By Peter N.
- Great acceleration
- Fun to drive
- Road noise
- Stereo system
Subaru is generally known for building rugged cars that perform great for outdoor adventures. Their all-wheel drive technology has long earned them a solid reputation with the skiing and snow-boarding crowd. The one exception to this overall image of rugged outdoorsmen-type car is their Impreza WRX. The WRX has garnered much praise from auto-enthusiasts for its performance and handling in a price-band well below similar vehicles. I was excited to find out what all the fuss was about. Was it truly a blast to drive, or just the best you can get under $30,000?
I tested a Spark Silver Impreza WRX Premium, which mans it had some nice touches to improve it over the impressively powered 265-hp base model, including heated seats and a leather wrapped steering wheel. The styling and instrumentation clearly pointed towards an experience with lots of torque, although the navigation/stereo interface distracted from this by being a bit too gadgety, but more on that later. In the first 100 yards, it was clear that this four-door car had the heart of a coupe and was all about the drive. I could tell that this was going to be a fun couple of days to see what this car could do.
Subaru has assembled a decent car. While clearly not a luxury auto, I found no manufacturing defects in the model that I tested. The road noise was significant, but whether that was due to poor manufacturing or insufficient design, I can’t say.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
The cockpit continued Subaru’s focus on driving fun with the tachometer occupying the largest real estate on the dashboard. Clearly, WRX drivers want to pay more attention to RPM than be concerned with MPH. The leather wrapped steering wheel is an excellent choice to give the car a touch of class, while the rest of the interior is pretty basic. Vast swaths of plastic and chunky buttons and knobs reinforce the fact that this is not a luxury car. The performance seats were comfortable and the fabric had an amazing amount of grip. There was no sliding around in them, whether in a hard left turn or just trying to get behind the wheel. The touch screen display provided lots of information on its sufficiently large and usable screen, but the control buttons on the side seemed an after thought. It turns out that you use those side buttons more than the touch screen, so the clunky design diminishes the experience. Other brands have done a better job on creating an easy to use user interface, but Subaru’s is not overly complicated. The stereo system is only remarkable in how poorly it performed. For a car aimed at the driving enthusiast, they should have spent a bit more in this department.
The WRX has power and is not afraid to use it. Is this car fun to drive? Absolutely. The 265 horses under the hood provide a lively ride for those with a heavy right foot. There is a bit of a turbo lag when accelerating and the engine really doesn’t put out below 3,000 RPM, but above that it puts out lots of torque from first to fourth gear. Fifth gear is still fun, but can’t deliver the same acceleration. As I was driving this car, I determined that the WRX was almost two cars in one, given how the engine puts out. The performance enthusiast can be thrilled with excitement of driving by keeping the engine above 3,000 RPM. Those drivers focused on the cost of gasoline will find a sedate, stable and lower cost car by keeping the engine below 2,500 RPM. The disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power and bring the car to a quick stop.
After hearing about the great handling of the WRX, I was a bit disappointed by it. There was enough lean in the turns that I did not push the car as hard as other, albeit more expensive, performance cars. The upside is that the grip on asphalt is outstanding. I tried many times to induce a slide, but the all-wheel drive kept the car firmly connected to the road. The car feels light, especially at higher speeds, leading to a less secure experience on the highway. Overall, the handling was good for this class of car, but it was not top notch.
The swoops and curves of the WRX identify it as a small Japanese car with a bit of an edge, but it is the air intake that establishes it as the performance car that it is. It is a nice touch to set this car apart from its less powerful cousins and has been a consistent feature of the WRX line.
For the driving enthusiast, this car delivers more fun per dollar than any other I’ve driven. It almost stands alone in the class of affordable performance. The all-wheel drive provides great road confidence and will come in handy for trips up to the mountains in winter.
Who should buy it?
If you want a performance car without spending too much, this is the car for you. I expect this will be most popular for drivers in their 20’s and 30’s, but drivers of all ages will be able to take advantage of this hot rod.
The Impreza WRX has rightfully earned its reputation of a fun to drive car priced below $30,000. While the car does have some flaws in road noise and radio clarity, the overall driving experience delivers thrills and smiles.
|Official website for Subaru of America – www.subaru.com|