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July 1, 2009 > Auto Review: Subaru WRX

Auto Review: Subaru WRX

This week we have a "two-for-one" report. The main test car was Subaru's Impreza WRX. The Impreza was reengineered and all-new for the 2008 model year. For 2009, Subaru put WRX through the "Kyo-Ka" (Japanese for strengthening) process to provide even higher levels of engine and chassis performance. Then, on a business trip, my rental car was a 2008 Impreza 2.5i with the base drive train, so I had the chance to compare them back-to-back.

The 2009 WRX's turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter Boxer engine gets 41 more ponies (265 HP total) than last year's WRX. Torque also increased to 244 lb-ft all as a result of the addition of a larger turbocharger, the same size as in the "top of the line" STI model. In addition, a larger diameter exhaust system and a new low-density catalytic converter combine to reduce exhaust backpressure by 30 percent.

A 5-speed manual transmission is the only one available on the WRX.

To help drivers who don't normally drive a manual transmission car, Subaru added Incline Start Assist. When starting off on an incline, such as at a stoplight, the brake remains on for approximately one second after the driver removes his/her foot from the brake pedal. This feature helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards without requiring the driver to negotiate the complicated movement of controlling the accelerator, handbrake lever and clutch. The WRX's clutch pedal is much stiffer than the one found in most cars.

WRX's interior is attractive. Seats have carbon black checkered upholstery with red stitching and red embroidered WRX logo. They are comfortable and very supportive. The steering wheel is leather wrapped with red stitching. Back seat room is good for normal sized adults but tall people will feel scrunched.

All Imprezas get Subaru's famous Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system that uses a viscous coupling locking center differential to split the power 50:50 between the front and rear wheels. It is a true, full-time AWD system and will automatically transfer power to the wheels with the best grip. This system makes the Imprezas great cars in the snow or slippery conditions.

Both 4-door and a 5-door Impreza models are available; the 5-door version has a rear hatch instead of a regular trunk. Personally I like the styling of the 5-door version.

Standard Impreza safety features include Vehicle Dynamics Control, Ring Shaped Frame Reinforced body structure to provide good occupant protection, Subaru Advanced Airbag System, side curtain air bags, front seat side-impact air bags and a 4-channel / 4-sensor anti-lock brake system with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist.

EPA estimates are 20/27 for the base Impreza and 18/25 for the WRX. Prices start at $17,495 for the base model with the WRX starting out at $24,995.

The WRX had a very good navigation system that is easy to use and a map that is easier to read than most I have seen. There is also an emergency button that can quickly locate hospitals or police stations if you need them.

Compared to the base Impreza, WRX was much more fun to drive due to its 95 additional horsepower. It has some turbo lag but not enough to really cause problems. WRX's acceleration is great with the base car getting an "OK" rating. The WRX suspension has been re-tuned with higher rate springs, larger diameter stabilizer bars and dedicated damping force tuning for sharper handling response. These improvements really make the car fun to drive on twisty roads. The ride is also smooth so long trips would not be tough. Great brakes that are firm and fade resistant complete the package and make the WRX a very cost effective sports sedan.

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