One of the most desirable Imprezas made by Subaru's tuning arm - STI - the S203 was a JDM model limited to a production run of just 555 models - no doubt to pay reference to a valuable commercial partnership with the WRC team's principal backer at the time.
Visually the S203 only featured a revised front bumper, new rear wing and special BBS wheels set it apart from the standard version. However it was what was under the skin that made all the difference.
Engineers at STi took the WRX's 280bhp flat-four and fitted a larger turbo, a unique titanium exhaust, a retuned ECU and precision-balanced engine internals. These enhancements boosted power to 320bhp at 6,400rpm, while torque jumped to 422Nm at 4,400rpm. This resulted in a 0-60mph time of less than 4.5 seconds although the car was not really about pure straightline speed.
The handling of the S203 set new benchmarks and upgrades included adjustable damping, reinforced coil springs, thicker anti-roll bars and larger brakes, modified to improve airflow and to reduce fade. STi engineers enlisted the help of former world rally champ Petter Solberg when tuning the suspension, and his suggestions enabled the firm to produce its most stable set-up yet. However, what impressed Solberg most were the Pirelli PZero Corsa tyres. Specially developed for the S203 by Pirelli and STi, the 18-inch rubber was constructed in a softer compound with two grooves designed to improve wet weather grip. The results were simply phenomenal. The S203 turned in quicker than any Impreza before it.
On a track, it allows you to brake late and enter corners at incredible speeds. But at the same time, the S203 has amongst the best ride quality of any WRX to date, absorbing road imperfections with ease.
As well as the sticky rubber, STi's designers focused on driver comfort. The firm turned to Recaro to produce competition-style seats that offered support at high cornering speeds, but are also comfortable for daily use. Recaro put together the first fully reclining competition seat, with each chair costing £2,700 (if you can find them - these seats are a crazy price on the aftermarket today).
In the cockpit, a 260km/h (165mph) speedo, leather steering wheel and gearshifter finished off with pink stitching adorns the interior.
Inevitably all the 555 production sold out immediately when announced and today the cars are amongst the most collectible Subaru's made.
Our example is flawless and would meet the expectations of the most demanding collector.