Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Stephen Spyropoulos
Published: July 7, 2016
Growing up in the 90s, I took a profound interest in the World Rally Championship (WRC), motocross races, and x-games programs that aired on television. The sound of those rally-cars with their high-strung engines bouncing off the rev limiter whilst jumping over a muddy crest would become forever engrained in my mind.
Like many enthusiastic fans, I tried imitating the co-driver’s pace notes wherever I went in a car: “Right 5 over crest, Left 3 don’t cut, 100 Right 1 tidy into Left 2, 300 triple caution jump,”—my parents hated this. Of course, my favourite driver at the time was the late Colin McRae. Seeing his World Rally Blue Subaru Impreza eat up the competition at the 1996 WRC season gave me a new love for Subaru and their cars that rumbled like no other whenever they flew past the cameras. I told myself, “I have to get myself one of those when I grow up.”
Fast forward to 2002, and the Subaru Impreza WRX makes its North American debut. The bug-eyed WRX, as it was so affectionately dubbed, was a rally-car inspired version of the regular Impreza sedan. At the time of its release I was still too young to drive, but that did not stop me from covering my bedroom in WRX posters—again something my parents were not too fond of.
From what I read in magazines back then, the WRX was very engaging: oodles of power and super-sharp handling packed into a conservative looking all-wheel drive four-door sedan. The WRX and full-blown WRX STi version continued on through two more generations for more than a decade.
In 2015, we arrived at the current fourth-generation “Rex” that carries on that same rally-bred tradition that its predecessors exemplified. Like a teenager that does not want to grow up, the WRX is loud, raw, and bumpy on everything but an airport tarmac.
You really need to be young at heart to enjoy the driving experience of this WRX. The 2.0-litre turbocharged flat-four pumps out 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The throttle response is sensitive, the cabin is loud and filled with exhaust drone, the power of the turbocharger puts you in the back of your seat as it climbs to a peak boost of 21.8 psi, and when it is time to shift, letting off the throttle is met with a very audible thump from the quad exhausts, akin to the timbre of a heavy bass drum.
Orchestrating a launch is tricky but when you get the heavy clutch and notchy shifter to behave, you will reach 0-100 km/h in 5.9 seconds. The only nitty-gritty aspect of this powertrain is the dip of power around 4,500 rpm. It is quite demoralizing and makes the WRX feel not as smooth during acceleration.
From the preliminary research I conducted, this was a common complaint among WRX owners and can be remedied by an aftermarket tune (which will void your warranty). The combination of a hyperactive throttle, stiff clutch, spongey brakes, and a clunky shifter make driving the WRX around town a chore. In stop-and-go Toronto traffic, the car will buck like a wild horse that has yet to be broken.
Another thing the WRX does not have going for it is the ride quality. The ride is stiff and abrupt, geared more towards giving a track-like ride rather than the comfort expected from a daily driver. If you’re going to haul passengers, just be ready to hear expletives the first time you take this WRX over a road bump—I know I did.
Interior quality is definitely up from previous generations. The materials are nicer and the thick flat bottomed steering wheel, the shift knob, and the entertainment unit, and the updated seats all aid in giving you the impression that this base WRX is a step up from the Impreza.
Other than the quality of the knobs and buttons, the entertainment unit is nothing to write home about. On the 2017 WRX, the 6.2-inch StarLink touchscreen is usable but it felt very dated compared to other units on the market. There was no integration for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto either. Furthermore, the sound system was lackluster with noticeable distortion at higher volume levels.
Living with the WRX for a week gave me a fair impression of what this $29,995 vehicle really brings to the table. If I were purely interested in sheer power, performance, and winter driving capability, this WRX would be a no-brainer over front-wheel drive choices like the Ford Focus ST or the Volkswagen Golf GTI. In fact, the WRX is almost in a league of its own. To get an all-wheel drive rig to compete against the WRX means forking over a major premium for a Focus RS or a Golf R.
However, it becomes harder to overlook the downside of a harsh ride, raw motor, and excessive road noise when you have to drive other people around. Then it can be fair to say that WRX may not be for everybody. It is a vehicular representation of our most inner child-like behaviour. It will put a stupid grin on your face every time you start the motor, and it will kick you in the seat of your pants whenever you lay on the throttle. It is euphoric in the way it carves corners and refuses to lose grip.
I do have to admit after my test week I could not see myself owning a WRX like my younger self did whenever I watched Colin McRae send his Subaru 15-feet in the air. For me personally, the WRX is too playful and heavily geared towards performance rather than comfort and daily driving refinement.
If you do find yourself looking at a WRX in the future as a potential car however, definitely take it for a test drive. You won’t be disappointed by its performance. And for an added bonus, you can freak out the salesman by recanting some rally pace notes: “6 Right over crest, Left 3 don’t cut, and 100 Right 1 tidy right into the Subaru dealership parking lot.”
型号 Model: 2017 Subaru WRX
顏色 Paint Type: Pure Red
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $29,995
試車售價 Price as Tested: $29,995
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,650
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,595 / 2,053 / 1,475
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,543
引擎 Engine: 2.0L twin-scroll turbocharged horizontally opposed 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 268 hp @ 5,600 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: : 258 lb.-ft @ 2,000-5,200 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.3 / 8.5 / 10.0
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.3