13 May 2005

A completely new kind of supercar, based on tweaked Subaru Impreza components but barely bigger than a Ford Fiesta, is under development at Prodrive, the Banbury-based engineering group which builds both Subaru’s world rally cars and Aston Martin’s DBR9 GT racing car. The 160mph hard-top two-seater, code-named P2, has no equivalent among current production cars, though it bears a superficial resemblance to rally-bred supercars of the past such as the Lancia Stratos and Ford RS200. Like these cars it is potentially extremely fast and agile, but unlike them it’s designed to use a far higher percentage of production components, and to be built to a ‘notional’ purchase price of around £40k. The engine is a front-mounted version of Subaru’s familiar 2.0 litre turbocharged flat-four engine with well over 300bhp on tap. The car will weigh only about 1000kg, so performance should match a Ferrari F430’s or Lamborghini Gallardo’s. However, the Prodrive coupé’s small size, short overhangs, optimal weight distribution (from elements such as side-mounted radiators) – plus its Subaru-sourced 4x4 drive train – should make it considerably more agile than conventional mid-engined supercars. The suspension, brakes and steering are also sourced from the Impreza.

The project is the brainchild of David Richards, Prodrive’s founder and chairman, who describes the car as a technology demonstrator, intended to showcase his firm’s automotive design and engineering talents. The coupé will feature new stability and turbo anti-lag systems, both devised at Prodrive. Though the project is only three months old, the car is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year, because Richards wants to demonstrate Prodrive’s speed and flexibility at realising projects.

There is no production plan at present, and Prodrive hasn’t arrived at an official name for the project. But it seems unlikely that Subaru – with whom Prodrive has a long and fruitful relationship – will be unmoved by news of an enticing project which uses so many of its components in a revolutionary way. Sources at Prodrive are keeping tight-lipped about Subaru’s involvement, but an early viewing of the coupé project by the Japanese company’s bosses seems more than likely.

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