Prodrive P25 Review – British rally-bred monster takes on the world

Daily Express test drive Prodrive's P25

What we love

  • Earth-shattering dynamics and noise
  • It still has mod cons despite being stripped out
  • It’s the closest to driving a WRC car you can get

What we don’t

  • Going over potholes

In the middle of First Man, the biopic about Neil Armstrong, there is a sequence that sees him and fellow astronaut David Scott head into space to rendezvous with the Agena. Shot from the inside, the audience is taken on a ride as their spacecraft is thrust upwards.

As it does so, the whole thing shakes and groans and howls and squeals as it battles the laws of physics before reaching the calm of space, it is violent but thrilling – just like the Prodrive P25.

Similarly to its space-bound cousin the Gemini SC8, it is not designed for comfort or luxury, it is not designed to cushion your blows, it is designed for a purpose and that purpose is performance.

What’s more, just like the rocket it can’t fit more than two people and the ride isn’t the smoothest. However, like that rocket, it is a raw and unbridled piece of artistry.

Earlier this week, was invited to its home and creators, motorsport experts Prodrive who have won Le Mans, the World Rally Championship, and developed dune-conquering Dakar prototypes.

The Prodrive P25 is a restomod, a car which looks old but is completely new.

Starting with a Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Prodrive has modified the car to look like the rally winning leviathans it ran in the late-1990s and given it the performance as well as the reliability of a modern supercar, a car which is also now mostly made of carbon fibre rather than steel or aluminium.

The changes aren’t just skin deep and go far beyond a new bodyshell. Prodrive has boosted power on the 2.5-litre turbocharged boxer engine to over 450bhp. Torque is up too, and the suspension has been modified with bespoke upgrades alongside new brakes and an anti-lag system in the sportiest of the three drive modes (Normal, Sport, and Sport Plus).

Inside, the interior may seem spartan, but look closely and you spot an up-to-date infotainment system and an electric handbrake. However, this is about as far as the mod-cons go, the whole point of the Prodrive P25 is that it is as close as someone can get to owning a World Rally Car for the road.

That may sound like a cliché but look closer and you’ll notice the four-point harnesses, the extinguisher system, the single paddle for changing gear (just like a 2017-2021 spec WRC car), and then you start it.

The car awakens with a loud bang as the exhaust fires up and the beast awakens

Without even moving an inch, the car has let you, the uninitiated, know it is not just an Impreza. Far from it, for £460,000 you would hope it isn’t, but it is worth every single penny, for one simple reason.

It isn’t the exclusivity, only 25 are being built and they’re all sold, and it isn’t AI tech, because there isn’t any. It is like a boxing match that begins when the wheels start moving and goes beyond stiff suspension and a single-gear shift paddle because you don’t drive the P25 like anything else.

For one thing, the clutch pedal isn’t connected to anything, it’s fly-by-wire and you don’t use it after first gear.

Once you’re rolling you pull on the paddle to go up a gear and push it away to go down. The six-speed sequential gearbox doesn’t have a synchromesh either so the gear shifts are aggressive and combined with the engine give you a shove in the back as you’re propelled through the air.

When it comes to stopping, it’s all on you because there’s no ABS and no traction control, something I initially thought I wanted on a day when temperatures barely rose above freezing and the ground was still frozen in some places.

If driving a nearly half-million-pound car with no ABS and no traction control on frozen roads sounds terrifying, it isn’t. My synapses were firing so fast and my mind was so engaged that those factors didn’t cross my mind until after we’d returned to Prodrive HQ.

Before then I got a taste of just what half a million pounds gets you in the corners and with its no-nonsense approach to lightweight and high power-based physics you get a car which darts from corner to corner like no other.

Every press of the throttle is met with an instant response, and each turn of the wheel is met with messages telling you the grip – thanks in part to the car’s tyres – is there and will remain so.

On the brakes, there is no hint of locking as you balance your foot on the pedal and the car decelerates, its reassurance breathes confidence into your driving, telling you it’s ok to push on.

And push on you do because, at the end of the day, this is a rally car with number plates and not only are rally cars fast, they are tough.

This one, if it ends up living in the UK, will need to be, as the number of potholes rises and the roads become rougher and rougher.

But even potholes are no match for this, Prodrive’s B-Road King. Noisy and stiff it may be but raw and focused it most definitely is.

It’s a heavyweight boxer on full-blast, Oasis on Morning Glory, and an antidote to filters society puts upon itself on social media.

Drive the P25 and there is no filter, no hashtags, no photoshop and no autotune. It is a car you respect before launching it at the skyline and makes you a better driver for it.

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