WRX. Three unmistakable letters to anyone in the automotive world! When the origional 1994 Subaru Impreza WRX came onto the scene, the automotive world was changed forever. The combination of a finely tuned, turbocharged boxer engine and 50/50 split AWD drivetrain was a game changer, when sold in what was a practical 4 door family car. Subaru really was onto something special when they created the first Impreza WRX, and the modern incarnation of the vehicle today has a mighty weight on its shoulders to live up to.
Having owned a MY16 Subaru WRX Premium for 5 months, I can confidently say that Subaru has successfully reincarnated that original recipe they perfected back in the beginning where it all started. The styling over the years has become much more mature and uniform, in particular with the latest generation. The iconic bonnet scoop is now cleverly built in to the design of the front end from the ground up, rather than looking like an afterthought. Subtle hints like the Quad exhaust tips and flared wheel arches hint that this is definitely something special.
Having spent some time in previous generations of the vehicle, the handling of the car has become much more solid over time. The latest generation has decent weight and feel to the steering, you would almost be forgiven for thinking you were behind the wheel of a later model BMW 3 Series. The car feels very hunkered down on the road, and combined with a very compliant ride, makes for a decent daily driver. The suspension of the base WRX has a softer setup than on the more raw STI model. Without using any adaptive damping systems, it does a very respectable job to iron out any bumps in the road, giving a very comfortable ride for a car with such sporting pedigree. The suspension can get a little floaty at high speed due to the softer tune, but overall the car has a very well-sorted driving experience
Being part of a local enthusiast car club in Hobart, Tasmania, a lot of my car enthusiast collegues were sceptical when I told them I had purchased the car with the CVT transmission. Featuring 6 speeds in both “Intelligent” and “Sport” mode, and 8 speeds in “Sport #” mode, this transmission is nothing to be mocked. In Sport Sharp mode, a simple tap down or two on the standard Paddle Shifters gives near instant response to the driver when overtaking, or doing some spirited driving. The CVT has little (if not none at all) mechanical kickback feel when using the gearbox for engine braking, coming into corners, showing how smooth the drivetrain really is. Combined with the new FA20 2.0 engine block, shared with the BRZ/86 twins, the drivetrain is very mature and should stand up to long term reliability if serviced correctly. Peak power arrives at 5600rpm, but having a decent peak torque between 2400-5200rpm, the pulling power is in the perfect position of the rev range for every day driving, making for effortless overtaking and manoeuvring. The exhaust note is much more muted than past generations, and with the new engine featuring equal length headers, the raw boxer sound of the original car has been somewhat diluted. But overall the car feels very mature and grown up because of it.
Stepping inside and talking a look around the interior of the car, the first thing that comes to mind is the solid feel of every surface in the car. Every part of the interior feels to be bolted together very well, and since my time with the car, not one rattle or squeak has been heard at all. Decent soft-touch plastics on all the upper dash surfaces are a very inviting touch. Being the premium model, you are also invited by very nicely bolstered leather sports seats, with 8 way electric adjustment for the driver. The car has too many features to list, but one of my favourites is the 9-speaker Harman-Kardon Surround sound system, with built-in subwoofer and amplifier. The system gives very good clarity and adjustable base at all sound levels, something that was a drawcard to my purchase of the car. The flat bottom steering wheel and red dials (which “Sweep”) are a nice touch, reminding you that you’re in something rather special. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto unfortunately were not available in the car until the next model year update. But the Bluetooth audio and phone streaming functions are some of the best integrated I have come across, connecting perfectly every time I’ve entered the vehicle.
Overall Subaru has done a wonderful job with this car, and I can confidently say the new WRX has lived up to its iconic rally-bred heritage. My time with the car has been absolute bliss. A deeper, slightly more confident exhaust note would perfect what is an almost impeccable, everyday, family-friendly car.