2011 Subaru Impreza WRX Review – Just like Christmas morning – you can't wait to open it up!

Expert Reviews Subaru

By Holly Roberts


  • Accelerates crazy fast
  • Very comfortable seats
  • Excellent handling ability
  • Back seats accommodate passengers easily (not cramped seating)
  • Really, really, really FUN to drive


  • Bumpy ride could require a dose of Dramamine for passengers before riding on winding, bumpy roads
  • Release handle for gas door quirky and frustrating
  • Plastic interior dash and door panels feel like they came from a 1992 Corolla

I’ve driven a few Subarus, and have always liked them, but the WRX moniker has always escaped me.  I found that any time I mentioned that I’d be reviewing a WRX, guys faces lit up like a Christmas tree.  Is this something the female population misses out on? Is it not in our DNA to recognize the hot little sports car in hiding? Well, five seconds behind the wheel of this car made me understand the excitement that all of my male friends exhibited.  Wow. Wow. Wow. Did I say “wow”? A very impressive driving machine. Subaru actually seemed to make it bluer than the bluest blue you’ve ever seen (not really my style), but it sure was a blast to drive!

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX 5-door

Fuel Economy:
Advertised: 19 in the city, and 25 highway (22 combined)
Actual: 23.4 mpg in mixed conditions (city, highway and heavy-footed driving) and 24.6 mpg highway

Driving Impressions:
I found myself driving in ways I don’t ordinarily drive, just because I COULD. This could be bad, as I became very impatient and drove much faster and more aggressively than normal. But because I could… I did it! And it was fun. I giggled. The WRX handled so well and hugged the road so spectacularly, that I railed corners, frightening my passengers. I was forced to slam the brakes on when some clown turned in front of me, and they worked amazingly well (in the rain, no less). I took it to a dirt and gravel lot, turned OFF the traction control and drove around like a maniac, seeing if I could get the car to slide (I did). And I giggled a lot more.

It’s a rough ride. But it’s basically the type of ride you’d EXPECT from this class of vehicle. You want to feel the bumps in the road, the start of the slide, the way the car hugs the curves in the road, the traction the tires make when accelerating fast out of a corner, whether or not you can push it harder into that curve, or whether or not you need to back off and save your skin (and the car!). In short:  you NEED to feel how the car interacts with the road surface.

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX

Despite the expected rough ride, there didn’t appear to be any undo rattling indicating things coming loose or poor construction of the interior. The doors felt pretty light, but I didn’t have any issues closing any of them to where I felt I needed to slam them. The windows were smooth going up and down. The rear hatch (5th door) opened and closed easily. The seats were light enough that I didn’t have to struggle putting them down to fit my bike in, or putting them back into the upright position. The storage areas inside the cabin opened and closed easily. The rear cargo cover was a piece of cake to remove and put back in. The car seemed very well built, both interior and exterior.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics:

The good:
Comfortable seating position, excellent visibility out of the windows, rear-view mirrors, etc. All of the controls were easy to use (once you figured them out!), and all within reach.

I really loved the matte display panel for the gauges! Such a simple solution for a nasty problem for when the sun shines in, blinds the driver with the glare, and suddenly, you can’t see how fast you’re going, the engine RPMs, etc. Safe and functional (and pretty sweet-looking).

The LED-illuminated front storage tray in the center console was the perfect place for my cell phone (although it didn’t prevent me from leaving it in the car on more than one occasion!). At least I could see it and get to it easily.

Sport-design electroluminescent gauges 2011 Subaru WRX interior

Even the back seats are comfortable and roomy-enough for the average sized person! Disclaimer:  If you’re taller than the average bear, probably not a good idea to ride in the back! Besides, this is a car you want to drive, not spectate in!

The bad:
The dashboard, center console and door panels felt like really cheap plastic. I didn’t expect it to be like butter, but the material should at least feel like “JC Penneys”, and not the “Dollar Store”.

Hate me if you will, but the aluminum pedals are a bloody nightmare when your shoes get wet. I happened to be testing the car when a pretty nasty storm hit, and despite trying to dry my running shoes off, my feet slipped on the pedals several times. Not good if you’re using a critical pedal at the exact moment you need it most (e.g. your brake pedal!).

Subaru Impreza WRX rear cargo area heated seats heated seats

Nits and nags:
The gas door release gave me fits. I had to pull on it at least 3 or 4 times to get the door to release.  One time, I got in and out of the car FIVE times. I was afraid I’d break the release.

Aesthetically-speaking, it would be nice for the center cup-holders to have a sliding cover, so you could hide them away, keeping a smooth surface under your elbows.

The center console box (between the front seats) would do well to have the LED-illumination that the little front storage tray had. It was really tough to see in there (like when I was searching for the USB port that the owner’s manual described, but our model was conspicuously missing) without having to contort my upper body into a pretzel to avoid climbing in the back seat to get a better view.

The Subaru WRX is at home on your favorite mountain road or on the track

With the lightness of the car and the turbocharger, the 265 hp 2.5 liter DOHC engine felt like a lot more horsepower than the numbers suggest. The acceleration was positively exhilarating!  Due to the punchiness of the WRX, it was tough to keep at (or near) the speed limit and even harder not to drive like a jerk! The 17-inch (P235/45 R17) wheels kept the WRX attached firmly to the road surface as I zoomed around on-ramps, off-ramps, twisty roads in both wet and dry conditions.

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  • Stuart says:

    I’ve got a 2011 sedan in metallic grey with the limited package (leather, sunroof, HID’s, bluetooth.)

    It destroys most everything here in Oregon except for the occasional brand new Audi S4 (older models get worked). I’m including winter in that, as it’s no slower in rain, and with a good set of performance winter tires it absolutely dominates trips the mountain. I feel totally confident passing in snow on the outside on passes, it’s just planted.

    Fit and finish is not BMW, but you’re paying for the drivetrain here, and my god is it alot of drivetrain for $28,000

  • Cory Friedman says:

    I just traded my 2007 Infiniti FX-35 for a 2011 WRX Hatchback yesterday and I was amazed at how this car handles and still gives a better, YES BETTER, ride than my luxury Infinti Crossover Tank that only got 16mpg over-all! I drove to work this morning and reset the trip before I left. I averaged 29.4mpg and none of it was highway! The only complaint I have is the center console armrest is so low that it is completely useless! What were they thinking??? The Infiniti had a Bose soundsystem that sounded great for stock, and this is the only real cheap thing in the WRX. The radio sounds like my old 1970 Dodge Charger’s AM single speaker on top of dash with an inch of dust and 30 years of speaker cone crack… Other than that, LOVE IT!

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    Loved this car for years never owned one because it’s built for short people .With a size 14 foot I have had to take my shoe off to fit both my feet .Now I think there very dated and have not evolved.I have driven the Focus RS in Europe and think it’s ergonomically better and more modern.I hope to see it in the US soon as 2012 Focus will be very rich line of cars.I don’t believe 4 Wheel drive helps the WRX at all and wish it were just rear wheel drive.I like Subaru but they need to chuck the Impreza line it’s really based on 25 year old architecture and do what VW has done with Jetta and increase it’s size .Then introduce a Sub B model with front wheel drive.

  • Jonbo says:

    I ordered a WRX Oct. 15th. Just picked it up 12/9 with 4 miles on her! SWP Hatchback, short throw shifter and all weather mats. The wait was worth it, I’m a patient person anyways and had my old pick-up so it wasn’t like I did not have a ride. But wow this car can handle the road, amazing! As far as bumpy ride, this car feels great compared to my 93 Nissan pick-up. No complaints here. 5 speed i’m ok with this as well. The only thing so far is my wife complained about the passenger sun shade mirror does not have a light, this does not bother me, haha. Stereo speakers are crap but that’s not what Subaru does.
    No problem here with the gas door release so far. I like the pedals, they have some rubber circles on them that help when wet. So far I think the car rocks, only complaint I have is I have to break her in :)

  • AlienSexGod says:

    Styling top marks?
    Haven’t driven a stick shift in over a year?
    Wow it really shows how out of touch you really are for a car reviewer.
    Pretty much everyone agrees Sub lost the plot with this one…. one of the ugliest things ever to hit the road, mass understeer galore if you give it the hammer which you clearly didn’t or weren’t capable of. That’s why the coming model will look and handle nothing like it. In the meantime drive a Mitsu Evo …. looks decent for a 4 door sports sedan and wastes the Rex in the handling department.

    • Derek says:

      FYI, Holly has a full-time day job and other personal obligations such as volunteering for an education program that helps underprivileged kids. Even with a busy schedule, Holly generously gives her time to provide a woman’s perspective on some of the cars that pass through CarReview’s hands. There aren’t enough car reviews written from the female POV and CarReview is fortunate to have two women contributors that have a different voice from the other members of the team who have a y-chromosome.

  • Derek says:

    I don’t understand code. What is a rex?

    Back to the topic – we had the most fun with the WRX compared to a lot other cars that passed through CarReview hands recently. We even liked the WRX over the 505 hp Corvette Z06 that we tested a couple weeks ago.

  • shredchic says:

    Nice review – to be honest, I’m a gal who has the same giddy reaction to my rex as the guys do. ;) 2004 with 178K miles on it, mostly because it’s such a joy to drive. Why do you need a nice interior when you’re just going to gunk it up with all the mud and dirt from your mountain biking and other outdoor activities anyway? Even if I had the money to waste on a high-end BMW or Audi, I would probably still go for a rex. :p

  • francois says:

    This car is devastatingly fast. 0-60 in 4.5 seconds??? Seriously? It is so fast to 60 that it’s even faster than the Subaru STI and 90% of the sports cars out there. The ride is unbelievable too as it takes wet downhill hairpin corners like no other.

    But it’s not perfect. The interior and electronics are worthy of a $13k econobox. Man, we don’t expect much for this class of car but Subaru aimed very low. The radio made even AM sound awful.

    The 5 speed transmission works but it is a relic too. C’mon. We need 6-speed and a proper auto Dual Clutch tranny wouldn’t hurt either.

    • Derek says:

      Initially, I thought the 5-speed manual was an outdated decision. Why not go with a 6-speed with closer ratios and a huge over-drive gear to improve highway mileage? After driving the WRX for a few days, I have admit that the gear ratios are almost perfect. With its huge torque curve and a lot of power available at low revs, a 6-speed just isn’t necessary and it would probably add to the cost of the car.

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