2015 Subaru WRX first drive
Redesigned “Rex” raises its game – for less money
Photo: Jeremy Sinek
Ojai, Calif. -- The latest reinvention of the WRX has been a long time coming. The current generation of the mainstream Subaru Impreza came to market in late 2011. Only now, three model years later, has its go-faster spin-off migrated to the new-generation architecture.
What took so long? We’re not sure we got the full answer, but Subaru insiders cite the time needed to engineer extensive strengthening of the car’s basic structure. The latest WRX (and STI, which we’ll cover separately) are much more differentiated from regular Imprezas than before, they say.
Like the Impreza, the new WRX starts with a body that`s the same size outside, but much bigger inside. In any form, this is one of the roomier cars of its size. Or perhaps that should be, roomiest sedans of its size: the hatchback version didn’t make the cut for 2015. Subaru says it wanted to focus on optimising the chassis for just one version. Perhaps that’s a way of not saying that the five-door body is structurally less rigid than the four-door.
Visibly, the WRX gets a gaping hood scoop, sharp side-sill extensions, a diffuser-integrated rear bumper, and flared fenders to emphasise that this is definitely not your aunt Mildred’s Impreza. The 17-inch wheels are not overly large – and their aero design even promotes fuel economy – but the rubberwear seems appropriately aggressive: W-rated 235/45R17 summer Dunlops.
New engine FA-mily
Photo: Jeremy Sinek
Under the skin a new 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo boxer four engine (similar to the FA unit in the Forester XT) pumps out 268 horsepower at a relaxed 5,600 rpm, and a 258-lb.-ft. torque butte that stretches from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. The standard manual transmission is now a six-speed, while an optional CVT automatic includes paddle shifters and a Sport Sharp (S#) mode that causes the CVT to mimic an eight-speed stepped-ratio automatic.
Of course, all-wheel drive remains standard, but now with Active Torque Vectoring that uses selective brake application on the front wheels to promote sharper steering turn-in. The AWD hardware differs according to the gearbox: on the manual, a viscous-coupling centre differential nominally splits the power 50:50 front to rear; on the CVT, a planetary gear and multi-plate clutch divvy the drive 45:55 front/rear but can vary that as needed.
All this comes for $2,500 less than last year: $29,995 for the base WRX. A 4.3-inch centre-console display is standard on the base WRX, as are Bluetooth, XM radio, iPod/USB/Aux ports, windshield-wiper de-icer, back-up camera and automatic climate control.
Two packages of added content-ment
Photo: Jeremy Sinek
An additional $2,500 gets the Sport Package that adds a rear lip spoiler, glass moonroof, LED headlamps, halogen fogs and eight-way power driver’s seat. At $35,495 the Sport-Tech trim further adds push-button start, leather, and a 440-watt Harman Kardon audio with Navi, based on a 6.1-inch touch-screen with voice activation, SMS text messaging, and Aha radio. The CVT adds $1,300.
In classroom presentations before our drive, Subaru officials detailed the measures taken to make the new WRX even more athletic yet also easier to drive. If that sounds like a plan to mainstream the car, it’s confirmed by the return of the automatic option, previously offered in Canada for only one model year, 2008, and then withdrawn for lack of buyers.
We were also shown charts that demonstrated how, in Subaru’s internal testing, the new WRX and STI's handling metrics were close to – or by one measure, even better than -- those of the development benchmark, the Porsche 911. Besides outperforming obvious rivals such as the Ford Focus ST, VW Golf GTI and Mitsubishi Ralliart/EVO, the Subaru sedans even out-scored their own sports-car sibling, the BRZ.
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