Sunday Drive: Subaru’s WRX is built for fast fun
Over the years, Subaru has come from being a virtual non-player in the market to being one of the best-selling automakers around with one of the most loyal followings out there. They have done a fantastic job of marketing their products as part of a lifestyle choice and, on top of that, the company has products that resonate with those looking to have adventure in their lives.
Way back in the early ’80s before we met, we had each purchased our own first brand-new car, and each was a Subaru. Craig chose his mostly because his grandfather had owned a Subaru dealership and still had connections to the market, and Deanne purchased hers for the pure value of their vehicles.
It was not long after we were married that Subaru came out with their XT model, which, at the time, was extremely futuristic, with the look of a coupe and an interior design taken right from jet aircraft. Back in 1986 after the release of the movie “Top Gun,” it really hit a chord with us, and we traded in both of our Subarus for an all-new XT.
At the time, we thought it was fast. However, with 97 horsepower, it was probably not exceptionally speedy by today’s standards. We did upgrade to the XT6 when it came out, which moved the horsepower to 141 and came with what would have been considered at the time an all-digital dashboard.
Boy, how things have changed over the past 30-plus years. The XT is gone, but you can get a four-door sedan from Subaru that produces a very substantial 271 horsepower with a 2.4-liter Boxer engine. It really should be known as a rally car.
Over the years, we have had a couple of opportunities to drive the WRX and found it to be an exciting and engaging way to get around. One needs to know, however, that the basis of the WRX is having a track-ready vehicle for an everyday driver.
There are many ways to configure a WRX, but perhaps the largest decision one has to make is whether to have a manual or automatic transmission. For auto enthusiasts, this can be a big decision as having that connection with the road and the transmission (as our test ride did) can be a wonderful experience.
However, during the past 10 years or so, automatic transmissions have come a long way in becoming more engaging with the driver and, even more importantly, being able to learn driving habits and adapt. The performance automatic transmission that comes with the WRX can perform rev matching downshifts automatically, maintain the ideal gear through corners and responding faster on corner exit.
It also communicates with the engine at all times, making changes much quicker than most drivers can with the manual transmission. It also comes with paddle shifters located on the steering column that allow for a manual shift mode. We have found these provide a quicker response from the driver as they are closer and easier to access than having to reach for the manual shifter.
This, of course, would be a very individual choice and perhaps may be based on one’s age. Back in the day, we absolutely had to have the manual version of the Subaru XT; however, now we would opt for the automatic version of the WRX, mostly because it is easier not to have to worry about the extra step of shifting during everyday driving. It was very fun, however, to have that feature for our week with the WRX.
As we mentioned earlier, the WRX is built with the track in mind, and its suspension is tuned for just such a purpose. In essence, that means the Subaru will ride differently than other sedans. It has a more married-to-the-road type of feel; the driver will feel more of the road’s surface and irregularities than he or she may in another car.
We love this about the WRX as it makes it just that much more fun to drive and will keep you wanting more and more as an everyday driver.
Another great addition this year to the new fifth-generation WRX is the 11.6-inch tablet-like display that has made its way into other Subarus. It is enormous in the WRX and serves as the focal point of the cabin. Everything from HVAC to the radio can be controlled from this point. We found it easy to navigate and understand. As a bonus, it can be split it in half with different functions appearing on each side.
Standard this year on all trim levels with an automatic transmission is the awesome Subaru Eyesight safety system. The system has been enhanced this year with a wider angle of view and better braking performance, and the lane departure assist has a more natural feel to it.
Adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist are also part of that package (again new to the WRX this year). There is also an automatic steering control that will help steer the vehicle out of harm’s way when emergency braking takes over on a possible forward collision under 50 mph.
Subaru has come a long way over the years, and the WRX is the perfect example of a company making exactly what is important to the motoring public. Full of excitement, the WRX is hard to beat in the under-$40,000 range.
Base price: $35,995
Destination charge: $995
Price as driven: $38,865