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Random Car Review: The 1987-89 Subaru RX – The Predecessor To Every Performance Scooby Made Today

Random Car Review: The 1987-89 Subaru RX – The Predecessor To Every Performance Scooby Made Today

Consider this Subaru’s true Genesis moment for performance. Before the WRX and STi, before the 22B that was brought over from Japan to tease the motorsports press, we had a two performance-oriented Subarus on our shores: the weird-as-hell but functional XT (Alcyone), which morphed into the Subaru SVX before disappearing, and this, the Subaru RX, the sporty, turbocharged, four-wheel-drive (not all-wheel-drive) version of the Subaru Leone lineup that we’d seen in one form or another since 1975. Squint a bit, and you may notice that the handsome 3-door coupe bears a resemblance to the other unique 1980s Subaru product: the BRAT. Yep, the same platform spawned both cars.


The RX is unicorn among Scooby fans, with just over 2600 of the coupes imported to the country between 1987 and 1989. Powered by the same EA82T flat-four found in the XT, with an IHI turbocharger pushing 8psi of boost, they were typically good for about 120 hp and about 140 ft/lb of torque. The power was sent to the wheels by way of a 3.70 limited slip differential and a locking center diff and a two-speed transfer case.

rx int

The problem with the RX coupe was that Subaru didn’t know how to package or sell the car properly. It’s low power compared to other options didn’t appeal to the racers, it’s ground clearance wasn’t enough to appeal to people looking for an alternative to the AMC Eagle, and Subaru’s reputation for cheap and questionably styled cars dogged almost any other enthusiasm. But compared to the XT coupe, the RX looks clean, and considerably less weird. Don’t believe me? Google-search the XT. Builders have figured out how to convert the RX to work with the EJ-series motors (the ones that power the WRX and STi), and at a curb weight of 2,340 lbs., it’s one of the most appealing engine swap candidates from Japan.

Subaru RX 2

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5 thoughts on “Random Car Review: The 1987-89 Subaru RX – The Predecessor To Every Performance Scooby Made Today

  1. Brian Cooper

    But do lesbians really want a performance car? That clearly won’t hold four golden retrievers or 30 cats.

  2. Nick D.

    The EA82T was actually only worth 111hp and 134 lb-ft of torque, which was only as 20hp improvement over the fuel-injected EA82s. They were also notorious for having tons of overheating problems and head gasket issues, relegating most of those engines to the junkyard.

    I saw someone selling an RX Turbo for scrap price and considered grabbing it for the 5-speed so that my EA82 Loyale Wagon could have 2 more speeds (And overdrive) but decided against it.

  3. BeaverMartin

    I’ve been digging on Subarus lately. I bought my wife a 15′ Outback for Christmas, now I have an uncontrollable desire to have a 1st gen Brat or Leone coupe done up in old school JDM style. Fender mirrors, wide minilite wheels, flairs, and dual webber topped EJ.

  4. Ian

    At least you guys didn’t get the trim the Australian versions did. Black and white checkerboard with black vinyl bolsters. And our RX was a sedan. I was all set to buy one until the insurance quote came back more then what I was going to pay for the car. A common issue with under 30 males in Australia in the mid/late 1990s when it came to turbo Subarus and insurance.

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