The WRX has long been on our bucket list. That's because the performance version of Subaru's Impreza has been a favorite of enthusiasts and on the pro rally circuit. For 2013, the WRX is unchanged. Maybe that's why fans were so excited when Subaru showed off a striking WRX concept at the New York auto show. Well, we can all dream.
Appearance: Think family car for the drag strip. Our tester — the top-of-the-line STI Limited trim — was the sedan version of the WRX, which also comes in a five-door hatchback. Our tester's classy Satin Pearl White contrasted with a huge spoiler that rises from an otherwise bland rear end. Fast & Furious-looking or simply ridiculous? You decide. (Still, it doesn't obscure your rear vision too much.) In the sleek aero-sculpted front end, a gaping and functional air scoop sits on the hood and further draws attention, as do the bulging front fenders and bright-red STI badging on the grille.
Performance: You won't be impressed with the mpg (17/23), but you aren't buying a WRX for its fuel efficiency. The 2.5-liter turbocharged DOHC Boxer 4-cylinder also requires premium fuel: 91 octane or the recommended 93. That engine produces 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque (the regular WRX has 265/244). That power is channeled through a 6-speed manual transmission. In addition to the more powerful engine, the STI trim brings Brembo performance brakes, front and rear limited-slip differentials and enhanced sport-tuned suspension. There also is Subaru Intelligent Drive, which allows you to select from three driving modes. The driver also can pick how the standard Subaru all-wheel drive distributes power. The AWD and the ability to dial in WRX's handling characteristics make for sure-grip cornering and, with all that power, an exciting experience. In city driving, the ride can be stiff and you won't be able to fully appreciate all the car's potential. One other complaint: Peter felt some turbo lag in the lower RPM range.
Interior: The WRX shows its age here. Some of the controls and surfaces, especially the AC dials, feel plastic-y and cheap. The well-bolstered performance seats have embroidered WRX logos and red stitching. The dash design is attractive, with a sweeping arc above the glove box. The driver's display, with the tach front and center, features sharp gauges that glow red with white needles. The controls on the three-spoke steering wheel are well-positioned and easy to use, but that's where the user friendliness ends for us. The navigation and audio controls are confusing, which isn't helped by the too-small 6.1-inch display. Peter couldn't get his phone to synch. There is a handy gadget "tray" at the bottom of the center console.
Our 3 favorites
Color: I'd pick the Satin Pearl White over the look-at-me colors.
Wheels: The nine-spoke alloys have an after-market look.
Scoop: It gives the hood a menacing look.
Ride: Great acceleration and handling. Lots of fun.
Safety: Solid, even in a rainstorm. Thanks, AWD.
Seats: Performance seat keeps you in place.
The bottom line: For 2014, the WRX pricing is going up a tick. If you're set on one, get the 2013. The WRX, especially in its STI Limited trim, delivers performance, but given its competition, we expect to see a redesign soon.