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Mon, Nov 24, 2014

AUTO CONNECT: One of America’s best performance values, Subaru WRX

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The 2015 Subaru WRX. Photo courtesy of Subaru
The 2015 Subaru WRX. Photo courtesy of Subaru
The 2015 Subaru WRX. Photo courtesy of Subaru
The 2015 Subaru WRX. Photo courtesy of Subaru
The 2015 Subaru WRX. Photo courtesy of Subaru
The 2015 Subaru WRX. Photo courtesy of Subaru

In younger, more carefree days, when we were much more adventurous, we were fascinated with a new model introduced by Subaru. In the 23 years we’ve been writing about cars we wanted to own many of the cars we had driven, but one of the only cars we very nearly purchased was the Subaru WRX®.

We thought the Subaru WRX was amazing. It was a fun-to-drive, fast, practical, good for year around driving, economical and a great value. We never did buy one, but only because we had two cars we needed to drive each week for our reviews and had no time to drive the car we already owned.


We recently spent a week driving the 2015 Subaru WRX, but this time we were more split on our opinion of the new model, not because of how good or bad it is, but more on a the basis or what we each personally want in a car.
While Bill still likes those driver-oriented attributes, Barbara’s tastes have moved more toward the creature comforts which are better represented in a car like the Subaru Legacy or Outback.

What we did agree on was that this fourth generation WRX takes the model to a new level of refinement, sophistication and performance.

It takes just a short drive over a rough road to notice that this latest WRX is different. The body structure feels more solid, and the suspension is stiffer. That translated into some of the roughness Barbara didn’t care for but handling that Bill loved. That combined with a tight, precise steering, strong brakes and wide tires the WRX holds the road like a vacuum cleaner holds onto the fringe of an oriental rug. In addition to the rally style all-wheel drive, the WRX has a new Active Torque Vectoring that uses the brakes to help steer during cornering. There are few cars that handle this well.
Under the new aluminum hood with the big functional scoop is the twin-scroll turbocharger on a 2.0-liter direct injection engine. Rated at 268 horsepower, this new generation Subaru DI BOXER® engine is smooth and refined, but with an astonishing kick when the accelerator is floored -- count to one, and then it takes off delivering power to all four wheels quickly and smoothly. Yes, there’s a dash of turbo lag, but we think that’s part of the fun of a turbocharged engine.  
Fuel economy is listed at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. We actually averaged 26.3 mpg during our week of spirited driving. 

If someone were into pressing machinery to the limit, you could rev the engine to redline, and dump the clutch to get the best acceleration times – one buff magazine claims a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.8 seconds with that technique.  We prefer releasing the clutch, flooring the accelerator and slowing the process down to about 5.5 seconds – still fantastic acceleration.

Our 2015 Subaru WRX test car had the new six-speed manual transmission, which is a first for the WRX. The shifter has short tight gates and required a bit of practice before the shifts felt natural. There is also an automatic transmission for the first time. Although we haven’t had a chance to drive the WRX with this option it sounds interesting. Surprisingly it’s a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) called the Sport Lineartronic and thanks to the magic of electronics it has both six- and eight-speed manual modes, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters along with Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE). This is a powertrain performance management system that allows the driver to tailor the vehicle’s driving characteristics by choosing from among three selectable modes – “Intelligent,” “Sport” and “Sport Sharp” – using a switch on the flat-bottom steering wheel. We’re anxious to try to system on another test.

Visually, the 2015 Subaru WRX has a complex styling that looks more like it’s designed as a performance rally car, rather than something that was converted. The wide body has a unique flare over the front wheels with trailing edge fender vents, rear fenders that look incorporated into the design (not an add-on) and an integrated hood scoop for a lower profile. The whole front end has an aggressive, purposeful look guaranteed to intimidate a driver in front of you looking in a rearview mirror.

Built on a one-inch longer wheelbase, the new WRX interior magically has two more inches of legroom for rear seat passengers. The rear seat back is also split and folds to expand the already generous cargo space. We like the interior which has new whiplash reducing designed seats with an anti-slip surface and contracting red stitching (leather is an option). It also boasts lots of functional storage spaces and a large left foot dead peddle for the driver to use to brace him- or herself during aggressive maneuvers.

The 2015 Subaru WRX is one of the best performance values you can buy! With prices starting as low as $27,090, including the destination charge, for the base model with manual transmission up to about $32,000 for a fully equipped Limited model with Lineartronic transmission. 

Our 2015 WRX test car was equipped with the optional touch-screen navigation system. Unfortunately the system is part of the audio system and is mounted at the level of the center of the steering wheel, which means the driver has to look down to read it, taking eyes off the road. Much easier to see, on top of the dash under a wide visor is a multi-function display with all kinds of performance meters to give the driver information about the car and the way it is being driven.

The 2015 Subaru WRX is not a car for the average driver that wants to go from point A to point B. It has the power, pedigree and the potential to be a rally car with few modifications. It’s for a driver that wants a safe economical family sedan that can also charge down a twisting back road to get the adrenalin pumping. It looks the part of a rally car and it certainly acts like one, too! However, if someone wants the ultimate WRX, it’s spelled STI. This 305 hp monster is definitely not a car for the meek. Its price starts at only $34,495 – and that’s another story.

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auto digest, barbara schaffer, bill schaffer, car, subaru, wrx
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