Everyone always wants to talk about the Subaru STI and how amazing it is. Yes, yes, we know; it’s a fantastic automobile with one hell of a rally racing pedigree and a powertrain that’s as bonkers as that massive rear wing. But not everyone has $35,000 to drop on a base STI, or the bank account to support all of the inevitable speeding tickets they will incur in the upcoming months. Thankfully there’s also the WRX, which for 2016 only costs around $27,000, and features a 268 horsepower, direct-injection, turbocharged engine that delivers 258 pound feet of torque.
But power is pointless without control, and the WRX has you covered with quick ratio electric power steering for sharper turns, which according to Subaru “reacts in as little as 100 milliseconds to steering inputs.” Race-spec suspension on all four corners features stiffer spring and damper rates, while larger front and rear anti-roll bars keep the car in check when the twisties get a little too feisty. Drop an additional $2,000-4,000 and you’ll get the WRX Premium and Limited models, which feature inverted dampers, because there ain’t no kill quite like overkill.
Back in the power department, the WRX’s 2.0-liter turbocharged boxer engine is mated to Subie’s Sport Lineartronic transmission, which boasts six or eight-speed manual modes, and a shiny set of paddle shifters. This tricked-out tranny features something called “Variable Torque Distribution All-Wheel Drive,” which supposedly uses a computer-controlled planetary gearset center differential that pushes 45% of the torque to the front wheels and 55% to the rear.
This setup actively responds to the ever-changing road conditions under the wheels and improves handling like no other. The car’s space-age transmission also packs something called “SI-DRIVE,” which allows a driver to adjust things like throttle response and shift modes on the fly. Throw it in “Sport” or “Sport Sharp” mode and indulge in the aggressive response from the six- and eight-speed manual modes, or if cruising is more your preference for the day, select the “Intelligent” mode for better fuel efficiency and smoother shifting.
What most people don’t expect when they first climb inside one of these little demons is how fantastic the interior quality is on this car. The WRX offers a fit and finish that rivals Lexus, over 96 cubic feet of interior volume, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and 12.0 cubic feet of trunk space that sits atop a flat load floor. Subaru has also updated its infotainment center for 2016, so the Starlink system can now tap into any smartphone and bring its entertainment and communication capabilities directly to the center dash. Combine that with an available seven-inch touch-screen that responds to voice controls and you’ll be begging to hit the open road with the windows down.
On the outside, LED headlights bring both amazing clarity and awesome aesthetics to the table, while Subaru’s sharper (dare we say, Evo-ish) front fascia looks both aggressive and orderly all at once. The available keyless access system also comes with a push-button start feature, as well as touch-activated door locks. On the safer side of things, an available driver assist system monitors traffic movement, optimizes cruise control, and warns the driver when they begin to stray from their lane. This system can even help slow the car down when danger is afoot, and from what we’ve heard this add-on is well worth the extra money, as it reportedly works flawlessly.
Cough-up the extra cash for the nine-speaker premium audio system, and you’ll get Harman Kardon speakers and amps, full USB port/ iPod controls, and a 3.5mm auxiliary audio jack. SiriusXM is an option as well, and the quality of the control knobs and soft touch materials feel top notch for the most part. And speaking of interior, how about those seats? Rarely do we fall in love with performance seats in a car, but holy cow, these things feel amazing.
So enough with all the drooling on our end, what does a Subaru specialist think of the new WRX? According to Tony Barber, co-owner of Subaru specialist shop Turn in Concepts, this latest WRX is absolutely sublime. But as we all know there is no such thing as a perfect car, and there are a few drawbacks to the new WRX. From the front, it does kind of look like everything else out there, and if it weren’t for the multi-port exhaust out back, most people would pass it off as another mundane commuter car. Tony also says that advanced engine control technology makes tuning a tad tough, and notes that the base version’s price continues to creep up with every new generation.
But to him, the best features on the WRX far outweigh the bad. It has a much more responsive suspension set-up than earlier models, and that it has the stiffest chassis to date. It gets better gas mileage than the previous version, all while offering up a throttle response time that is almost instantaneous – a rarity for a turbocharged car.