Ca­per to the Cape

Subaru WRX Hy­per Blue

NZ Autocar - - Contents - Words Kyle Cas­sidy Pho­tos Tom Gas­nier

With the keys to a Hy­per Blue WRX in our pos­ses­sion and sunny skies over­head, we took a lit­tle road trip to Cape Colville.

The sum­mer hol­i­day months present the best op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­plore a few of the more in­ter­est­ing coast roads about the place but it’s also when they are the choked up with va­ca­tion­ers. Es­pe­cially the roads around the Coro­man­del Penin­sula. On a quiet work­ing week­day how­ever, they are some of the best with very few straights and plenty of cor­ners to un­wind.

We hap­pened to have the lim­ited edi­tion Hy­per Blue WRX on loan on a rel­a­tively quiet week at NZ Au­to­car tow­ers, and with a big high in the forecast, we thought a pre-hol­i­day sea­son roadie was a good way to start the sum­mer vibe. So we headed south east to the penin­sula, and made for the top, fol­low­ing the shores of the Firth of Thames. The po­hutukawa-lined trail winds its way north as the Firth turns from brown to bluey green and the fish must have been bit­ing given the scores of Ful­ton Ho­gan and PGG Wright­son utes parked up with empty boat trail­ers all the way up the coast. Good work if you can get it. Fur­ther up, the roads get more in­ter­est­ing, es­pe­cially over the hill to­wards Coro­man­del town. The penin­sula has much more to of­fer than the usual hot spots on the east­ern side, and fur­ther north of Coro­man­del is spec­tac­u­lar, es­pe­cially on a jan­dal and shorts type of day. What amazes on roads like th­ese are the driv­ers trav­el­ling along hap­pily at a dreary 60km/h and yet they still can’t man­age to keep left, drift­ing in and out of their lane, cut­ting cor­ners. Look in your rearview mir­ror peo­ple, though most seem trans­fixed by the scenery.

Our jour­ney took us up Colville Road, it­self an­other of in­ter­est with plenty of cor­ners to con­sume, which ter­mi­nates at the in­ter­sec­tion of Port Jackson and Port Charles roads, and we took a left onto the for­mer. From here the tarseal ends and its gravel all the way as we head to­ward Otautu Bay and then wind along the coast. The out­look is truly spec­tac­u­lar and the road is in good shape, but in places not much wider than the prover­bial goat track, so not one to cut loose on. It winds its way past Fan­tail and Goat Bay, even­tu­ally

A key at­tribute of the WRX is its abil­ity to make its power stick while rid­ing the bumps along the way, per­fect over ter­rain like this

ar­riv­ing at Port Jackson it­self, home to a well used DOC camp site right on the beach. From there it’s along to Fletcher’s Bay and the end of the road. The north­ern­most point of the penin­sula is about half­way be­tween Port Jackson and Fletcher’s, about where we stopped to break out the Ther­mos, take some pho­tos and watch the gan­nets pa­trol the wa­ters. If you’re not afraid to rough it, the DOC camp­ground at Port Jackson is just $10 a night per adult and $5 for kids. The on­line book­ing form on the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion web­site makes it all pretty easy too. The Muri­wai coastal walk sets off from the beach around the head­land, but oth­er­wise there’s not much to do but sit back and enjoy the seren­ity. And maybe catch a few fish off the rocks.

As far as our steed for the day was con­cerned, the WRX is bred for this stuff. A key at­tribute of the WRX is its abil­ity to make its power stick while rid­ing the bumps along the way, per­fect over ter­rain like this. It’s a sports sedan so the ride isn’t SUV plush but it comes right at open road speeds. And there’s enough sus­pen­sion travel too, only one jolt along the way man­ag­ing to tickle the bump stop. The steer­ing in­ter­ac­tion and the front end re­sponse is some­thing on the WRX; it dives into bends for what is es­sen­tially a front-heavy set-up. With per­ma­nent AWD and the abil­ity to shunt more drive to the rear on a cor­ner exit, it fires its way out of the turns as you gas it early on the cor­ner exit while you un­wind the steer­ing. Help­ing the cause is the brake-ac­ti­vated torque vec­tor­ing, keep­ing the cor­ner­ing line tight by nip­ping the in­side front wheel if you’re push­ing on a lit­tle too hard. While the WRX never seems to run out of grip, the stop­pers can get warm on de­mand­ing roads like th­ese with both the de­mands of the brake pedal and the torque vec­tor­ing sys­tem to con­tend with.

The hy­per blue ma­chine came with the ‘SLT’ CVT as that’s what ev­ery­one is buy­ing. We don’t

ac­tu­ally mind the CVT ei­ther. Ac­cess the Sport Sharp drive mode, work the throt­tle hard and the gear­box re­sponds well. It doesn’t like too much left foot brak­ing though, the safety sys­tem cut­ting in to kill the throt­tle if you ap­ply it be­fore you are fully off the brakes, but then th­ese things are sold in the US so have to be mo­ron-proof. The WRX’s 2.0-litre direct in­jec­tion flat four needs a good 3000rpm wound in be­fore it really gets go­ing, but then the full 350Nm of torque is well and truly twist­ing and as it starts to spin fur­ther past 5000rpm, the 197kW power peak is nicely formed and the CVT keeps the en­gine right in this go zone, with lit­tle need to flick the shift pad­dles. Th­ese do come in handy for quick cruis­ing though. We liked the throt­tle tune in Sports Sharp mode, but the gear­box is in­tent on keep­ing revs high and so man­ual shift­ing lets you ac­cess a taller ra­tio to keep the gas guz­zling in check. The WRX likes to swill if you let it, and with gas sta­tions few and far be­tween up the penin­sula, it helps ex­tend the tour­ing range. The CVT doesn’t de­liver a rip roar­ing launch from a stand­still, but there’s a no­tice­able torque surge as the nee­dle sweeps past 3000rpm which makes it feel right frisky around town. The only other CVT bug­bear is its oc­ca­sional re­luc­tance to im­me­di­ately hook re­verse gear when shift­ing it from D.

As for noise, there’s some road roar over cer­tain sur­faces, but not much in the way of a me­chan­i­cal melody with just a hint of turbo in­duc­tion. The BRZ has a sound en­hancer, and this could do with one as well to im­part some more char­ac­ter.

The WRX was our per­for­mance car of the year in 2015, and it hap­pened to top my score card on the day of test­ing. One year on, it’s still one of my per­sonal favourites, even in auto guise.

A lit­tle bit of hy­per blue makes it to the in­side too with de­tail stitch­ing

on seats, gear­lever and wheel.

Af­ter lots of tar­mac cor­ners, it was time to chew through a few grav­elly ones, 26 kilo­me­tres worth. Next time we’ll head east (be­low) to Port Charles and be­yond.

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