2019 subaru WRX raiu edi­tion

Are the spe­cial paint and STI bits worth the price pre­mium over the stan­dard Subaru WRX?

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - FRONT PAGE - PETER BLEAKNEY DRIV­ING.CA

As ve­hi­cles near the end of the their life cy­cles, it’s not un­com­mon for man­u­fac­tur­ers to re­lease spe­cial-edi­tion ver­sions, es­pe­cially for the per­for­mance crowd. The Subaru WRX (and STI) are in­deed bona fide per­for­mance icons, trad­ing on a long his­tory of rally and street fight­ing. And yes, this pair are mighty long in the tooth. While an all-new Impreza, us­ing Subaru’s fresh global plat­form ar­chi­tec­ture, was launched in 2017, the WRX and STI still roll on the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion Impreza’s ar­chi­tec­ture.

So, to help keep in­ter­est alive, here comes the 2019 Subaru WRX Raiu Edi­tion, a lim­ited-edi­tion model of which we Cana­di­ans are only get­ting 100. “Raiu” is Ja­panese for thun­der­storm, so what do we have brew­ing here? Well, if you’re look­ing for more per­for­mance, you’ll be dis­ap­pointed; this is mostly a trim pack­age. Still, it’s enough to makes this highly spir­ited sedan that much more in­trigu­ing.

Es­sen­tially, we have the top-spec WRX Sport-Tech RS with some in­ter­est­ing up­grades, in­clud­ing 18-inch gun­metal al­loy wheels, an STI front split­ter and side skirts, a trunk lip spoiler, an STI short-throw shifter, a spe­cial black in­te­rior and Cool Grey Khaki paint. It’s a hand­some piece, gar­ner­ing a fair share of looks dur­ing my week be­hind the wheel. Es­pe­cially from the Subaru crowd.

Power comes from the WRX’s tur­bocharged 2.0-litre flat-four, mak­ing 268 horse­power and 258 pound-feet of torque, which is hooked up to a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion. Of course, Subaru’s sym­met­ri­cal AWD gets the power to the ground.

This be­ing the Sport-Tech RS trim, we’re get­ting such good­ies as Re­caro front seats fin­ished in leather with Ul­tra­suede in­serts, a seven-inch touch-screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with GPS nav­i­ga­tion, Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto con­nec­tiv­ity, a Har­man Kar­don au­dio sys­tem, red brake calipers and high-per­for­mance front brake pads.

If you think cars don’t have much char­ac­ter any­more, the Subaru WRX has bags of the stuff — some in the plus ledger and some more in the neg­a­tive. First off, it’s very quick. That tur­bocharged flat-four seems to be punch­ing well above its weight, sling-shot­ting this sedan around with rau­cous ex­u­ber­ance. There are plenty of cars pow­ered by 2.0-L turbo-fours putting out sim­i­lar horse­power and torque fig­ures, but this one goes on an ab­so­lute tear once above 2500 rpm. Its big brother, the WRX STI, isn’t much quicker.

The short-throw shifter is a joy, too. Prob­lem is, driv­ing the WRX Raiu smoothly is a chal­lenge. Fac­tor in surg­ing power once past the lag zone, an abrupt clutch, a shunt­ing driv­e­line and an en­gine that an­noy­ingly hangs on to revs be­tween shifts, and you’ve got a recipe for jerky progress un­til you’re up to speed. You can’t hurry the one-two shift; wait for those revs to drop, or you’ll look like a com­plete hack. This car re­quires con­cen­tra­tion and a re­cal­i­bra­tion of your driv­ing style to get right. It may be quirky, en­dear­ing, or just plain an­noy­ing. Your call.

The ride is stiff-legged and noisy, but few sedans have an ap­petite for back-road fun like this one. The WRX cor­ners flat with unerring poise, and the steer­ing is ac­cu­rate and well weighted. Clever AWD drive and brake-based torque vec­tor­ing are in your cor­ner at all times. Lots of grip from those P245/40R18 Dun­lop Sport Maxx gum­balls, too. Fac­tor in ped­als set up nicely for hee­land-toe shift­ing action, along with strong brakes, and you have a recipe for ma­jor grins.

Only for the driver, though. A fam­ily sedan the Raiu is not; it’s high on edgy per­for­mance and low on ci­vil­ity. Its roomy back seat and com­modi­ous trunk will make sell­ing the prospect of own­er­ship that much eas­ier, and while the Re­caro seats look cool, they have hard and flat cush­ions. The in­te­rior is typ­i­cal older-school Subaru: lots of hard plas­tics, so-so styling and a mish­mash of fonts and colours on the dis­plays.

The Har­man Kar­don au­dio is noth­ing to write home about, ei­ther. Subaru’s new, seven-inch touchscreen dis­play has been grafted into this old dash, which is a good thing be­cause it’s bright, fast and in­tu­itive.

While the Raiu gets a blind-spot mon­i­tor and rear cross-traf­fic alert, it’s not avail­able with Subaru’s com­pre­hen­sive Eye­Sight safety suite. And I did no­tice a few squeaks and rat­tles in the cabin of this brand­new sedan. At $40,995, you’re pay­ing $2,000 over the price of the stan­dard WRX Sport-Tech RS for the Raiu pack­age.

PETER BLEAKNEY/DRIV­ING

2019 Subaru WRX Raiu Edi­tion.

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