Driven: 2006 Subaru WRX

Erik B. Johnson
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2006 Subaru Impreza WRX

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO When it arrived on American shores in 2001, the WRX erased a sizable chunk of Subaru's Grizzly Adams-and-granola image with its hot performance, and its low price and recognition from video games such as the Gran Turismo series gave the car immediate street credibility.

Below you'll find our 'Driven' review of the 2006 Subaru WRX from the October Automobile Magazine, followed by more impressions and information that we didn't have room for in print.

For 2006, the WRX undergoes a whole host of tweaks and revisions, including a visit to the plastic surgeon to tack on Subaru's new corporate nose, first seen on the B9 Tribeca. The result is somewhat subtler here and not unattractive. Other exterior changes include new side spoilers as well as a redesigned hood and newly standard seventeen-inch wheels.

It is under the skin, though, that the WRX has received the most compelling makeover, and while the lighter, aluminum front lower control arms are notable, the 2.5-liter turbo four is what really gets our blood pumping. The previous 2.0-liter unit had absolutely no go until the turbo kicked in, but the bigger engine, with increases of only 3 hp and 18 lb-ft of torque, improves immensely in that area, turning fifth gear into more than a tool for noise reduction and making the automatic transmission--available only on the new, upmarket WRX Limited--a legitimate option. The 2.5's turbo is also much more progressive than that of the old engine, allowing for more precise throttle control and, with the freshly tightened steering, more accurate car placement, attributes we found most helpful while blasting up and down Pikes Peak. Larger brake rotors gripped by red calipers increase the WRX's stopping power and eliminate much of the previous car's brake-pedal mushiness.

This latest WRX is now a real alternative for people who don't want to or can't afford to pony up the bucks for the Mitsubishi Evo-fighting WRX STI--which itself gets aero tweaks and a revised all-wheel-drive system for '06--but still desire something with performance and personality. It also is more refined and easier to live with on a daily basis. Even Grizzly Adams would approve. Erik Johnson

On sale: Now
Price range: $24,620-$28,190
Engine: Turbo 2.5L
H-4, 230 hp, 235 lb-ft
Drive: 4-wheel

2006 Subaru WRX

THE LINEUP

Subaru has stretched the WRX lineup at both ends with a base model, the TR, as well as the top-of-the-line Limited. The TR was conceived, according to Subaru, as an "entry-level" WRX, a way to drop the admission price to the WRX club--as if the regular car wasn't already one of the world's leading performance bargains--and give tuners a Subaru they could really sink their teeth into.

The WRX TR is essentially a regular Impreza 2.5i with a turbocharger, beefed-up brakes, seventeen-inch wheels, quicker steering, and a sport suspension with some aluminum (instead of steel) members. In order to pay only $24,620 for this WRX--$1000 less than the mid-level model known simply as the WRX--you forgo automatic climate control, sport seats, foglamps, a six-disc CD changer, some exterior trim pieces, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel, shift knob, and parking-brake handle. Those items are standard on the WRX, and for an additional $2500 you get the $28,190 WRX Limited with a moonroof, heated leather seats, defrosting mirrors, and a wiper de-icer.

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