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Subaru WRX 2014 review

EXPERT RATING
8
We're about to correct some false impressions: That the WRX has been totally invalidated because it now offers a sort of automatic transmission (again) and because it's a little bit bigger than before

We're about to correct some false impressions: That the WRX has been totally invalidated because it now offers a sort of automatic transmission (again) and because it's a little bit bigger than before.

Here's the truth. The WRX is still a certifiable blast -- a whizzy, turbocharged, all-wheel-driver. It's still the plasticky Ziploc slider that forms an airtight lock between the road and the sky.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

The WRX's new turbo 2.0-litre four is the same tart performer that's in the 2014 Subaru Forester XT. There's nothing not to love, except perhaps the warm blast of forced-induction noise with anything more than a hair of throttle. It offers direct injection, a twin-scroll turbo and intercooling, and its own cam profiles and valve-spring rates, and delivers 200kW of power and and peak torque of 350Nm that hangs around from 2000-5200rpm.

The WRX's stock transmission is a six-speed manual. It's a cog over the five-speed unit in the last WRX, and its first- and second-gear carbon synchros don't mind a little slam-shifting through its long lever action. In this transfer case, the WRX's all-wheel-drive system has a viscous coupling at the centre that splits power 50:50 front to rear, and can shuffle torque front to back as traction needs arise. All told, the manual WRX hits 60 mph in about 5.4 Subaru-estimated seconds, about the same as the last-generation car.

There's an auto back as an option, and it's a continuously variable transmission. But as we've found in the Forester, it's cleverly programmed (in "SI-Drive") to act like a paddle-shifted automatic when it needs to, and to relax into a fuel-saving CVT idiom when it doesn't.

In "Intelligent" mode, it does the fuel-economy thing, adjusting its pulleys more gradually, tipping in throttle more hesitantly. In Sport mode, the throttle response quickens -- and when the lever's moved to Manual, it actuates a program that uses paddles to act like a six-speed automatic. It will snap into that mode any time throttle use goes higher than 40 per cent, too.

But Sport Sharp mode feels most convincingly like a good dual-clutch transmission. It actuates an eight-step program for the CVT, with full manual control via those paddles, delivering clean ratio changes without any of the shift shock a conventional torque-converter automatic might dole out. It's no PDK in terms of shift quickness or sheer mechanical complexity, but it must be the CVT that's most fully realised the possibilities inherent in the design.

All told here, the CVT-equipped WRX in its most aggressive mode can reach 100km/h in about 6 seconds. It also has a different all-wheel-drive system, one with a planetary-gear center diff and a 45:55 torque bias, and linkage to the WRX's steering and yaw sensors to change torque split.

Fuel economy isn't wonderful: the manual's rated at 9.8L/100km combined, the CVT at 11.2L/100km -- although Subaru says if you left the CVT in Intelligent mode all the time you'd edge closer to the manual's economy.

HANDLING

The big-diameter anti-sway bars, very good electric power steering, defeatable traction systems and drum-tight suspension setup give awesome transient responses and the wanted road-glue formula.

From electronica to hardware, the WRX goes overboard to deliver godly grip. Both WRX AWD systems have electronic torque vectoring -- not active side-to-side torque distribution, but a light application of brake to the inside front wheel to tighten up the WRX's cornering line, to a point. And the WRX's stability and AWD systems get their own control: Normal, Off, and a Traction mode that lets you flip off the stability nanny aids but leave on torque vectoring.

Aside from the obvious props given to the WRX's all-wheel drive and low center of gravity, there are higher-rate springs and stiffer shocks; beefier crossmembers and subframe bushings; stouter strut tubes; and more front-end body structure that tightens up the basic Impreza body for handling dividends. All of those make it easier for its electric steering to do more with a motor and a rack than most compacts: it feeds in natural amounts of weight and reaction from the road from a tighter ratio. It follows kinky roads with admirable precision, though like a lot of electric systems, it finds every groove and wants to follow most of them.

But during our sub-zero test drive the brakes were oppressively numb, with poor pedal stroke and feedback discouraging any nuanced footwork. And until we learned to stomp on them remorselessly, we couldn't carry WRX-grade speed into the tastiest corners.

DESIGN AND STYLING

You can fault Subaru for showing off a fabulous concept and then chucking it, as if to say, frankly, we're exhausted by all the work we put into the CVT and steering and suspension tuning. The WRX sedan comes in wearing hand-me-downs from the Impreza, and there's no hatchback model coming at all.

At least the air intakes have never looked quite so massive, or the fenders quite so pronounced. The WRX has its own hood, fenders, bumpers, and lighting to distance it from the Impreza, and also wears a hood scoop that's set more deeply than before and is still functional; and 17-inch wheels are now standard. The front fenders wear vertical vents, the taillights are LEDs, and there's a tall rear diffuser.

The WRX claims a tad more wheelbase, which translates into more boot room and more interior space in a cabin that's also better-finished, and the sport are covered in grippy upholstery.

FEATURES AND SAFETY

It is bound to earn five crash stars, now adding a driver knee airbag to its standard-equipment list, as well as adjustable front headrests and a rearview camera. The camera's output is displayed on a small 4.3-in. LCD screen that doubles as a boost gauge display, a VDC monitor, and an audio readout. Also on the standard list are automatic climate control and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.

www.motorauthority.com

Pricing Guides

$34,989
Based on 80 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$25,788
Highest Price
$41,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(AWD) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $27,990 – 31,987 2015 Subaru WRX 2015 (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Premium (AWD) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $30,655 – 35,888 2015 Subaru WRX 2015 Premium (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Premium Hyper Blue (AWD) 2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO $31,880 – 39,990 2015 Subaru WRX 2015 Premium Hyper Blue (AWD) Pricing and Specs
STi 2.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $32,837 – 39,990 2015 Subaru WRX 2015 STi Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Pricing Guide

$23,100

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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