2019 subaru WRX raiu edition
Are the special paint and STI bits worth the price premium over the standard Subaru WRX?
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.
2019 Subaru WRX Raiu Edition.