When you think of Subaru, you think of the gold-wheel rally monster that is the Impreza WRX STI. Despite it being the flagship of the range and being very desirable, I think that the sibling Subaru WRX is actually the one to own.
Subaru WRX Review by David TaylorSubtle, yet sporty looks
In comparison to the fire-breathing STI, the WRX is quite tame. The big wing is gone and in its place is a simple big boot spoiler. The big wheels have been replaced by black alloys and on the inside, the sporty branded Recaro bucket seats have been replaced by standard leather sport seats. The Subaru WRX is rather subtle-looking which has its benefits. Firstly, only hardcore petrolheads will recognise what you’re driving and secondly, the Subaru WRX becomes something of a stealth car.
The Subaru WRX, high performance from rally-bred engine?
Thankfully, the important part of the STI has been retained in the Subaru WRX. The 2.5-litre turbocharged flat four engine has been detuned slightly, but with 195kW and 343Nm it’s still capable of impressive speeds. It features the brilliant symmetrical all-wheel drive system which ensures that it is very fast right from the get go. Put it this way, while most cars experience some performance-killing wheel spin when driven hard off the line, the Subaru WRX grips and goes. Even in heavy rain, the WRX just sticks to the road. The result is a sports sedan that can hit 100km/h in under 6 seconds. This sort of performance is more than enough to bludgeon most of the boy racers in their hot hatches.
Almost infinite levels of grip
The Subaru WRX gets even better when you throw some corners into the mix. The levels of grip are out of this world and it’s a real confidence booster if you’ve never driven a high-performance vehicle before. It’s satisfying to carve up mountain passes without any real effort and along the incredible coastal roads, the Subaru WRX felt completely at home. To be really honest, I would run out of driving talent long run before the vehicle reached its limits of performance.
The Subaru WRX is one of the finest sounding vehicles on the road
If you think the WRX’s performance is addictive, just wait until you hear what it sounds like. Under gentle acceleration, there’s a very pleasant burble and as the revs rise, you can hear the turbocharger furiously spinning away. Take your foot off the accelerator around the 3500rpm mark and you’ll hear a blast of air escaping from the turbo, followed by deep thumps as unburnt fuel is detonated in the exhausts. It’s not subtle and if you’re a fan of great engines, you’ll see no need to ever turn the radio on. Don’t ever expect to drive anywhere without being noticed either. The loud exhaust makes this car quite a head-turner.
There’s no sixth gear?
It does have one big drawback. The gearbox, while smooth and bolt-action precise, lacks that final sixth ratio which is a little annoying on the open road where you want the car to settle down and use less fuel. On the bright side, overtaking is effortless. Put your foot down, wait a half a second for the turbo to spool up and the Subaru WRX powers you past slow traffic. Without much effort you can hit illegal speeds within a few seconds.
Simple, uncluttered interior
The interior looks a bit dated – it has the essentials but it’s lacking some creativity. You get a good hands-free Bluetooth with steering wheel mounted controls as well as USB connectivity. There’s cruise control, hill start assistance as well as a full complement of airbags. You also get xenon headlights and a sunroof. There’s no satnav but in my opinion, it’s not the end of the world.
Slower but more refined
It may be fractionally slower than its more track-focused sibling but the Subaru WRX offers a far more civilised experience. Think of it this way – the STI is for the weekend track day but the WRX is perfect for driving to work on a daily basis. The suspension is softer and more suited to being on the road. It’s lighter on fuel too. Speaking of fuel consumption, the WRX didn’t fare too badly. For a performance vehicle, you’d expect to see the trip computer read out some big figures. Amazingly, despite some enthusiastic driving, the WRX returned a figure of 11L/100km.
The Subaru WRX - ConclusionThis is one of the best performance bargains on sale today at R429,000. Best part? It's R160,000 cheaper than the STI, yet offers close on 80% of the STI experience. While you may be a little disappointed by the relative simplicity of the cabin, you cannot help but love the bulletproof engineering. It has a decent boot which can carry two sets of golf clubs, it seats five in comfort and it has enough performance to see off more expensive machinery.
- Why you should: Loud, deceptively quick, practical, incredible handling, bang-for-buck performance.
- ?Why you shouldn’t: Needs a six-speed gearbox, interior looks a bit dated, thirsty if you drive it really hard.
- It would be better if: Put in the six-speed gearbox from the STI and give that interior a face-lift.
- View the Subaru WRX: New / Used
- ?Competitors worth checking out: Volkswagen Scirocco R, BMW 135i, Audi S3.