If you're familiar with how WRXs of the past have driven, some things you may have thought about the handling (suspension/chassis) may be, "Wow, this car is fast, but it's kinda soft and the steering needs a lot of input..." Those days are long gone with the current-gen.
A stiffer chassis and considerably updated suspension & geometry has turned the vehicle from something a bit more sedate into a lean, mean, daily-drivable handling machine. You'll notice right off the bat that this car is pretty darn stiff over bumps -- talking a pretty firm jolt through the car on bumpers, but the dampeners do an excellent job of making it a one-bounce affair). But wow! The new WRX turns in with sharp response, maintaining good composure mid-corner to rocket out of there. It does not push/understeer as badly as it used to (it still does if you're being silly though!) and will go around corners at speeds you might not have thought was possible. Very confidence-inspiring -- it'll make you feel like a hero!
Driving position & visibility
Subarus have always had great visibility and an upright seating position that further bolsters this -- the more you see, the safer you can drive! The seating position is less upright like previous generation WRXs and is more sporty due to the rake change in the bottom seat cushion (it points up more at the dashboard rather than parallel with the ground); however, it still retains a higher seating position to offer superior visibility.
All the windows are big and expansive (ESPECIALLY the windshield!), with an added bonus of glass in the front windows in front of the mirrors (normally where other cars mount their side view mirrors). Side mirrors are not dainty either - they have some substance and surface area so you have a better view on some of the things going on your sides.
If you live anywhere it snows (almost anywhere in the northern U.S.), you'll know that trying to buy any Subaru used at a reasonable mileage and price is almost impossible. The depreciation on Subarus, especially the WRX, is fantastic if you become the lucky owner of one. WRXs are a hot commodity for drivers looking for a do-all, year-round kind of car that's still fun to drive and looks pretty darn sporty - and the market prices reflect the demand! While Subarus do offer a premium price tag vs. a comparable car from another manufacturer (mostly due to AWD), if you can afford to buy one, you will get more money back by the time you sell/trade it in vs. the comparable car. Why is that? Everyone wants a Subaru!
It would not be uncommon to see a dealer selling a current-gen WRX with X,000 miles on the odometer for nearly the same price of a brand new one of the same trim-level!
Rear seat room & comfort
Anyone whose owned a previous-gen WRX knows rear seat space, especially leg room, as "OK" at best. Subaru has revised the rear seats to where there is now more leg room for the lucky passengers in the rear. With the driver seat adjusted to how I sit (I'm 6-feet tall and have a more upright seating position), there is about 1.5 inches of space between my knees and the driver seat back (vs. no space on the previous gen!). Comfort is pretty good, although the seats take on more of a lean on the seat back, which may/may not jive well with your passengers backs.
Powertrain performance was put last in the pros list for a few reasons -- which I'll touch on later in the cons section as well.
If you're looking for a daily driver with power in all the right places -- look no further! Power comes on strong from ~2200 rpm to about 4500 rpm, right where most people will be driving on a daily basis. Plenty of passing power without having to really wind out the engine. A low-mid range torque grunt is the best way to describe its power delivery. A wonderful powerband for those who don't want to really let the engine rev out. Up high; however, not so much -- more on this later.
Clutch/transmission is pretty darn good compared to the previous generations. Clutch has a nice grab point and an almost aftermarket-like engagement, transmission is (with the optional STI short throw shifter) much more notchy and certain with how the gears engage -- both have some little quirks/qualms that come in the cons section.
Before continuing on, understand that I'm particular about power delivery/driving feel (especially at this price point vs. comparable cars) -- my perspective may not be applicable to you.
On to the meat and potatoes of the WRX -- the powertrain performance. When you buy a WRX, chances are good you know you're paying for the powertrain first and everything else second (but more of a close second rather than like an STI where powertrain reigns supreme over all else). What really makes the WRX, ends up being just short of what I expected.
Modern cars tend to have a bit more linearity in the small-displacement, turbocharged engine category -- they usually give a nice wallop down low to mid-range and then gradually die off up top. The transmission/clutch action is also pretty light and easy to manage. This is where the WRX starts to show its lack of polish, as pointed out below:
Some of these things may need to be explained further in a message if you're interested!
- Lacks linearity across the whole range --Huge wallop of power from 2200 RPM to 4500 RPM -- very noticeable/abrupt dip in torque from 4500 RPM to 5500 RPM, slight pick up after 5500 RPM, and then gives up the ghost by 6200 RPM -- short of its 6700 RPM redline. This means that down low, where most people will drive, it really is a fun, quick car and puts power where it matters; but, up high, it falls flat on its face.
- Transmission is pretty darn clunky and chunky to use (especially if you're used to, say, a Mazda or Honda transmission) -- it's notchy enough to let you know you're in gear, but there is quite a lot of slop/play when in gear, the feel is pretty numb, it is pretty easy to hit the 3/5 shift gate wall while going from 2nd to 3rd. This is NOT a transmission you can hustle and shift lightning fast -- common complain is a mean shudder/judder if you release the clutch too fast shifting to 2nd gear.
- Clutch is very particular in how you drive it. If you're used to light, non-aggressive take up with a pretty wide range of leniency when you fudge up, this'll make you feel like you're a novice at driving stick again. Clutch has a fairly stiff spring, the engagement point can be hard to find (numb feel), and you need to hold the clutch at the grabbing point a little longer than some other vehicles (lots of moving drivetrain parts because of AWD necessitates this). I would not recommend this car for a driver new to stick shift due to the drivetrain'sbehavior and characteristics.
Materials & workmanship
If you're looking at the WRX thinking, "Oh wow, the interior looks much better! Must be a nicer place to be compared to the old ones!," you would be correct -- it IS a much nicer interior than the previous generations. However, the interior fit & finish really leave something to be desired still.
While the materials are much nicer and more visually appealing than before, not even 1,000 miles in, I was already having 3-4 rattles/squeaks going on around the car that's been exacerbated by the cold weather. There is a squeak between the dashboard and windshield at highway speeds, the sunroof mechanism rattles over bumps, there is a mysterious rattle around the dome light that comes and goes, the rear deck cover shakes and vibrates (mostly due to the third brake light), and there's a squeak somewhere around the right-rear strut over medium-speed bumps. And it is commonly acknowledged by the Subaru community as "It's just a Subaru thing." It does not bother me but for someone expecting a nice, refined interior like the VW GTI, you will be sorely disappointed.
All the gloss/shiny trim pieces WILL collect dust/fingerprints easily (all around the head unit, the carbon trim, around the A/C controls). The center console hood is a very cheap plastic that can become super rattle-y in colder months -- replaced mine with a leather hood from the Japanese model.
Audio & nav systems
If you don't get the Harmon Kardon package with the 7.0" screen, you will be absolutely disappointed in the audio system. The 6.2" head unit does not push out enough power to really satisfy any audiophile -- being "OK" at best. While considerably better than WRX units of the past, the whole range could use an upgrade (and maybe they put in subpar speakers to make you opt for the optional Kicker ones...!).
Touchscreen is fairly responsive, but the head unit is slow to start (Bluetooth takes about 1-2 minutes before it connects on start-up). Head unit also contains some apps (Aha!, Pandora, Starlink) that are all OK at best. Wish it came with Android Auto at the time.
- Bass is there (and is the stronger suit of the system, although still not great) and noticeable, but it lacks some fullness to the experience
- Midrange is pretty muddy, no matter what you do with the equalizer and sound settings
- Treble is absolutely awful on the stock tweeters -- this is the only part I would recommend an owner to change out immediately to make the audio system much more live-able
Statistically speaking, the WRX is one of the most expensive, sub-$30k car to be insured to someone under 25 (AWD, fast, manual, racing stigma, boy-racer looks) -- and it really shows when you get a quote from your insurance agent.
While I do have many policies tied to the insurance agency I use, if I was to only insure the vehicle, my insurance would go from $600 every 6 months for an '07 Mazda3 right on up to $1,900 every 6 months -- and that's best case scenario! It is not uncommon for under 25 drivers to pay $400-700/month on a WRX -- so, plan out and thinking VERY carefully about extraneous costs beyond just the purchase of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, with the high demand on WRXs, dealers recognize there is plenty of room to acquire profit on each and every single one (as witnessed by WRXs in and out within a few days). Not only will dealers not budge on the price, I've seen quite a few place a "fair market adjustment" (aka MARK UP) on these vehicles to the tune of $2,500-4,000, depending on location/market. I had to negotiate for 6 hours just to get the vehicle price down to sticker and then it was like pulling tooth to let them budge another $100 off sticker.
Some dealers may just out-right state that you'll get no less than sticker, and a select few, depending on region/area, will start letting you negotiate closer to invoice, but be ready to pull some teeth to get there.
OEM Dunlop Sport Maxx RT tires are pretty darn good at gripping the road, wear fairly slow, and doesn't get questionably squirrelly in rainy conditions; however, they are summer tires and necessitates either all-season tires or a second set of winter tires if you live in the northern parts -- figure in an additional $800-1,000 for this due to the tire size of the Premium trim - up (245/40R18)
For the motorsports enthusiasts, this will handle autocross pretty well, although have a tendency to push/get greasy as the temps rise. May not be the best tire for an avid autocrosser.
Driving at about 200 miles a week to and from work, I get about 24 mpg in mixed driving (25% highway, 75% city) -- which lands squarely in the ballpark of the EPA estimates of 20 city/27 highway.
Uses premium gas as well (do not heed the "recommended" phrase in the owner's manual -- fill this car up with PREMIUM ONLYEXCEPT IN EMERGENCIES-- engine is noticeably sensitive to fuel octane and quality, you do NOT want detonation/knock event in these motors).
Safety & braking
Safety features on the WRX are exceptional, bar-none. Airbags everywhere, IIHS Top Safety Pick+, and EyeSight is really quite amazing with how well it functions. Headlight low-beam output leaves something to really be desired (quite low output, but it's intended to be a long-life bulb -- changed mine within a few weeks of ownership). Brake feel has an initial deadzone, grabs, and then feels soft all the way through - sometimes feels like you're pushing harder but the brakes aren't doing anything -- not very confidence inspiring.
This car is great for the kind of person whose looking for a do-it-all kind of vehicle that can be driven year-round. If you don't mind some of its quirks and are looking for something that is fun, quick, and AWD, look no further! If you're looking for a more luxurious, premium vehicle at a not-so-premium price, this may not be for you.
This Subaru WRX is rough around the edges and isn't ashamed to let you know about them. If you're willing to accept its lack of polish and true refinement, you'll have so much fun, you'll be grinning ear-to-ear in amazement of its limits -- it'll go as far as you're willing to go and then some!