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Subaru WRX 2024 review: RS


Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4.1/5

This car features something many people reading this review won’t have experienced or even seen up close before. 

Especially for you younger ones, it’s called a ‘gear lever’ or ‘gear stick’. And down in the driver’s footwell an extra pedal on the left operates the ‘clutch’ which helps you use the gear lever because this car, the Subaru WRX RS, is what’s known as a ‘manual’.

That means you get to change the gears and wrest back some control from a modern car, many of which seem hell bent on taking over completely!

This is the fifth-generation version of what long ago morphed into a cult phenomenon, the ‘Rex’, with hardcore devotees around the globe loving its brash turbo flat-four performance and tenacious all-wheel-drive dynamics.

It’s been tweaked for the 2024 model year with heaps of extra safety gear and upgraded multimedia, which is the perfect excuse to strap in and reacquaint ourselves with this compact powerhouse. 

Read on to see if this small sedan with the lot has what it takes to qualify for a spot on your driveway!

Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10

The Subaru WRX RS weighs in at $52,990, before on-road costs, and the RS Sport with CVT auto is a fraction below 55 and a half thousand dollars.

There are some tasty alternatives around that price band, including the Toyota GR Yaris ($51,390), Mazda MX-5 GT RS ($51,640) and Mini Cooper S Clubman Classic ($53,250).

But maybe the most telling competition is closer to home with the less powerful but even purer Subaru BRZ tS ‘2+2’ manual coupe undercutting its WRX RS sibling by more than four grand at $48,690, before on-road costs.

The WRX RS is priced at $52,990, before on-road costs (Image: James Cleary) The WRX RS is priced at $52,990, before on-road costs (Image: James Cleary)

Either way, aside from the standard performance and safety tech we’ll get to shortly, this car boasts an impressive features list including dual-zone climate control air, eight-way power-adjustable and heated sports front seats, heated outboard rear seats, interior ambient lighting, synthetic suede seat trim, built-in sat-nav and an 11.6-inch portrait-oriented multimedia screen (with voice command).

There’s also 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio (with digital radio and 265mm subwoofer), wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, keyless entry and start, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, a sunroof, exterior LED lighting all around, ‘Steering Responsive Headlights’, rear privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels

Relative to its asking price and closest competitors this WRX RS delivers plenty of bang for the buck when it comes to performance and value.

  • WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary)
  • WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary)
  • WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary)
  • WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary)
  • WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary)
  • WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS features pictured (Image: James Cleary)

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10

For a while there in the mid- to late teens it felt like Subaru was pulling the wraps off a ‘VIZIV’-themed concept car design roughly once every five minutes.

Future-focused SUVs, crossovers and wagons, as well as 2017’s Performance Concept, a muscular four-door that clearly had an influence on the look and feel of this car.

From its sinister headlights and all-business hood scoop to the pumped-up flared guards with black 18-inch alloys filling them, the WRX’s intent is clear.

WRX RS rear pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS rear pictured (Image: James Cleary)

And at the back the professional-grade theme continues with dual twin exhaust tips, boot lid lip spoiler and what looks like a multi-vane diffuser that’s actually more cosmetic than functional.

That said, a low-key technical design feature is the integration of air outlets on the trailing edges of the front wheel arch flares and the outer edges of the rear bumper.

This is to release air pressure from the wheel arches, forming external vortices to minimise body sway and drift caused by wind turbulence.

WRX RS interior pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS interior pictured (Image: James Cleary)

Inside, the cabin treatment is a fairly busy mix of sharpish angles and shallow curves, the dash dominated by an 11.6-inch, portrait-oriented multimedia screen with a separate instrument pod for the driver next to it.

The colour palette is mid-grey to black with dark metallic highlights here and there, with alloy covers on all three pedals as well as patches of faux carbon on the doors and steering wheel.

Sports front seats look and feel good and the overall standard of fit and finish is high.

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?  7/10

At just under 4.7m long, a little over 1.8m wide and close to 1.5m tall, with a roughly 2.7m wheelbase the WRX stands as a ‘big’ small sedan.

At 183cm I’ve got more than enough breathing room in the front, the away slope of the dash enhancing the feeling of space.

For storage, there’s lots, including a centre console box between the seats, two cupholders and some oddments trays in the centre console, door pockets with room for decent size bottles and a medium glove box

WRX RS front seats pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS front seats pictured (Image: James Cleary)

And in the back, sitting behind the driver’s seat set to my position, there’s good foot room, ample legroom, but sitting straight I experienced a bonce-to-roof interface in terms of headroom. No adjustable ventilation, either. Thumbs down.

Storage options include door bins with room for bottles, a single map pocket (on the back of the front passenger seat) and two cupholders in the fold down centre armrest.

Power and connectivity runs to a 12V socket in the front as well as USB-A and -C sockets for charging and/or media.

WRX RS rear seats pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS rear seats pictured (Image: James Cleary)

Plus two USB charge ports (again -A and -C) in the back, the latter a model year 2024 spec upgrade.

The WRX’s boot offers 411 litres of storage space, which is enough to accommodate our three-piece luggage set, but remember, the aperture isn’t as accommodating as a hatch or SUV’s. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats improve flexibility, though. 

A space-saver spare sits under the floor and braked trailer towing capacity is a handy 1200kg.

  • WRX RS boot space pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS boot space pictured (Image: James Cleary)
  • WRX RS Space-saver spare wheel pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS Space-saver spare wheel pictured (Image: James Cleary)

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission? 8/10

The WRX RS is powered by a 2.4-litre, horizontally opposed four-cylinder, turbo-intercooled petrol engine developing 202kW and 350Nm.

Some call it ‘flat’, others a ‘boxer’, but either way it’s the Rex’s mechanical calling card delivering its distinctively raucous, pulsing engine and exhaust sound.

The all-alloy unit features direct-injection and dual variable valve timing, its relatively flat design lowering the car’s centre of gravity significantly. 

And as mentioned earlier, in this case it’s connected to a six-speed manual gearbox driving all four wheels via a centre viscous limited slip differential able to distribute drive between the front and rear axles on demand. But you can have a CVT auto if you really want one in the RS Sport. 

WRX RS engine bay pictured (Image: James Cleary) WRX RS engine bay pictured (Image: James Cleary)

Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range? 7/10

Subaru’s official combined cycle fuel-economy figure for the WRX RS is 9.9L/100km, which is moderate for a performance sedan like this. And it emits 225g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over a week covering mainly urban and suburban driving, with some enthusiastic sessions and a hint of freeway running thrown in, we recorded an average of 10.6L/100km, which isn’t outrageous.

Worth noting the minimum fuel requirement is the pricier 95 RON premium unleaded and you’ll need 63 litres of it to fill the tank which translates to a theoretical range of around 635km and roughly 595km using our real-world number.

The WRX RS emits 225g/km of CO2 (Image: James Cleary) The WRX RS emits 225g/km of CO2 (Image: James Cleary)

Driving – What's it like to drive? 8/10

In driving the first Subaru Impreza WRX when it launched here in the early 1990s, the first attempt to control its surging, decidedly non-linear acceleration felt like pulling back on the reins of a bolting horse.

Subaru was in the thick of its commitment to the World Rally Championship (WRX stands for ‘World Rally eXperimental’) and the Japanese maker had a red hot product on its hands.

Fast forward to the 2024 version and the turbo torque still arrives with something of a rush but this is an infinitely more refined performance sedan than its relatively raw ancestor.

Subaru doesn’t quote a 0-100km/h figure but expect it to come up in the high five-second bracket and with maximum torque available all the way from 2000–5200rpm (and peak power taking over at 5600rpm) there’s always plenty or urgent acceleration available.

The WRX RS features all-wheel-drive (Image: James Cleary) The WRX RS features all-wheel-drive (Image: James Cleary)

And that pulsing engine noise and percussive exhaust beat is still there in a no less distinctive and entertaining way. Our test car was fitted with the newly optional STi-branded exhaust ($2497, fitted) which adds to the aural impact. 

The gearshift isn’t ‘click-clack’ direct but it’s smooth and positive and the clutch is perfectly weighted. Such a pleasure to swap through the ratios, with a bit of old school heel and toe action thrown in for downshifts. Love it.

Subaru says the ‘Global Platform’ underpinning the WRX features a “full inner-frame construction” making it “14 per cent better in terms of front lateral flexing rigidity and 28 per cent stiffer torsionally” than its predecessor.

Suspension is strut front, double wishbone rear, which is a relatively sophisticated configuration allowing the WRX RS to combine impressive ride quality with excellent dynamic response.

Dual twin exhaust tips pictured (Image: James Cleary) Dual twin exhaust tips pictured (Image: James Cleary)

The 245/40 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx rubber grips hard and steadfastly refuses to squeal or squirm in ‘press-on’ cornering, the AWD system defaulting to a nominal 45/55 front/rear torque split to deliver an initial rear-drive attitude with active torque vectoring helping to keep any pesky understeer in check. 

Push even harder and the system seamlessly adjusts the balance. And to top it off, the steering is great; accurate with good road feel.

Despite an alloy bonnet and front guards (even the fuel flap is resin) the WRX RS weighs in at 1482kg. That’s solid without qualifying as chonky, and it still feels nimble, responsive and balanced, helped in no small part by the boxer engine lowering the car’s overall centre of gravity.

The WRX has copped some criticism in the past about its braking performance under intense pressure. And while we didn’t hammer the RS around a race circuit we did repeatedly apply full-force to the centre pedal without any noticeable reduction in effectiveness. 

The WRX RS weighs in at 1482kg (Image: James Cleary) The WRX RS weighs in at 1482kg (Image: James Cleary)

For the record, the system uses ventilated discs all around (290mm fr / 316mm rr) with dual-piston front calipers up front and singles at the rear. In everyday use the pedal is agreeably progressive.

Under the heading of general, mainly ergonomic, observations, the driver display may not be full digital but the 4.2-inch multi-information display in the centre of the instrument cluster delivers a healthy amount of relevant information clearly and simply.

At 11.2 metres the turning circle is okay, while vision for parking, supported by a high-def reversing camera is good. And applying the manual park brake is another reminder of the physical nature of this car.

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating? 10/10

The WRX is “unrated” by ANCAP (it’s maximum five-star rating timed out in 2022) but for the 2024 model year the RS manual picks up Subaru’s ‘EyeSight’ active (crash-avoidance) safety suite including features like AEB, adaptive cruise and more assists, warnings and alerts than you could poke a crash test dummy at.

Specifically, ‘Emergency Lane Keep Assist’, lane centring, ‘Lane Departure Prevention’, ‘Lane Departure Warning’, ‘Lane Sway Warning’, ‘Lead Vehicle Start Alert’, driver monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, ‘Pre-collision Braking System’, ‘Pre-collision Brake Assist’, ‘Brake Light Recognition’, ‘Speed Sign Recognition’ and tyre pressure monitoring.

If an impact is unavoidable, there are seven airbags onboard, including full-length side curtains and a front centre bag to minimise head clash injuries in a side-on crash.

There are three top tether points and two ISOFIX anchors for child seats/baby capsules across the rear seat. 

The WRX is “unrated” by ANCAP (Image: James Cleary) The WRX is “unrated” by ANCAP (Image: James Cleary)

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs? 7/10

Subaru covers the WRX with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is still the norm in the mainstream market, although more than a few brands are stepping up to seven years.

The main service interval is 12 months/15,000km, also on par with the market and (five-year/75,000km) capped-price servicing is available.

Average is just under $535 per workshop visit, which is on the high side but maybe to be expected for a highly-tuned car like this.

That said, Roadside Assist is complimentary for 12 months, which is a nice sweetener.

Over three decades the WRX has matured into a more grown-up, refined performance package.

It’s fast with excellent dynamics, yet comfortable. Safety’s top-shelf, it’s well screwed together and the value equation stacks up. Rear seat headroom could be better and service costs are on the high side for the category. But I just love the way this car puts you in control.

$49,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4.1/5
Price Guide

$49,990

Based on new car retail price

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.