The Subaru Impreza is a fun, powerful car that perfectly combines practicality and sportiness. It’s also one of the few sedans out there that still comes with a manual transmission. So, as the best months for RVing are upon us, you might ask yourself if it makes for an excellent dinghy vehicle. This article answers this question and also gives you more valuable information on this popular car.
Can you flat tow a Subaru Impreza?
According to Subaru, you cannot flat tow any vehicle of the current Subaru lineup. This restriction is due to several components of the car possibly suffering damage during a flat tow. However, you could use past generations as dinghy vehicles. We’ll explain this in more detail, further down in the article.
Subaru does offer a manual transmission on the Impreza. But, it’s a mechanically advanced vehicle with features that operate at specific conditions. Also, it’s important to remember that Subaru uses AWD in most, if not all, its lineup, which further complicates flat towing.
More manufacturers migrate to Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs) and other automatic transmissions. So, it’s getting increasingly harder to find vehicles that you can flat tow. But why is it so difficult? In the next section, we’ll explain what flat towing is and why you can’t do it with just any vehicle.
What is flat towing?
Flat towing, otherwise known as dinghy-towing, is when you pull a car behind your RV or motorhome. As the name states, the vehicle that you’re towing is flat. All four wheels are touching the ground and rolling.
RVs can be uncomfortable to navigate through small city streets, drive-throughs, and parking lots. So, many people take a smaller vehicle with them.
The towed car hooks to the RV through a specialized hitch. So, for all other purposes, it’s rolling at the mercy of the tow vehicle. Even the braking comes from the RV.
Whenever a vehicle is rolling on the ground, parts inside it are in motion. The wheels drive the axles, which in turn, move the differentials and shaft.
In some vehicles, there’s no way to unplug the shaft from the transmission.
So, with the rolling, the transmission could rotate in a direction opposite to its original design. This can accelerate wear and even create irreparable damage. In addition, in cars with AWD, the rotating tires can generate excessive forces and friction in both the rear and front differentials.
A vehicle with a manual can disconnect the transmission from the shaft simply by shifting into neutral. So, this configuration can be better for flat towing. But, this doesn’t mean that all vehicles with manual transmission can go through this.
This is the case with the Subaru Impreza. But it wasn’t always like that. So let’s discuss this in the next section.
Why you can’t flat tow the Subaru Impreza
In 2016, Subaru stopped approving its vehicles from flat towing, with little explanation for the decision. As a result, there is much speculation about why the company decided to go ahead with this recommendation. We can only say that many technical aspects could lead to this decision.
Take, for example, electrically controlled steering. The latest Subaru vehicles come with electronic assistance on steering to adjust the feel. In addition, it contains several sensors and controllers that are pressure and motion-sensitive.
When you’re flat towing a car, the front wheels steer at the rhythm and speed of the RV. Therefore, the controllers inside the steering column suffer from increased friction. This could lead to heat and component damage.
As we mentioned before, Subaru’s complex All-Wheel-Drive system could be prone to damage when the vehicle is rolling with no power. With no lubrication, oil inside the differentials and transmission heats up. The additional temperature increases friction and could compromise seals.
Another possible reason is the camber angle, which is the factory-specific angle that wheels create when rolling. This characteristic is to help the tires return to their original position when turning the steering wheel.
But, when you flat tow a car, you’re exerting external forces on the steering, which could change the angle. As minute as this change is, the variation can lead to premature wear in suspension and steering components, plus uneven wear of the tires.
Subaru dealers and service centers do not cover flat towing in their warranty. So it’s best to know what the dealer is willing to provide for you before going on a long trip to avoid unnecessary hassles later.
The interesting thing is that, up until 2016, there were many Subarus, including the Impreza, that you could flat tow. So, let’s find out which of those you could flat tow in the following section.
These are some older Imprezas that you can flat tow.
The Subaru Impreza exists since 1992, entering the US market with only the WRX and regular models. It came with rallying DNA, replicating Subaru’s success on courses all over the world. What made it different was a powerful stock engine, excellent handling, and All-Wheel-Drive.
Another outstanding characteristic is the flat-four engine. In this engine, the cylinders are horizontal, parallel to the ground. Due to this design, the center of gravity is much lower, which translates to more stability when cornering, especially at high speeds.
Currently, we have the fifth-generation Impreza, which came in 2016, the same year Subaru dropped any guidelines for flat towing. So, let’s go back in time and learn more about the older Imprezas.
First Generation (1993-2001)
Though it’s still possible to find older-generation Imprezas, it’s increasingly difficult. This was much simple, and it’s common to see them with a manual transmission.
While it came in both FWD and AWD, you could only flat tow the AWD version. You also need to have a manual transmission.
Thanks to its flat-four engine, the Impreza proved to be highly stable and fun to drive. As a result, Subaru would stick to this engine format up until the present.
Second Generation (2001-2007)
This is one of the most recognizable Impreza designs. The second generation came with aggressive looks, improved performance, and many engines. It also came with two manual transmission options, either a five-speed and a six-speed.
This generation was available until 2007. But it went through a facelift that further cemented its presence in the sports sedan segment. An interesting detail is that Subaru sold Imprezas as rebadged Saab 9-2 station wagons. As with the previous generation, you can only flatten those with a manual and are AWD.
Third Generation (2008-2011)
The third-generation Impreza was one of the shortest, spanning only three years of production models. But, it’s important to note that the WRX version lived until 2014, as Subaru worked to improve the replacement.
Subaru fans didn’t love the aesthetics, calling it sedate and boring. But the performance was still there, and thanks to the 2.0L Turbo engine, you could get an excellent sleeper car.
You can only flat tow those models with a manual transmission. But, it’s important to note that this is one of the first generations to find information online. So, it’s easier to know what the ideal conditions for flat towing were.
Fourth Generation (2012-2016)
This new generation promised improved performance and better mileage. But it vowed to keep the same handling that had made the brand legendary. An assortment of powerplants meant that you could have either a sedate urban sedan or a crazy sports car with a tie.
Subaru decided to drop the automatic transmission and replace it with a more advanced CVT. However, it still kept the five and six-speed manual is optional.
But, officially, this would mark the last generation of Impreza that you could flat tow. You could only do so with the manual transmission and AWD.
The Subaru Impreza is one of the most notorious sedans out there. However, its AWD system and powerful engine options make it an exciting choice that’s still practical enough for daily life.
But, in 2016, Subaru stopped endorsing flat towing the Impreza. Unfortunately, there was very little information around the decision.
Because of this uncertainty, there’s been a lot of speculation on behalf of the RVing community.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot flat tow older Imprezas. As this article showed, you can do this with all models up until 2016. However, if you have a fifth-generation model, we don’t recommend pulling it behind a motorhome.
Hopefully, this article answers your questions regarding flat towing an Impreza. Plus, we also hope that you have learned a bit more about this fascinating machine.