The road was wet and the 2012 Subaru Impreza was headed into a turn. And this wasn't a predictable, flat turn, but a sinewy bit of blacktop wrapping around part of a mountain. It was a road where the engineers realized they couldn't blast through, so had to give in to nature.
With a variable radius, the turn also dropped some number of feet through its length. Given the rain-slick surface and the near non-Euclidean geometry, the Impreza's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system made a big difference. I could feel brief moments of slippage, where a tire or two decided it had had enough and couldn't hang on anymore.
But with the Impreza's continuously variable transmission (CVT) locked in a virtual second gear and the tachometer needle pointing north, all four wheels had power, compensating for traction loss as necessary. The car pulled through neatly and the moment served as a reminder that all-wheel drive makes a difference in a variety of conditions.
The 2012 Impreza has been completely updated from the previous generation of the car, but some constants remain. Subaru's all-wheel-drive system is still standard. The car is still available as a hatchback or sedan. And Subaru's cabin tech remains behind the cutting edge, although it has advanced far beyond the offerings of even a couple of years ago.
CNET's review car came in Sport Premium trim, and as such was at the upper end of the Impreza range. That fact helps explain the smoked alloy wheels, which happened to go very nicely with the Camelia Red Pearl paint job. The hatchback body added a note of sportiness and utility.
Navigation, with XM Satellite-sourced navigation data, is available in the Sport Premium trim, but was not optioned on this car. Too bad, as I am eager to test this new system from Subaru. Its maps are stored in flash memory, so the response time should be fast.
Another recent addition for Subaru is the standard Bluetooth phone system. Voice command-operated, it features a phone book, but it can't automatically download all of a paired phone's contacts. When I set up my phone with the system, it gave me the option of pushing contacts one at a time from the phone or entering them manually.
These days, a Bluetooth phone system usually also means Bluetooth audio streaming through the stereo. The Impreza continues this trend, and its Bluetooth streaming was better than most. The existing Bluetooth streaming protocol is rather limited, at most letting you skip or pause tracks. The system in the Impreza I tested was just as limited, but unlike many systems, it showed complete track information on its radio display.
The Impreza also sports a USB port in the console, which understands iPod talk. But using the stereo interface to browse the music library requires an advanced degree. Most of the time, pushing the right-hand tuning dial ran me through a selection of tone controls, but when I pushed the big button marked Menu, that right-hand dial suddenly let me choose library categories such as album and artist.