifter. The automatic transmission thought for a moment, then made its slushy shift. We watched the tach needle rise again, waiting for that magic moment, but at just over 5,000rpm the car decided it didn't like what we were doing and upshifted early. The car's intervention gave our second attempt a time of 7.67 seconds, although the time to 30 mph was 2.32 seconds.
We came away from these tests entirely unimpressed by the transmission, and scratching our heads over why Subaru wouldn't put a manual in this car. Although the manual might make it harder to distinguish from the WRX, the automatic just doesn't do the engine justice.
In the cabin
Subaru interiors have fit and finish quality equal to that of Honda, and the 2009 Subaru Impreza GT is no exception. Although appropriate for a car in the mid-20s price range, the materials show good quality. The design is unassuming, but nice, and we particularly like how the switchgear is inset on the steering wheel. A sunroof is standard on the GT.