Take a 2.0L flat “boxer” four, strap on a hair dryer, wrap it in some slinky and edgy sheetmetal, throw in all wheel drive and you have the latest iteration of Subaru’s legendary WRX. The 2014 model is, currently, available in sedan only, a return to the days before the hatch was also available in showrooms. It’s a return to form as well, with the previous model or two somewhat disappointing purists, saying the WRX, popularly and legendarily known as the Rex, had gone soft. A Wheel Thing back to back tests the Entry (for want of a better name) manual against the auto Premium and finds that both have equally attractive qualities for drivers with two and three legs.
It’s a high revving, high spirited boxer engine; Subaru’s well proven version of their horizontal four works well and provides some serious oomph once the turbo is on song. Peak power is 197kW (5600 revs) whilst torque is table top flat at 350Nm from 2400 to 5400 revs, meshing nicely with that peak power. There’s a choice of six speed manual or six speed/eight speed CVT….Confused? I’ll explain later. The 2.0L dynamo drinks 95RON from a 60 litre tank and, with some 500km covered in both in predominantly suburban running, average a sniff over 9.0L per 100 kilometres, for a car that weighs 1429kg (manual)/1487kg (CVT) dry.
The manual is a close ratio setup, with a comfortably light clutch, whilst the lever has a short, if somewhat rattly sounding throw. The Premium came with Subaru’s SI (Subaru Intelligent) Drive system, a computer program that offers three different driving modes. There’s Intelligent, Sport and SportSharp, with each providing their own unique styles plus, in the case of the CVT, gives you the choice of either six or eight (SportsSharp) preprogrammed shift points. A safety lockout is in place with the SI Drive, not allowing full noise to be dialled in until the engine is up to temperature. At the rear, there’s a subtle, muted boxer throb under idle.
Subaru have employed the straight edge with the 2015 model, there’s few real curves to see apart from the wheel arches, filled by 17 inch black coated alloys which are wrapped in super sticky Dunlop SportMaxx 235/45 rubber. LED tail lights stand out against the front end’s driving lights pushed out to the bottom corners of the bumper, whilst almost neon style DRLs wrap the piercing blue/white headlamps. The front guards have vents just ahead of the door hinge and WRX badges inserted as well, blending nicely into the crease line that starts at the angular headlight assembly. Bisecting these is the intake scoop, subtly menacing the rear vision mirror of any car ahead. The boot has a subtle spoiler, sitting above the blacked out valance and quad, chromed exhaust tips. Somewhat surprisingly, not seen at either end are parking sensors, an unusual ommission. It’s a more angular, aggressive design, reasserting the WRX’s stance as a car for drivers. It’s also a compact design, with length at 4595 mm, height 1475mm and 1795mm in total width. It’s a cab rearward design, with the long, sloping snout and pert rear in profile.
On The Inside.
Of immediate note is the centre console; where one would expect to be able to sit in and have a storage locker at elbow height, it’s not, it’s down low and not entirely useful for holding anything apart from the now obligatory USB/3.5mm auxiliary socket. It needs to be taller by at least three inches. Given the compact exterior dimensions of the WRX, it’s no surprise the interior is a touch snug for five, but ok for four…the Entry is loaded with cloth seats, the Premium with electric driver’s seat and leather plus also gives passengers access to the skies via a sunroof. There’s a 60/40 split fold seat providing storage space of 460L and a fully carpet lined boot. The plastics are soft touch on the dash and doors whilst the audio systems get faux carbon fibre surrounds.
Seats are comfy, supportive, not unexpectedly, with the manual adjustment in the Entry just a tad fiddly to get the right position. On entry the driver is greeted with two LCD screens(dash and upper centre) lighting up in welcome, before the driver starts by inserting the key (Entry) or pressing Start (Premium) with the info screens offering a range of information whilst the tacho and speedo zing round before settling back into working positions. The dash dials themselves are red backlit and ergonomically engineered by having every thing (oil, fuel etc) with a circular constraint. There’s steering wheel (D-shaped, at that) mounted buttons to change info on the driver’s screen, whilst mounted just above the hazard flasher button is a small button to give you turbo boost, instant and average fuel usage and more. Below that, in the Entry, is a single CD radio however the Premium gets a touchscreen navitainment unit, with Harman Kardon speakers. The Entry’s sound quality was subpar, even with the adjustments for treble, midrange and audio moved up, lacking depth and punch.
On The Road.
Being fortunate to roll from the Entry to the Premium gave rise to a question: was there a difference in suspension and steering settings between the two? There is, suspension wise: the CVT version of the Rex has different front and rear dampers and front springs compared to the manual however steering rack ratios are identical. The manual is thought quick in its steering response compared to the auto, perhaps the different front suspension softened the response enough to have the steering feel as if the ratio was different. The auto was, as a result, noticeably less jiggly, less bouncy, more absorbent and supple than the manual, adding weight to the Premium nameplate. The clutch and pickup point in the manual is well matched to the shifter’s throw, allowing for reasonably seamless gear changes and the accompanying acceleration. The CVT works hand in hand with the SI Drive system, with that torque on tap and staying with you through the rev range providing numbers on the speedo within seconds that public roads would shrink from, it’s a constant push in the back as the boost and ‘box hold hands to provide a seemingly space shuttle like launch experience. There’s a subtle, manual like, lurch forward on gear change under hard acceleration, otherwise, around town the auto’s a doddle with the manual only mildly less so. There’s oodles of grip from the Dunlops, but also plenty of road noise on coarse chip surfaces. The asymmetric tread holds on like a child to a lolly and pumps water, allowing a confident driver to surefoot their way through turns with a bit of moisture. Kept on boost in fourth around town also makes for a smooth drive, allowing overtaking and acceleration at the flex of an ankle. The manual comes with a 50:50 split centre diff whilst the auto can go to a 41:59 mix, sending grip when required.
By heading over to http://www.subaru.com.au/wrx-and-wrx-sti/specs you can get the info about the two cars, including pricing. From $43K driveaway upwards, there’s value for money, for the right market buyers. The Entry is definitely for those that prefer to be more involved in the driving experience, it’s more hard edged and has a belly full of fire for those that tempt the dragon. The Premium, with leather, satnav, that wonderful CVT and the choice of three driving modes, is ticking the box for those that like their steak medium to well but with habenero sauce. The get up and go from both proves that there’s no dinosaurs in the shape of the Rex. For A Wheel Thing, the ideal mix might be the manual with the Premium interior…..oh, wait, there is something like that, it’s called the WRX STi.
Vehicle: Subaru WRX.
Engine: 2.0L flat four (boxer).
Power: 197kW @ 5600rpm.
Torque: 350Nm from 2400 to 5200rpm.
Transmission: six speed manual. CVT with preprogrammed six/eight speed (SI Drive dependent).
Acceleration: 6/6.3 seconds, manual/auto.
Fuel consumption: manual-9.2/12.8/7.1L per 100 km. Auto-8.6/11.9/6.7L per 100 km (combined/urban/highway).
Emissions: Euro5 compliant, 213/199 grams/km (manual/auto).
Wheels/tyres: Dunlop SportMaxx 235/45/17inch.
Dimensions (L x W x H): 4595 x 1475 x 1795mm.
Wheelbase/Track: 2650mm, 1530/1540mm.
Weight: 1429/1487 kg (dry, manual/auto).
Price: check website for driveaway pricing in your state.