Since it arrived onto North American shores in 2002 the Subaru WRX has been making the case for unadulterated fun, one four-wheel drift at a time. Powered by its turbocharged boxer engine, Subaru’s all-wheel-drive WRC (World Rally Championship) descendant has reliably delivered an enthusiast’s mix of performance and personality. Built for drivers not willing to compromise fun for furnishings, the WRX of yore was an unapologetic punk of a car that didn’t feel the need to deliver amenities like good looks, a quality interior, or manners of any kind. That’s exactly what was so great about it.
Vehicles and our expectations of them however, have changed a lot over the last 13 model years. No longer content to merely juke and jive with the best of them, we now demand our cars have styling, more toys than an only child and soft-touch everything. To keep these newly refined ralliers content in their cockpits, Subaru sent the WRX to finishing school. And, if you ask us, it graduated — with honors.
From twenty yards away our World Rally Blue Pearl 2015 WRX looks as taut as ever. Like a caged cat ready to pounce, the flared fenders and low, wide stance clearly advertise sporting intent. But follow its lines from hood to trunk and this Subaru’s silhouette is also sleek, measured and refined. There’s a teutonic air to this new WRX’s attractive package — the rear-quarter panel could just as easily have called a 3-Series home. Purists and hooligans may quibble that the WRX has lost its quirk, but this new design direction appeals to a much broader audience while still waving its rally flag proudly. The hallmark hood scoop remains, elegantly flanked by creases ripped from 2013’s WRX Concept car that stole our hearts at the New York Auto Show.
Vehicles and our expectations of them however, have changed a lot over the last 13 model years. No longer content to merely juke and jive with the best of them, we now demand our cars have styling, more toys than an only child and soft-touch everything.
The improvements continue when you open the door. Unlike every version before it, this year’s WRX has surfaces here are malleable, soft, and pleasing to the touch. Climate controls on the center stack consist of three dials, backlit in red and wrapped in burled bezels that (were they not plastic) wouldn’t look out of place adorning a high-end dive watch. The AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system is all new as well and features SiriusXM capabilities so you can cue up the Siriusly Sinatra and don your Fedora to class up your hoonery.
Which is exactly what you’ll want to spend your time behind the wheel doing. Power delivery from the turbocharged, 2.0L, dual-overhead-cam four-pot is addictive. With 268 hp and 258 lbs/ft of torque on command, the WRX becomes a World Rally blur almost instantaneously. A minor amount lag under 2,000 rpm serves as just a tease of what’s to come. Pin the throttle, glance at the LCD boost gauge perched above the stereo as it pegs 22.4 psi, and tell your co-driver to hold on to his pace notes. Under heavy acceleration, the sound of the turbo spooling mixes with the exhaust note perfectly. This is automotive THX.
In true WRX fashion, the seats, shifter, steering wheel, pedals and driver positioning is pure magic. The new flat-bottomed tiller is beefy and communicates the road incredibly well. The dead-pedal was too short for us — a protrusion from the firewall had ol’ lefty sitting askew — but the important ones were bang-on, set up perfectly for heel-toe downshifts or around-town cruising. The sport seats sang much the same song: bolstered and supportive, but not over aggressively so. You could log road trip miles in the WRX just as comfortably as in any SUV and have a much bigger smile on your yap when you get where you’re going.
Rowing through the gears — six of them, for the first time in WRX history — is a notchy pleasure. We like the positive feel of mechanicals when we shift and, while the STi and BRZ are more linear and direct, the WRX is barely a step behind. A digital gear indicator appears between the tachometer/speedometer dash, but you’ll never really need it. Even if you’ve blown a shift or hop on the highway up a gear, the strength of the WRX’s engine, coupled with Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system, keeps you planted, moving and grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Our fear was that with all of the cosmetic upgrades Subaru had made to the 2015 WRX its rally-bred performance would be stifled and softened; that, in the pursuit of sales, Subaru would make fun take a backseat to furnishings. We were wrong. The 2015 Subaru WRX is still the benchmark for affordable fun on four wheels — only now you don’t need to sport baggy cargo pants and a hoodie to drive one.