If you're after a practical sports car and you've got around $40,000 to spend, the turbocharged all-wheel-drive 2016 Subaru WRX seems to have a lot of the goods. But just how good is it? And how well can it handle a day on track? Well, conveniently, we're back again at Sandown Raceway for another weekend warrior track test to find out.
Priced from $38,990 for this base six-speed manual version, the fourth-generation WRX undercuts its STI equivalent by more than $10,000.
Ok, so it doesn't get the STI's borderline rally-spec rear wing, but the WRX does come standard with a boot-lip spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels, quad exhausts and, importantly, a brand-new engine.
While the new STI makes do with the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder as the previous model, under the mandatory bonnet scoop of the new WRX sits an all-new direct-injection 2.0-litre, outputting 197kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
Inside, there’s a 6.2-inch colour touchscreen, some carbonfibre-look trim, a digital boost gauge, and a red-stitched leather steering wheel and sports bucket seats. But what's it like on track? Let's find out...
With the help of Subaru's famous symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, the new WRX claims a 0-100km/h time of 6.0 seconds. That’s actually slower than the old 2.5-litre WRX, but it’s fast enough to be quicker than both the more expensive Volkswagen Golf GTI and identically priced Ford Focus ST - both of which are front-wheel drive only.
Pedal placement is pretty bang on for heel-and-toe shifting and the gearbox is a nice short-shift unit. It’s quite notchy but it’s accurate.
The steering is on the lighter side for a sports car, but it’s very consistent and plenty accurate.
Sandown Raceway is notoriously hard on brakes, but while these Dunlop tyres are just warming up, and providing good grip, the brakes are just starting to become a little bit of a weak spot.
With good grip from the Dunlop tyres, and helped by the all-wheel-drive system and a torque vectoring system, you can pretty much just point and shoot with the WRX. Which makes it straightforward to drive fast but a lot of fun too.
To offer this sort of performance and fun for this much coin is impressive. But to have this ability for the same price, is pretty remarkable.
The 2016 Subaru WRX is the only legitimate four- or all-wheel-drive sports car you can buy for anywhere near this price. The nearest genuine rival would be the Audi S1 at a touch under $50k, and that’s STI territory. So it certainly has value on its side.
As for our question of how it can handle a day on track? Well, apart from some fairly warm brakes, the new WRX not only enjoys them, it eats them up.