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