Out of all the exciting vehicle launches this year, the 2015 Subaru WRX is the one that I was most anticipating. It’s not the fastest, nor is it the prettiest, but for some inexplicable reason, I have a major car crush on the new WRX. The previous generation STi Tsurugi Edition was unanimously the choice vehicle for a daily driver across our entire team. When I was asked to come out to a particularly unique track day experience with our friends over at Subaru, I couldn’t contain my excitement for the month leading up to the event.
Subaru has always been a little different than the rest. It’s this uniqueness that separates their cars from the plethora of beige vehicles on Canadian roads today. Perhaps it’s this same uniqueness that attributes to the fact that 96.2% of Subarus sold in Canada over the past 10 years are still on the road today. The compact Impreza is the only car in its class with available all-wheel-drive (and it’s standard across the lineup!), and same goes for the midsize Legacy. These cars are exactly what our market needs up here in the Great White North, and this company knows how to do it right.
I was invited to the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park outside of Toronto to experience the all-new 2015 WRX and WRX STi. Typically these launch events cater specifically to the media, but as I said, Subaru likes to do things in their own unique way. Along with a few members of the media, this event welcomed some members from local Subaru clubs – previous and current owners and enthusiasts. All of these guys and girls have one thing in common – they are all hardcore, proper Subaru guys. They live and abide by the flat-four engine, and who better to critique and appreciate the new car than these fans?
After a short presentation on the engineering developments of the car, we were led onto the track to appreciate the beauty of the new cars. We were given hot laps, slaloms, a figure-8 skidpad, and a proper road drive with all o the cars. Another unique point is that Subaru brought out 2014 models to compare with the new 2015s to do a back-to-back, something I have yet to see from another manufacturer. The new 2015 Subaru WRX is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged flat-four. It puts out 268 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, and 258 lb-ft of torque available between 2,500 and 5,000 rpm. A new six-speed manual replaces the five-speed in the old car, but most important is the addition of a Sport Lineartronic CVT as an option.
While enthusiasts like myself typically cringe at the thought of an automatic transmission in what is considered to be a proper purist’s car, the new Sport Lineartronic isn’t all that bad at all. I set the Si-Drive indicator to “Sport-Sharp”, identified by the “S#” symbol, and went on my way. Much like the engine in the new Forester XT, there is boost from the turbocharger all day long. The new transmission is capable of simulating 6- and 8-speed gear ratios, and doesn’t really feel like a CVT. I’ll go as far as to say this is the best CVT in the business, but I’ll stick with the three-pedal model for a real WRX driving experience.
Last year when I drove the outgoing car, I said that the WRX was the sweet spot in the lineup, and I expected the same to be the case with the new car. However, five minutes behind the wheel of the new WRX STi and I was swayed. The STi is the halo car in the WRX line and sports the 2.5L turbocharged engine – 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. Yes, it only sounds slightly higher than the regular WRX, but this thing is an absolute animal. The STi is available in 6-speed manual guise only, exactly how it should be. It’s absolutely lovely and it’d be my pick every day of the week. The turbocharger kicks in smoothly and loudly, and the flat-four sounds epic. (Note: My ears perk up every time I hear the unmistakable exhaust note of a late-model WRX or STi). A nicely-equipped STi with the Sport Package can be had for just over $40,000, whereas the base STi starts at just over $37,000.
Refinement never used to be a priority as it relates to these cars, and I’ve always maintained that they aren’t for everyone. However, the suspension upgrades, the steering, the shifter/clutch feel, and the seats have all been improved to make the 2015 WRX and WRX STi feel easier to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Subaru has paid attention to the interior too – the new steering wheel is a bit smaller in diameter and feels much better. Sport-Tech trim levels are now available with Harman-Kardon 9-speaker audio system with a subwoofer, which actually sounds pretty good.
The biggest surprise for me as it relates to the new WRX line is the pricing – the base WRX starts at $29,995 with the 6-speed manual transmission. I personally would opt for a higher trim level because I like conveniences such as a sunroof, a nicer stereo (although you don’t really need a stereo with the sound of a flat-four), and other gizmos. The fact of the matter is, you can now get a WRX for under $30,000, and that’s a feat in itself. My full impressions will have to wait until I actually have extended seat time with the car, but at the price point I don’t think there’s anything on the market that can even come close to touching it.
First Drive: 2015 Subaru WRX & WRX STi