Remember what it was like to drive a car for the very first time? I'm not talking about learning how to drive with your parents, but the first time you buckled up and took a car out on the streets alone. Pretty exciting, no? Your eyes and brain working overtime processing everything around you while your body got high on dopamine. Good stuff. But then, poof. Driving becomes part of daily life and loses its magic.
New to this year's edition of The Drive Awards is the Drive of the Year. This special award is reserved for the most magical driving experience of 2023. From wheeling a Lexus off-roader in a Japanese forest to hustling a Ferrari through the Italian Alps and exploring the seabed in SpongeBob's Patty Wagon, we did a lot of cool things at The Drive this year, but there can only be one Drive of the Year. (Okay, we didn't actually drive SB's car, but we'd be down should an invite pop up.)
Years of driving for mundane reasons can make you forget what it's like to feel alive behind the wheel. Until you turn up at a race track in the East of England in a $600,000 Prodrive P25. The P25 is, of course, a bespoke replica of the iconic Subaru 22B.
Suddenly, you feel the magic again. Suddenly, I felt the magic again.
"I hopped in the right-hand-drive P25 and adjusted my seat and steering wheel," I wrote back in July. "Everything inside the cabin is either carbon fiber or Alcantara, with the exception of the roll cage, of course. That's why it only weighs 2,500 pounds. Everything, and I mean everything is period-correct here. Even the keys look like they did in the original 22B back in 1998. It’s awesome and hilarious at the same time.
"Nothing prepares you for that first hit of acceleration and the brrrrraaaaaaap crescendo before you pull on the paddle. This isn’t just any 2018 STI engine. Sure, it started out that way, but the final product is far from it. Completely rebuilt by Prodrive with a race-tuned anti-lag system (and tons of other bespoke components), it produces 434 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a six-speed sequential box with helical gears from XShift, the same company that builds WRC transmissions. It puts the power down via an active center differential and front and rear limited-slip differentials. The end result is zero to 60 mph in just 2.8 seconds. And no, that’s not on slicks.
"After a few laps, I came in to catch my breath. It dawned on me that I hadn't been ready for what the P25 threw at me. I couldn't remember the last time I had been manhandled by a car that badly. Why? Simple, because most supercars nowadays can be driven by children. From the latest Ferraris to McLarens and Astons, they can all be subdued at the push of a button. Not the P25. This thing is a bucking bronco, and damn does it make you feel alive."
I don't know what 2024 holds in store for me and my colleagues at The Drive, but if anything comes close to driving your heart out in a hero rally car, then it'll be a mighty fine year. For 2023, though, the magical Prodrive P25 is our Drive of the Year.