Give me fuel give me fire, give me that which I desire....
I approached 2014 WRX Premium having never driven a WRX before. My prior experience consisted of being a passenger, feeling the stomach compress against the spine as the turbo kicked in with a mighty force. It's like a first kiss – many years later I still remember this experience vividly!
First impression – this car is fast, but the gut wrenching impact of the turbo lag is gone. It is replaced by progressive linear acceleration, propelling the car to speeds dangerous to your drivers license. I attempted a coupe of fast take-off, but every time it felt like I am inflicting unwelcome violence on the car. Don't be fooled, it would comply, but I felt like I am doing something wrong. Maybe it speaks to my level of driving ability, but after a while I decided that in-gear acceleration is where you want to be, working your way through precise and notchy manual transmission. Clutch is a bit long, but you get used to it. Exhaust is interesting – it can appear quite “boomy” and loud when idling at a standstill, yet once you are off it becomes a lot less noticeable and almost a little underwhelming.
The way the vehicle steers, corners and follows the dialed-in trajectory takes you back to the days of arcade racing. It feels surreal at first, like laws of physics don't apply any more. Only once you get over the initial excitement and begin letting your foot rest on the accelerator a bit longer every time, few downsides become apparent. There is a slight body roll – its like the body rises above the chassis when going around a corner or a crest and then settles down. It's not a pleasant feeling and is something I could live without. It is probably a necessary compromise to provide a compliant ride over bumpy roads, a duty that the vehicle performs well, but it left me wishing there was a switch to turn on a harder “sport” mode. Brakes could be better – no specific complaints but they just didn't bite hard enough to really impress.
Then again, this is a $45,000 car which presents good value for your hard earned. Interior is far from flashy yet pleasant enough with leather seats, sunroof and the premium sound system adding to the feeling that you are no longer in economy class. Electronic boost gage is nice, although the reversing camera screen must be the smallest one ever. Only driver gets electronic seat adjustment and some design decisions are functional but very last century. Premium economy, perhaps?
Honourable mention must go to the boot space – I had no problems transporting a Weber BBQ with plenty of space still left in the boot. It's a four door vehicle with good amounts of space in the back seat, so thumbs up for practicality.
Deciding who this car is aimed at took a bit of pondering. It is not as raw as the previous generation and is much more pleasurable to live with every day, Subaru servicing costs not withstanding (higher than average). It steers brilliantly, accelerates with great enthusiasm and works as well for a shopping trip as a weekend foray into the twisties. Last vestiges of the boy racer image are gone, replaced by a mature performance vehicle.
To me, this presented a bit of a problem. While recognising that this is a practical, four door sedan with higher than average ability, I would prefer if it delivered more thrills. It left me wishing for the after mentioned “Sport” mode that would tighten the suspension, increase the decibels and dial up the excitement factor back to the good old days.
Fuel, fire? Not quite. Perfect compromise? Almost, but not quite.