There’s something magnetic about the Subaru WRX. As I was getting into the test car at my grandson’s youth soccer game, a young man who looked to be of high school age walked across the parking lot to tell me how much he liked “my” car. I nodded acceptance of his approval but I didn’t want to spoil the moment by telling him that the bright blue WRX sedan wasn’t really “my” car. I enjoyed being cool, at least in his eyes.
That young man is clearly the target market for the WRX, although anyone who appreciates performance in a bargain package is sure to be impressed. The genesis of the WRX dates to 1992 (1993 in the American market) when a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Impreza WRX first hit the market with 237 horsepower. It was created to compete in the World Rally Championship, which it won three times. The WRX quickly developed a worldwide following among enthusiasts.
Horsepower of the horizontally opposed four-cylinder is now up to 268, thanks to a twin-scroll turbocharger, and Active Torque Vectoring helps steer the car through corners by momentarily braking one front wheel. A viscous coupling distributes torque equally to front and rear wheels. A six-speed manual gearbox is available as well as an automatic with manual mode.
Dipping into the well of near-instant power is addictive, and it’s hard not to repeat the process with every gear shift. The engine feels much brawnier than its size indicates. The turbo stuffs in horsepower right from idle.
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Fuel economy is rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway.
The new body and chassis are stiffer than the previous model, and the styling has been updated. The hexagonal grille blends with the taut character lines that run from the headlights back along the side of the body. Wider front and rear fenders create a purposeful stance.
The cabin reflects the car’s performance character with nicely bolstered sports seats, bits of carbon fiber trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The seats provide excellent support, and their cloth upholstery grips clothing to keep you from sliding around in corners.
The driver can decide what information is displayed on the 4.3-inch LCD screen at the top of the dash. A smaller display in the center stack shows audio information. Bluetooth is standard, and navigation is optional.
The six-speed manual transmission has a stubby gear lever and a tight linkage. The engine delivers its torque at low rpm, and each shift is accompanied by a pleasing push in the back. Whack the throttle hard, and the shifts come fast. Car and Driver says it hits 60 miles per hour in slightly less than 5 seconds.
The stiffer chassis teams with a firm suspension that yields impressive cornering and composed cruising at high speeds. The ride can be harsh over sharp bumps, however, and that can get a bit tiring for an everyday car, although I still enjoyed it after a week.
The base price of the test car from Subaru’s press fleet was $28,495. Destination charges brought the sticker price to $29,290.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
2015 Subaru WRX Premium
Engine: 2.0-liter, 268-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed manual, all-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,267 pounds
Base price: $28,495
As tested: $29,290
MPG rating: 21 in the city, 28 on the highway
At A Glance
Point: The WRX is a performance bargain. It starts life as a plain Jane sedan but adds a turbocharged engine, wide fenders and fat tires. For less than $30,000 you also get good sports seats and 5-second acceleration to 60 mph.
Counterpoint: The ride can be overly choppy, and the boy racer looks are not for everyone.