Air Lift Performance Icons: The Subaru Impreza

For the second part of this Air Lift Performance series, we’re going to look at not just an icon on air, but an icon of our world, full stop.

The Subaru Impreza isn’t a car that needs any introduction, or even justification, but it is one that’s lived quite an unusual life.

From its heady Group A and WRC rallying days in the 1990s, the Impreza was the literal king of the hill. Three times constructor champions and three driver championships with 47 overall victories on the world stage for Subaru as a whole.

As we rolled through the 2000s, the Subaru World Rally Team began its decline before withdrawing from the WRC in 2008, citing the financial downturn along with having achieved their sporting and marketing goals as their reasons. It’s hard to argue that SWRT didn’t leave their mark on the sport, despite lean later years.

For so many of us then, there’s almost certainly a golden age of Impreza, which seems to span this timeframe.


It’s no surprise then that the Impreza name still retains its reputation all these years later, and it’s rare to attend a show or meet where you don’t hear that distinctive flat-four burble at some stage.

It remains a versatile platform as well, seemingly well suited to everything from daily driving, to show car, to all-out track car.

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There are few better examples I can think of that have successfully made the jump from street car, to show car, to championship-winning race car than Cody Miles‘ Impreza STI.

The car and its owner aren’t strangers to these pages, as we’ve documented Cody’s adventures numerous times over the years as he took his Air Lift Performance-equipped Subaru to multiple victories across the United States.

To have watched the STI progress from the above, as a mildly stripped street car with a half cage to its current evolution as a fully fledged race car has been most enjoyable for even the casual spectator. Who doesn’t dream of winning races in their daily?

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For Cody, he never set out to prove anything; he was just competing with what he had: a bagged STI.

Cody explained to us how his love for Subaru started at a young age.

“As for why I chose a Subaru, I think it just comes down to a childhood dream of mine. I remember being in 7th grade, and having my school binders covered in pictures of modified Subarus that I had cut out from magazines like Super Street, Import Tuner and PAS.”

“Anytime I got stuck going to the grocery store with my mom as a kid, the first thing I’d do is run to the magazine section, snatch up all the import mags, find somewhere to sit and just soak it all up.”

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“Looking at these cars was one thing, but the first time I heard the horizontally-opposed four-banger cruise by on the street, it was game over for me. I had to figure out a way to get one as soon as I was old enough.”

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“Another reason I fell in love with these cars is because of rally racing. I grew up surrounded by dirt, so my hobbies included nothing but off-road activities. I liked the look of import cars specifically, but I couldn’t really relate as a kid because trucks and dirt bikes just made more sense. However, seeing photos and videos of STIs ripping through the dirt and launching off jumps at speeds that just shouldn’t be possible really struck something inside me.”

“So, fast forward many years, and I managed to find myself in a position where I could dump out my bank account and attain one. Within three hours of owning it, the engine was destroyed, just like my financial status, and the research had begun to improve on what Subaru had started.”

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“As most of you know, I daily drove this car with no intention of it being the full silly monster that it is today. I drove it to work for years, many times parking it in sketchy areas praying that it would be there when I come back out. I was basically Lil Bow Wow from Tokyo Drift, walking into work every morning holding my steering wheel, as I didn’t feel safe leaving it in the car.”

“The mods came over time as the car was still being used as my sole means of transportation. My routine was basically as follows: Order parts on Monday, hope they arrive by the weekend, tear the car apart Saturday morning, go as fast as I could and have it back together Sunday night, take it for a quick test, then sleep well knowing it would at least get me to work come Monday morning. It sounds hilarious I know, but there was a driving force inside me that I didn’t question; I just went with.”

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“Being that air suspension could provide all of the improvements I was after without losing the practicality I needed for daily duties, it was a no-brainer.”

“Then as things evolved, the car slowly became more and more out of hand until its priority had changed from getting me to work, to winning races. The suspension setup from Air Lift Performance managed to roll with the punches and grow with the vehicle and its expectations without skipping a beat. I wouldn’t hesitate to choose this suspension all over again.”

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What many people are not aware of is that Cody wasn’t sponsored by Air Lift Performance in these early days. In fact, he didn’t come to their attention for a couple of years.

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What even less people realise is that just like when he first put his Subaru on air, Cody still uses an off-the-shelf Performance 3H kit.

There’s no specially-adapted dampers or modified control system software; it’s the same kit that anyone – Cody’s competitors included – can buy.

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While the 2020 race season has been interrupted due to COVID-19, Cody took 5th in class at Super Lap Battle COTA in February, and a class and overall victory at a recent OnGrid event at Thunderhill Raceway, despite not having 5th gear.

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I’m not sure if it’s just something inside that has me rooting for the underdog, or the fact that instead of sitting around and talking about doing things Cody is actually out there putting rubber on the ground trying to go faster and faster, but I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching him progress.

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From stock daily to a 598hp at the wheels, fully-built time attack machine on air suspension, it as much about the Subaru platform as it is Cody’s commitment to racing and developing both his own skills and the car.

It’s fitting then to wrap this up by continuing Cody’s The Fast And The Furious simile as he personifies that saying of “It’s not how you stand by your car, it’s how you race your car.”

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos

Additional Photography by Ryan Stewart & Subaru

This story was brought to you in association with Air Lift Performance, an official Speedhunters Supplier

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Love that car.


Unfortunately, the reality of racing is the air ride will never be competitive. Cody won his championship years ago because most of the other competitors simply didn't show up to race. The guy in 2nd attended something like 60% of the races where cody attended 90%.

Furthermore, the notion that air ride can be competitive against a well setup car on Penskes and swift springs (or some equivalent) is nonsense. Simply put, all things being equal air ride will be heavier. The lighter the car the more this weight becomes a disadvantage.

It's important to tell people that you guys take money in from Air Lift and that these articles are part of a larger business deal. Anyone who does their research will arrive at the conclusion this is inferior to a coilover setup. No exceptions, no excuses. If both are setup well coils win. Every time.

Bring on the down votes dummies :D


It's a bit of a misconception that air ride is extremely heavy. The tanks are aluminum and the spring is rubber. On my car the air struts are actually about 4lbs lighter up front and about 1.5lbs in the rear than a typical strut and spring/shock set up. The tank and compressor are about 20-25lbs.

If you decided to opt out of running a tank and compressor while competing (which you can do with Air Lift manifolds) then you could get that weight pretty close to where you started as the manifold would be the only addition.

Saying air ride will never be competitive is unfair as people have proven it to be competitive. Cody being the most prevalent.

I won't however at all argue that springs and shocks are not the more standard, easier, choice for a dedicated race car.

Weight refs:!-Project-Mazda3


Had an interesting chat with the engineer. He said modern bag systems are more advanced than they used to be, you could get some better center of gravity and characteristics in terms of not bottoming out during braking.

Having said that his concerns were driving the system off of the engine and losing power or driving off of a battery and adding weight. In amateur racing he is a huge proponent of lower weight and would prioritize this and low complexity over everything.

When I asked why we don't see it in unlimited classes he also agreed and would like an answer. If it's superior we both agreed it should be seen more.

His thoughts are its more complexity and to a race team below a level of active ride (F1, etc) it probably isn't much of an advantage.

Curious if Cody is programming the car to learn into corners like a motorcycle or not? How much control over the system is there?


Compressors wouldn't run during a lap unless you drastically alerted the ride height. If there are no leaks you can go a really long time without it every kicking off. It only draws load (via the electrical system) when they're on. If you remove them during your laps then there's no negative impact.

I think complexity is the main reason you don't see it. For most race teams there are no distinct advantages over the disadvantages. There's also likely a lot of misunderstanding/ false information obscuring the issue.

Cody if I recall correctly runs a 3x system which doesn't operate in an active manner quite as you describe. It maintains height/pressure based on a preset, but doesn't adjust during turns however that's beyond my scope of knowledge.


"Compressors wouldn't run during a lap unless you drastically alerted the ride height."

That is the key component to me. If the 3x can cycle to keep the front of the car level during braking that is a massive advantage because it implies you can run the car at a lower static ride height without bottoming the front out under pitch changes.

That is a HUGE advantage if you are running any kind of real aerodynamics, but the package on this car isn't so I wonder how much of an advantage it really is. It's hard to say, but this conversation has given me a lot of things to think about. I'll keeping doing my homework and trying to learn more.

Not enough to sell me on buying the product, but a good alternative to look into for different folks who want something that can do both. I think as this car developed you would have to get pretty technically advanced as you're starting to mimic active suspension a la F1. Great conversation!


Please note when researching it would be an Airlift 3h or 3p set up. Or there's an s now too. I used 'x' because I was unsure which he had. Also worth looking into level ride, ride tech, etc as well. Lots of new players these days.

I've got a friend who drag raced (rather successfully) with a vr6 powered s14 on air lift suspension. I need to get that on this site one of these days...


I would say there's a lot more to it than that or we would for sure see it used at the highest levels of unlimited competition where all the real money is. If air ride was in any way superior or offered an advantage we would see it used in these classes. I'll make a call to a former F1 engineer and see what his says today then post the response.


My numbers were a little off. In 2015 he competed in 6/9 races compared to J. Hernandez 4/9 races. The rest of the field hardly showed up.


Accurate, but your information is a bit dated. Feel free to checkout what we’ve done in the last 4 years.


4 years? I was only able to obtain a race season from one other year that shows a decent spread between you and second place with more results. That is more equal. At that point I would look into that driver's build and the quality of his equipment.

I'm not refuting air ride can be faster than some guy who doesn't have a car setup correctly, isn't on good equipment and doesn't know how to drive. I'm talking about higher levels of competition. Redline at the end of the day is at best a group of guys who are basically playing golf on the weekend with each other.

The point is you're not going to see this on anything that competes at a national level imo. If it was competitive, why aren't people in unlimited classes running it?


Systems with active, adjustable ride heights have been utilised in the highest forms of motorsport and often outlawed. Think Williams FW15C.

In fact, Air Lift itself has roots in NASCAR. Check out this story for background information:

It sounds like you could benefit from a ride along in a well-setup car on air Zenith, even perhaps in Cody's car. Until you experience how well it works it is difficult to comprehend.


What would have been interesting is to compare the same car with static race shocks and with airride,with the same driver,i’m almost certain that the airride setup will lose in terms of laptimes.Beside the fact that you carry a compressor all the airhoses inside the car a bag filled with air is never going to be as solid as a static race spring,besides that how big is the chance that your spring will break now with a rubber sack you would be in a lot of trouble or am i wrong?.if it was truely comparable with static shocks then a whole bunch of raceteams in hillclimb or on the racetrack would have used it.


I’ve been doing more research as I run a podcast and looking to do YouTube channels. I will reach out to him. If he’s willing to take me I’m all ears and would do a video on it to get some truly objective data.


Where are all the rotary / FD or FC content for Rotary Month? It's mid July and only 1 article


Great car, Awesome owner and lifestyle Cody.
Don't listen to those downers that all they do is talk and some of them don't even race.