For the latest model year, the WRX gets bigger alloy wheels and more high-tech features and new safety equipment.
The WRX rides on a stiffened version of the Impreza's platform but it is only offered as a four-door sedan for the time being. At first glance, it stands out from tamer sibling thanks to a more muscular-looking front end characterized by a blacked out hexagonal grille, sleek headlights with C-shaped LED accents, a functional air scoop integrated into an aluminum hood and a menacing lower fascia.
Wide fenders that have characterized the WRX since its launch and side skirts add a touch of sportiness to the overall look while the rear end features an air diffuser integrated into the rear bumper and four chromed exhaust tips. 17-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels mounted on Dunlop tires finish off the look.
The WRX's interior is essentially standard Impreza fare, meaning it boasts a function-over-form cockpit with a 6.1-inch LCD touch screen on the center stack, rectangular air vents and a vehicle information display on top of the dashboard. Faux carbon fiber trim, aluminum pedals, cloth-upholstered sport seats and a flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel emphasize the performance-focused nature of the car.
Although undeniably not as practical as its five-door hatchback predecessor, the WRX boasts 12 cubic feet of trunk space with five occupants on board. The rear seats fold down 60/40 in order to free up extra trunk space.
Navigation-equipped WRX models feature the latest generation of Subaru's Starlink infotainment system. It provides access to Aha which offers tens of thousands of stations of Web-based content like Slacker, MOG and Rhapsody. Starlink can also help keep Subaru owners stay connected to social network via Facebook and Twitter news feeds in audio.
Under the Hood
Power comes from an evolution of the Forester's turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter flat-four engine. It produces 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque from 2,000 to 5,000 rpms, enough to send the WRX from zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds when linked to a six-speed manual transmission.
Subaru offers select WRX models with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the first time in the nameplate's long history. It boasts three different modes along with paddle shifters that command six or eight (depending on mode) virtual gears.
Strangely, the CVT actually returns worse fuel economy than the manual, carrying a 19 city/25 highway mpg rating compared to the stick's 21/28 mpg. It also has a deleterious effect on acceleration, adding a half second to the sprint from zero to 60.
Two different all-wheel drive configurations are offered: CVT-equipped models get Subaru's Variable Torque Distribution setup with a 45:55 front/rear output split, while manuals get the Continuous AWD system with a 50:50 split.
All WRXs regardless of transmission benefit from a new torque-vectoring system that helps ensure neutral handling. A sport-tuned suspension, an electric power steering system and upsized brakes let drivers confidently make the most of the turbo four's output.
Taking advantage of existing camera-based technologies, Subaru has grouped an entire suite of driver assist systems under the EyeSight moniker.
The EyeSight package includes pre-collision braking assistance, pre-collision throttle management, lane departure and sway warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert.
Now in its second generation, EyeSight uses two charge-coupled device cameras Subaru developed in house to closely monitor vehicles, pedestrians, traffic lanes and other potential obstacles. Unlike cameras offered on some other vehicles, Subaru placed its EyeSight system above the Outback's windshield near the rearview mirror.
At speeds below 31 mph, EyeSight can bring a so-equipped Outback to a complete stop if it detects an impending collision with a pedestrian, bicyclist, vehicle or other obstacle. Above 31 mph, the system can apply the vehicle's brakes to reduce the severity of an impending impact. A novel reverse automatic braking technology that warns the driver if he or she is about to hit an obstacle while backing up, and automatic applies the brakes if necessary.
Subaru recently added color recognition technology to EyeSight, which allows the setup to recognize vehicle brake lights and red traffic lights and automatically brake accordingly.
In addition to that active safety technology, the EyeSight package's adaptive cruise control helps drivers maintain a set distance from other vehicles on a highway. Its lane departure and sway warning systems alert drivers if they unintentionally start to wander within their lane or make their way into another lane.
Standard and Optional Equipment
The WRX is available in three trim levels: WRX, WRX Premium and WRX Limited.
The WRX comes standard with cruise control, keyless entry, cloth upholstery with red stitching, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a rear-view camera, an AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 compatibility and automatic climate control.
The WRX Premium adds dual-mode heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, fog lights, illuminated vanity mirrors, 18-inch alloys wrapped by summer performance tires, a power moonroof and a discreet spoiler mounted on the trunk lid.
Premium buyers can order a navigation system and the aforementioned CVT transmission at an extra cost.
The WRX Limited gains an eight-way adjustable driver's seat with a front seatback pocket, leather upholstery all around, welcome lighting, LED low beams and halogen high beams.
Limited models equipped with a six-speed manual transmission can be ordered with an option package that bundles a blind spot detection system with rear cross traffic alert, keyless entry and start, navigation, a 7-inch touch screen, a voice recognition function, smartphone integration, a SD card slot, a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity and a 440-watt, 9-speaker harman/kardon premium audio system.
Finally, Limited models fitted with the CVT can be further upgraded with an option package that includes all of the aforementioned features plus Subaru's well-regarded EyeSight technology.
All WRX models come standard with dual front, pelvis and side curtain airbags as well as a knee airbag for the driver. Whiplash-reducing front seats, a tire pressure monitoring system, electronic traction control and Subaru's Vehicle Dynamics Control also come standard.
Subarus appeal to two very different groups: families seeking safe and reliable transportation, and younger buyers looking for fast, fun, all-wheel drive performance vehicles. The WRX is aimed at the second group, finding its biggest competition in the 252-horsepower Ford Focus ST - although an added dose of refinement over its predecessor enables it to grab a few outliers from the first group as well.