A lubricant’s purpose never changes — turn stiff and rigid into loose and lithe. A lubricant’s form is variable, however. The lubricant of choice for tightly fit engine internals is assembly grease. The proper lubricant for a nervous, quiet friend is a shot of tequila. And the lubricant for the 2015 Subaru WRX is snow. A light dusting of snow turns every street into a low-mu surface, letting our 2015 Subaru WRX with its Michelin X-Ice Xi3 winter tires from Tire Rack loosen up and play like the stage-ready rally car it dreams of becoming.
A state of disarray
Fortunately for the 2015 WRX, southeastern Michigan is an abysmal place in winter. The romantic image of snow-capped pine trees does not quite capture the grim realities of this frozen hellhole. When there’s a snowfall of a micrometer or more, the snow stays on the road until hundreds of Michiganders have driven across it and forced it into dingy snowbanks on the shoulders of the asphalt.
The 2015 Subaru WRX is the perfect car for our tundra, the Kid Chaos of midwinter Michigan. It has great mid-range power, so you can find the sweet spot of traction with your right foot. It’s easy to see out, so you can anticipate the constantly changing road surface. And with all-wheel drive and winter tires, you have confidence even when the conditions are less than ideal.
I’d already been running late for a meeting with friend-of-the-magazine Ken Lingenfelter when traffic on the highway stopped suddenly. It had snowed 36 hours previously, meaning the highway still had snow all over it. I could only presume some Chevy Volt driver had been texting when his plug-in hybrid with its low-rolling-resistance tires lost traction and slammed into the back of another car.
I had 15 minutes to get to Lingenfelter’s shop. The Subaru’s navigation said it would take 45 minutes, while my Waze smartphone app said it would take 40. I exited the highway as quickly as I could and continued heading north on country back roads covered in virgin white snow. At least I think they were back roads. There were no tire tracks to follow, so I might have been just driving across cornfields.
The Subaru’s traction control light flickered as the front tires wriggled through the powder, and I tried to keep the car going straight. A huge, powdery roostertail behind me, I continued to follow more, totally snow-covered back roads until I ended up at Lingenfelter only two minutes late for my meeting.
Four-cylinder slalom cones
Taking the highway the following night proved to be more dreadful than the previous morning. Snow fell so fast that even if Michigan believed in using snowplows, they wouldn’t have been able to clear the pavement for more than a few seconds. Consequently, many cars had come to a complete stop and simply parked in their lanes like a scene from “Day After Tomorrow.” (This is infinitely more dangerous than driving in snow, you dumbasses.)
To the 2015 Subaru WRX, these parked cars were very big slalom cones. I kept a steady pace and slowly weaved between the stopped cars. The Subaru effortlessly glided from one lane to another, and the car actually felt better moving around in the snow than it does in the dry. At no point did I ever question the WRX’s ability to stay composed.
See, the 2015 Subaru WRX inspires confidence in a way that almost convinces you that this turbocharged commuter car with a notchy gearbox and a crappy infotainment system just might be a stage-ready wolf wrapped in sheep’s wool — even though it’s not. It’s a Venus flytrap that strokes your ego, lures you into thinking that you’re the second coming of Colin McRae, and persuades you to get behind its wheel and let it live out its rallying daydreams on the street.
It’s my own fault for believing the lie. Big, fat snowflakes slowly floated toward the ground as I drove out of downtown Detroit. Before heading home, I had to stop at our office to pick something up. When I got there, I found our parking lot evenly covered in snow, glistening under nearby streetlights. I turned off traction control and did about fifty doughnuts before going on my way. As I make a right turn, I think, “Maybe I should attend a rally school.”
There’s no Scandinavian flick. No ludicrous speed carried into the corner. No patch of big, bad ice. Just slippery snow. The Subaru’s back end over-rotates, and my instincts kick in — “When doubt, power out.” It’s a near-miss, a euphemism for light hit. The left-rear quarter panel bounces off the headlight of a 2003 Ford Escape. Both the neighboring bumper and rear door are unscathed, but the left-rear quarter panel is busted.
’Tis but a scratch
“At least it looks more like a rally car now,” says videographer Sandon Voelker. It’s a flesh wound, one already infected with a bit of rust thanks to the dreary, wet weather in this frozen hellhole. The dent hasn’t affected drivability whatsoever and will be fixed in the next few weeks, with estimates for repairs around $3,000.
Even so, I’d like to thank snow. It made my time in our 2015 Subaru WRX extremely enjoyable. I’m not particularly fond of the car in ideal conditions, but it’s a wonderful thing with which to play when everything else on the road is stopped or stuck. With a little lubricant, the 2015 Subaru WRX is perfect.
- Body style 4-door sedan
- Accommodation 5-passenger
- Construction Steel unibody
- Base price (with dest.) $29,290
- As tested $31,290
- Engine 16-valve DOHC turbocharged flat-4
- Displacement 2.0 liters (122 cu in)
- Power 268 hp @ 5600 rpm
- Torque 258 lb-ft @ 2000-5200 rpm
- Transmission 6-speed manual
- Drive All-wheel
- EPA Fuel Economy 21/28/24 (city/hwy/combined)
- Headroom F/R 37.2/37.1 in
- Legroom F/R 43.3/35.4 in
- Shoulder room F/R 55.6/54.2 in
- Wheelbase 104.3 in
- Track F/R 60.2/60.6 in
- L x W x H 180.9 x 70.7 x 58.1 in
- Passenger capacity 96.6 cu ft
- Cargo capacity 12.0 cu ft
- Weight 3267 lb
- Weight dist. F/R 59.6/40.4%
- Fuel capacity 15.9 gal
- Est. fuel range 380 miles
- Fuel grade 91 octane (premium)
- Automatic climate control
- Cruise control
- Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
- Power windows, mirrors, and locks
- Rearview camera
- Power sunroof
- 6-way adjustable driverâs seat
- 4-way adjustable front passenger seat
- Heated front seats
- Halogen headlights
- LED taillights
- Fog lights
- 60/40-split folding rear seats
- 6-speaker audio system
- USB port
- Auxiliary input jack
- Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity
- Voice-activated navigation system- $2000
9-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system