Driving the Prodrive P25 Is So Much More Than Meeting a Hero

Photos: Michael Shaffer / Subaru

You learn a lot riding shotgun with a pro. And what I’m learning from the passenger seat of the Prodrive P25 with rally legend David Higgins behind the wheel is that I’m not doing this car justice. Like, not at all.

My initial run around the Millbrook Proving Grounds is more of a sighting lap than anything, getting to know an unfamiliar car on an unfamiliar course while ironing out my right-hand-drive-while-jet-lagged mental scramble. More than that, though, I’m attempting to balance my need to objectively test the Prodrive P25 with my annoyingly loud and unrelentingly giddy inner monologue reminding me that, “holy crap, I’m driving this car.” This car.

Subaru ProDrive P25

For a Millennial car enthusiast like me who spent many late nights rallying around the world in Gran Turismo, you have to understand that the Prodrive P25 isn’t just any old restomod. This is an absolute labor of love from a company that’s built some of my all-time favorite race cars, paying tribute to one of my all-time favorite road cars. The Prodrive P25 is likely the closest I’ll get to ever driving a holy-grail Subaru Impreza STI 22B – ditto any kind of Impreza WRC rally car – and the old “meeting your hero” analogy doesn’t begin to describe this experience.

Rewind one year to the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed, when I got to see the Prodrive P25 in person for the first time. I spent a solid hour just ogling the carbon fiber body work, trying to parse if that was actually World Rally Blue (it wasn’t) or some other one-off shade (it was), but also wondering where the hell were the gold wheels. I was giggling at the decidedly ‘90s-tastic interior design, and was shocked to learn the multimedia screen supported Apple CarPlay. The resemblance to the 22B was uncanny, and I was instantly smitten.

Here at Millbrook, I’m every bit as happy-flappy-glee-glee, though I’m perplexed by the decision to redesign the P25’s front fascia and fit some truly bad-tuner-car headlights and taillights. However, that sour taste quickly washes away when Prodrive tells me the original estimate of 400 horsepower – a number David Higgins’ brother, rally beast Mark Higgins, described as “blimey, that’s enough!” – is now 440 HP, complemented by 457 pound-feet of torque.

That’s an incredible amount of power for a car that weighs just 2,500 pounds, 200 pounds less than the original 22B. And that’s despite using modern WRX STI framework, including an all-wheel-drive system with an active center differential and Subaru’s EJ25 turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-4 engine.

Subaru ProDrive P25 engine

Prodrive says it initially targeted a 0-to-60-mph time somewhere between 3.0 and 3.5 seconds. So you can imagine the company’s pride when it boasts the final acceleration spec: 2.8 seconds to 60 mph. Launch control and an anti-lag power delivery system have a lot to do with that impressive time, but credit also goes to the four-wheel-drive prowess and super sticky Bridgestone Potenza Sport tires.

So, my first lap around Millbrook. Right now, I’m mostly concerned with not screwing up the automated sequential-manual transmission. The Prodrive P25 has one paddle on the right side of its steering wheel; pull it toward me to upshift and push away to downshift. There’s a metal racing pedal box with a clutch that I need to depress to engage first gear or reverse, but from there I rely solely on the paddle for shifting. For best results, I’m keeping my foot deep in the throttle no matter which way I’m moving through the gears. Yes, it sounds like something’s breaking every time I upshift, but that’s just the transmission doing its job. The Prodrive engineer said so.

Because the brunt of the engine’s torque is delivered at 3,000 rpm, I don’t need to wind the EJ25 out to its 6,500-rpm redline in order to eke out max power. The P25 can be short-shifted without losing any ferocity, and indeed, pulling up through third, fourth, and fifth gears on a straightaway is a rapid-fire action.

Stronger mechanicals make the EJ25 better apt to this kind of aggro behavior, and it all sounds super sweet bellowing out of the P25’s combination stainless steel and titanium Akrapovic exhaust. The P25’s suspension comes courtesy of Bilstein, with adjustable dampers at all four corners, and the coupe rides on Prodrive-designed 19-inch wheels which, again, are the wrong color. Behind those gray alloys you’ll find a beefy AP Racing brake kit, which works a treat at hauling this car down from high speeds, and the steering rack is quicker than what Subaru offered in the WRX STI, with loads of feedback through the race-style wheel. 

Subaru ProDrive P25 wheel and tire

Higgins makes it all look so easy – dive-bombing turns, slamming through gears, stabbing the brakes, generally whipping the P25 around like a toy. Then again, this is a man who made his name driving Prodrive-built race cars. He knows this company’s wares can handle the rough stuff, and it’s obvious the P25 is taking everything in stride.

On my second stint ‘round the Millbrook track, I vow to channel some of that ferocity. And when I let go of trepidation and tap into my reserve of bravery, the P25 rewards my sharper inputs and quicker reflexes with astounding reassurance. If I lose grip, it’s a cinch to correct. If I clip some runoff, the lightweight chassis lets me hop back to it. The more oomph I give the P25, the more it freakin’ sings. This car totally wants me to beat the snot out of it, and who am I to deny?

Subaru ProDrive P25

My hope is that the 25 lucky ducks who bought the Prodrive P25 will do exactly that. Early customer information certainly sounds like the car’s going into the right hands, as most spec’d their interiors with either carbon fiber reinforced adjustable seats or full-on racing buckets, and even more ditched the P25’s optional rear seats in favor of a half cage. Weirdly, Prodrive said only seven buyers decided to go with gold wheels. And one customer actually skipped the blue paint altogether, choosing to have theirs finished in yellow.

You can balk at the P25’s insane $560,000 price tag all you want, but don’t forget, it took Prodrive less than three days to sell the lot. Candidly, Prodrive admits it could’ve charged more for the P25, given the red-hot demand. But I suppose that’s a lesson to learn for the company’s next restomod project, if and when such a thing will ever be. Surely there’s another iconic Subie worthy of Prodrive’s magic touch.

Subaru ProDrive P25

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