Subaru WRX — A new take on high performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The sleek and useful five-door hatchback is gone and an optional continuously variable transmission has been added. At first blush this does not bode well for the all-new fourth generation 2015 Subaru WRX performance juggernaut. However, we believe the newest WRX, now in sedan format, is mighty good and it should please the hordes of speed-geek fans out there.

The WRX is all new, but it's still
based on the family-oriented Impreza. Although the WRX has not attained its own platform as some people were hoping, the "Impreza" part of the name has been dropped; and we can report after a couple of weeks and hundreds of miles behind the wheel that the new WRX is a handling monster with high-revving performance measured in the upper reaches of four seconds from 0-to-60 and with a quarter mile time breaking the 14-second barrier.

The more we drove the WRX the more we grew attached to the car and the more we looked to find any excuse to run an errand, or just simply head out for a few additional miles on our favorite stretches of winding back-roads to re-test the suspension limits. We concluded that the rally-racing heritage of the hot Subaru has never been better.

Whether you opt for the new CVT (which we figure is offered to increase the car's appeal to the masses), or retain complete control with a new, precise short-thr
ow six-speed manual transmission you’ll be happy; but we think if there ever was a passenger car designed for manual-transmission performance, it's the 2015 WRX. However, the CVT model is indeed acceptable with steering-wheel-mounted paddles for manual shifting and times only slightly short of the manual-transmission model.

Another aspect of the new WRX that may have aficionados concerned is the new twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder engine that is a half-liter smaller than the outgoing powerplant. Fear not. It actually makes three more horsepower and 14 m
ore pound-feet of torque, rated at 268 hp and 258 pound-feet, thanks to direct injection and other technologies. Power goes to all four wheels as before through a viscous coupling center differential splitting torque 50/50 between the front and rear wheels.

Gas mileage, which is just a suggestion in the WRX, is EPA-rated at 21/city, 28/highway on premium gas with the six-speed and 19/25 with the CVT.

We found the WRX's electric power steering precise and it’s handling traits very Porsche-like. This c
omes courtesy of a retuned suspension; the four-wheel drive setup that includes a new Active Torque Vectoring System that uses braking for better control; and the car's structure, which is 41 percent stiffer than the outgoing model.

It probably won't be a concern to most buyers, but the Subaru's interior is a bit nosier than we would like especially at highway speeds. A lot of the road noise we s
uspect came from the style of tires used.

On the upside, controls are blessedly simple and switchgear
is easy to understand and use. While the interior materials are not quite up to the standards of the Ford Focus ST or Volkswagen GTI, they are acceptable. We found a 4.3-inch multifunction display near the top of the dashboard dispensing audio, climate control information, and a turbo boost gauge a nice touch. It also serves as backup camera. The sound quality of the standard audio system is only adequate at best. We recommend upgrading to the premium system.

The interior of the WRX is relatively roomy for a compact sedan. The overall length of the car has grown by a half inch and the wheelbase has been stretched an inch increasing rear-seat legroom by two inches. Those two inches allow average-sized adults adequate rear-seat comfort. While hatchback utility has been lost, trunk space is reasonable, measured at 12 cubic feet.

The WRX Concept we saw in 2013 featured aggressive and revolutionary styling and the hope was that the concept theme would be carried over to the new
WRX. Subaru might have disappointed its faithful by going in a more conservative, evolutionary direction. While the new WRX doesn't stand out in the crowd, it is handsome and it does offer a few traits of the concept.

Pricing for the WRX starts at $27,090 for the base trim and runs up to $31,990 for the Limited with CVT. Our Premium test car carried a bottom line of $29,290. The higher performance WRX STI for those people with a real need for speed starts at $35,290. It includes a 305-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter four, a more aggressive suspension setup, and upgraded brakes and tires.

Base price: $27,090; as driven, $29,290
Engine: turbocharged 2.0-liter flat four
Horsepower: 269 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 258 foot-pounds @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length: 180.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,267 pounds
Turning circle: 35.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 12 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons (premium)
EPA rating: 28 highway, 21 city
0-60: 4.8 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Volkswagen GTI, Ford Focus ST, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO

The Good
• Excellent performance and handling
• Standard all-wheel drive
• Improved gas mileage

The Bad
• Hatchback utility missing

The Ugly
• Noisy interior