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 Impreza sedan, with a massive glovebox, centre console and door pockets.
In the premium model tested, the audio quality was only average from the Harmon Kardon set-up, which in European cars is louder and crisper. The race-car-style flatbottom steering wheel and the soft-touch materials on the dash and doors are welcome improvements, as is the sixspeed manual transmission.
Seven airbags and a strong body structure ensure five stars from ANCAP. A rear camera is standard but the display screen is not much bigger than a business card. Rear-parking sensors are a dealer-fit accessory. Subaru has shortchanged us: a rear camera (with a large display screen) and rear parking sensors are standard on a $20,700 Toyota Corolla.
The WRX is not only 200kg heavier than it used to be — 14kg more than the previous model — but it also carries up to 120kg more than the (frontdrive) competition. All-wheeldrive hardware accounts for most of that.
Subaru claims 6.0 secs for the 0-100km/h dash but the best we could extract was a pair of 6.4s, high sixes and low sevens. We’ve achieved 6.0 to 6.1-second times in the European hot hatches — quicker than the official claims. The eight-speed CVT auto is a surprise package. It is 0.5 secs slower in the 0-100km/h dash than the manual, and a bit of a drone at suburban speeds, but is significantly quicker and more responsive once on the move, particularly coming out of corners.
In “sport sharp” mode, the CVT holds one of eight pre-set ratios that keep the turbo on boost. In this respect, it’s a revelation.
There are handling benefits from the AWD and limited-slip rear differential, particularly in slippery conditions. Rivals with sophisticated stability control electronics and/or mechanical limited-slip differentials are just as capable of clambering out of tight corners.
The WRX rides well over bumps and thumps, due in part to the relatively tall tyre profile on the 17-inch wheels (the fitment since 2000, and they still look way too small for the car). Rivals have moved on to 18- and 19-inchers.
There is also room for improvement in the brakes, which have a wooden feel even though Subaru says they have a “140 per cent reduction in fade resistance” (the maker’s maths, not ours) thanks to a “highresponse brake booster”.
In our opinion the brakes aren’t as good as the 2006 WRX, which had four-piston calipers clamping the front discs on a car that’s lighter than today’s. The discs on the 2014 WRX are slightly larger (from PRICE From $38,990 plus on-road costs WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km CAPPED SERVICING No SERVICE INTERVAL 6 months/12,500km RESALE VALUE 55 per cent SAFETY 5 stars ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 197kW/350Nm TRANSMISSION 6speed man, 8-speed CVT automatic THIRST 9.2L/100km (8.0L auto), 95 RON DIMENSIONS 4.6m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.5m (H) WEIGHT 1469kg SPARE Space-saver
294mm x 24mm to 315mm x 30mm front) but they are clamped only by a “floating” caliper — as used in taxis.
Then there’s the engine. Subaru’s graphs indicate the 2.0 has a broader spread of power than the 2.5. Yet there’s noticeable lag below 2500rpm and the engine has an asthma attack at about 5500rpm, leaving a relatively narrow power band.
The test car also had a subtle pause in power at about 4500rpm, which was easy to replicate but difficult to explain. Perhaps it was a turbo boost pressure change.
After 20 years of substandard five-speed manuals, Subaru has finally turned out a slick-shifting sixspeeder — a good thing, because you’ll be keen to change gears to savour the exhaust note.
The Subaru “boxer” engine’s exhaust burble is back, not a moment too soon.
The WRX finally has its character back. Its legions of loyal fans will no doubt be delighted. Now if Subaru steps up to the design challenge, it might just have a car to take on the Europeans. The new WRX is a big step up for Subaru — but doesn’t do enough to reclaim the ground lost to the $40,000 European performance cars. It’s still the world’s best‒handling hot hatch. A high price and a bland interior (with the exception of the Recaro seats) mark it down PRICE ENGINE THIRST THE LOWDOWN The best all-rounder. Hot hatch king for the past decade, it’s effectively taken over the WRX market