Preach to the cov­eted

The new Subaru WRX is the same as it ever was. That’s mainly good news

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR

IT’S al­most 20 years to the day the orig­i­nal Subaru WRX stormed on to the scene.

An anony­mous-look­ing sedan, it proved an un­likely chal­lenger to the es­tab­lished per­for­mance cars thanks to its light weight, tur­bocharged en­gine and all‒wheel-drive grip.

The $40,000 start­ing price was a bonus (it even lured me) but not ev­ery­one liked to pay for theirs. The WRX quickly be­came the car of choice among ram‒raiders and high-speed crim­i­nals be­cause of its abil­ity to outrun po­lice.

It was the new bad boy on the block and its pop­u­lar­ity soared de­spite — or per­haps be­cause of — its rep­u­ta­tion.

Aus­tralia is the third-big­gest mar­ket for the WRX, with more than 37,600 sold since 1994. In its fourth gen­er­a­tion, the WRX for­mula hasn’t changed: it starts life as a base Im­preza, then Subaru adds the go-fast bits. But has the per­for­mance-car world moved on?


Subaru has wound back the WRX’s price 20 years and shaved off a fur­ther $1000 for good mea­sure, to $38,990 plus on-road costs. (By Subaru’s cal­cu­la­tions, with in­fla­tion, the real cost of the new WRX should equate to $66,000.)

Of course, Subaru isn’t alone — the prices of the Nis­san Pul­sar and Toy­ota Corolla are also at 20-year lows. Send your thank-you note to the Ja­panese govern­ment, which has de­val­ued the yen over the past 12 months to boost car ex­ports.

Nev­er­the­less, $38,990 is a deft move from Subaru, which is well aware the WRX no longer has the mar­ket to it­self. It lim­bos un­der the price of the VW Golf GTI (the undis­puted king of the class for the past decade) and Re­nault Me­gane RS, while it’s only $700 more than the cat­e­gory’s un­sung hero, the Ford Fo­cus ST.

Stan­dard fare in­cludes seven airbags, rear-view cam­era, touch­screen au­dio, dig­i­tal speedo, geek mode that shows you how much g-force the car is pulling, cruise con­trol, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, sports seats and steer­ing wheel, unique front and rear bumpers and, of course, the vented bon­net that feeds air to the turbo en­gine’s in­ter­cooler.

The pre­mium model is less at­trac­tive when lined up again the com­pe­ti­tion.

At $45,990 it gains leather seats (with elec­tric ad­just­ment for the driver), sun­roof, nav­i­ga­tion, push‒but­ton start with sen­sor key and eight­s­peaker pre­mium au­dio.

Au­to­matic trans­mis­sion


re­turns to the WRX for the first time in 10 years, the eight-speed CVT adding $2000.

Subaru doesn’t have fixed­price ser­vic­ing for its rou­tine main­te­nance (due ev­ery 12,500km or six months, whichever comes first). In­stead, a com­pli­cated form on its web­site in­vites cus­tomers to ask for a quote. Subaru is now con­spic­u­ous among the top‒sell­ing brands for its lack of a trans­par­ent pric­ing sched­ule.

At least the WRX’s re­sale value is sound, re­tain­ing 55 per cent of its value (aver­age) af­ter three years ac­cord­ing to Glass’s Guide, as long as it has low kilo­me­tres , no mod­i­fi­ca­tions and im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice records. Af­ter 10 years of a tur­bocharged 2.5‒litre, the new model re­turns to 2.0‒litre turbo power.

The switch to a smaller en­gine is for rea­sons of fuel econ­omy. The new WRX is more ef­fi­cient than be­fore (down to 9.2L/100km) but still nowhere near as ef­fi­cient as the class lead­ers (the Golf GTI, Fo­cus ST and Me­gane RS sip 6.2L‒8.2L/100km).

Now with di­rect in­jec­tion as well as other ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, the 2.0 has frac­tion­ally more out­put — now 197kW and 350Nm — com­pared with the old 2.5. This puts the WRX’s power on a par with the cur­rent crop of hot hatch he­roes but, as we dis­cover, it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late to bet­ter per­for­mance.


Subaru has gone back to ba­sics and ditched plans for a hatch — the WRX is sedan-only for now.

We were teased with a dar­ing sedan styling change at the New York mo­tor show two years ago, when Subaru whipped the cov­ers off the most ex­cit­ing show car to ever come from its de­sign stu­dio.

So there was much ex­cite­ment when the de­signer stand­ing next to the show car told re­porters that el­e­ments of the con­cept ve­hi­cle would make it to the pro­duc­tion ver­sion.

Yet the new WRX is same as it ever was: a turbo en­gine in a rel­a­tively plain pack­age. Cus­tom­ar­ily, pro­duc­tion cars are toned down from the con­cept cars that pre­cede them. This WRX re­de­fines dis­ap­point­ment. Most car com­pa­nies un­der­promise and over-deliver. Here the op­po­site is true.

Slim­mer wind­screen pil­lars, larger glass area and mir­rors mounted on the doors im­prove vi­sion but the dash glares badly into the wind­screen in di­rect sun­light. In­side, the WRX gains the stor­age ben­e­fits of the

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