The WRX is a car that happily does duty as both an everyday driver and a machine to whoop it up on the back roads. The hatchback body style is extremely useful–the seats flip and fold down easily and make for a flat load floor that can accommodate long or odd-sized objects. I prefer the short-throw shifter in the WRX SPT version we had in earlier, but I don’t really object to the standard shifter in this car, which has a fairly smooth action and is nicely mated to the 265-hp turbo four. Of course, that engine is the raison-d’etre of the WRX. It makes for great fun when you’re hammering the car down a stretch of two-lane.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Very often, the cars we receive from manufacturers are loaded up with equipment beyond what the average customer would order. It’s enjoyable, no doubt, but sometimes I wonder if I’d have liked a car as much if it lacked some of the extras.
So it was nice of Subaru, after giving us a week with an SPT-enhanced WRX, to furnish us a control sample. And I can happily report that I enjoyed this basic version even more than the more expensive model.
Whereas the first WRX had a loud, booming note thanks to its $800 performance exhaust system, the standard version putters along like a humble, four-cylinder compact. That is, until you lay into the go pedal. Then the sound of a wailing turbo mixes with the rising hum of Subaru’s venerable boxer-engine. Not a bad sound, to be sure.
Likewise, I found myself enjoying the smooth, if long throws of the standard five-speed manual more than I had the short, yet somewhat balky action of the STI-sourced shifter in the SPT version. There goes another $500. Otherwise, the drive experience was identical. Same lusty build up of turbocharged thrust, same willingness to step out and drift slightly through corners before clawing out a perfect line.
Alas, our vanilla WRX still comes in at a rather high $30k, but take away a few more options that don’t affect performance, like navigation, a sunroof, and the fancy stereo, and you have a 265-hp, all-wheel-drive car with the added versatility of a hatch-back for just a bit more than $26,000 (you can save another $500 if you’re willing to drive around in a goofy looking sedan).
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The first thing I noticed about this car was the transmission. It loses the short, notchy throws of the SPT’s short shifter we sampled recently. The standard WRX has smoother shift action and a less finicky shifter.
The second thing is the exhaust note–where’d it go? I understand most people don’t want a ridiculous exhaust note, but come on, this is a WRX. Unlike David, I even found that the exhaust was too subdued under hard acceleration. I’ll take the SPT exhaust, please.
In every other way, the standard WRX was identical to the SPT model. It has the same incredible turbo-lag that creates an on/off switch at about 3500 rpm. Under that, the car goes nowhere; above that and you’d better hold on.
Andrew Peterson, Intern
This is the second Subaru WRX around the office in the past two months, and even though this one was less powerful, less showy, and less expensive, it was just as much fun to drive.
Andrew Peterson is square on with his comments about turbo lag. In low gears, it took until about 5000 rpm to fully feel the effects of the turbo.
The SPT upgrades were mostly a go-fast looks package; as nice as the short-throw shifter is, it’s not going to make you a quicker driver, and horsepower was up only slightly over the run-of-the-mill Rexes. The WRX is still, at its core, a driver’s car – not a hauler, and certainly not a looker. But you can avoid both of those problems by just getting behind the wheel, turning the key, and not looking back.
Jeffrey Jablansky, Intern
SPT, SPT, my kingdom for some SPT parts. Don’t get me wrong, this WRX is still a powerful little hatch on its own, but I really miss some of those hop-ups we had on the first WRX Premium to grace our fleet.
I must have missed the “appearance parts” Jeffrey speaks about, because our SPT WRX looked virtually identical to this test car. That may be disappointing to those who want to flaunt their ride at Hot Import Nights, but the idea of building a taut, powerful sleeper intrigues me.
I’m not exactly sure if I’d spring for the $800 exhaust (even at 265 hp, this thing is still pretty fast), but I would spring for the short shifter. Unlike David, I’m not really feeling the long throws of the stock gate, especially since it seems to be quite a contrast to the clutch, which wants to engage immediately. Handling doesn’t suffer too much by skipping the SPT strut bar and subframe brace, but the stock WRX does exhibit just a bit more body roll than our SPT-tuned tester.
Unless you’re dead-set on a sunroof, I’d also recommend skipping the WRX premium model. The inclusion of Subaru’s navigation is the only other real highlight of the price increase, and given its awkward interface (apparently, a red dot translates to “begin route”), I’d recommend an aftermarket Garmin, TomTom, or Pioneer in-dash unit instead.
Still, if you’re looking at buying a rally-inspired machine for everyday life, it’s hard to beat the WRX.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
2009 Subaru Impreza WRX Premium
Base price (with destination): $30,690
Price as tested: $30,690
18 / 25 / 21 mpg
Size: 2.5L DOHC Turbocharged/Intercooled H-4
Horsepower: 265 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 244 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Weight: 3229 lb
17 x 7 in. 10-spoke aluminum alloy