With a base price of $26,595, the fourth-generation Subaru WRX is a serious performance bargain. You get 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, rally-tuned all-wheel-drive, and handling that rivals many more expensive cars. In fact, for drivers who don’t regularly hit the track, the new WRX even has people rethinking whether or not they should spring for the even-more-extreme WRX STI.
I usually agree that more power is better, and the WRX STI comes with more power, but I have to agree that for on-road driving, the vast majority of drivers are going to be more than happy with a regular WRX. It’s quick, it’s a blast to drive, the steering is excellent, and you would have to be a much better driver than I am to explore the limits of what it can do.
The thing is, though, while a lot has been written about how great of a performance car the WRX is, not as much attention has been paid to how it drives on a day-to-day basis. If you live in the mountains like I used to, then that sort of thing probably doesn’t matter (and it never did to me); but if you’re looking to use it as your daily commuter, intend to take it on road trips, or spend more time driving around town than blasting down dirt roads, it’s entirely understandable that you’re interested how civilized the latest Subaru WRX is.
If that’s the case, the most important thing you need to know is that the WRX is absolutely a performance car. There’s no getting around its sporting intentions, and because of that, if you’re expecting a supple, luxurious ride, you’re going to be disappointed. The WRX’s suspension is stiff.
At the same time though, it doesn’t crash over bumps and potholes. You’ll feel it when you hit one, but the ride isn’t harsh or jarring. As long as you accept that you’re driving a sports sedan, you’ll be fine. Your friends who have never driven anything sportier than a Corolla S might beg to differ, but you shouldn’t listen to those people.
One thing you will have to deal with is the heavy steering. It’s amazing once you get up to speed and really start driving, but at low speeds, it takes some real effort to turn the wheel. If you’ve been lulled into the false belief that all power steering should be as light as humanly possible, you’ll have a problem with this, but it’s also easy to get used to. In a few weeks, I’m sure it will become the new normal for even the daintiest of drivers.
As far as gas mileage goes, you probably won’t do a whole lot better than 20 miles per gallon around town no matter how you drive it. On the highway, though, it won’t be hard to match or beat the WRX’s rating of 27 miles per gallon. It’s far from the most fuel-efficient vehicle on the road, but at the same time, it’s not bad. For the fun it provides when you do get to drive it hard, I say the WRX is worth it, but what counts as acceptable gas mileage varies from person to person.
Assuming you’re not turned off by the thought of getting 27 miles per gallon on the highway, you’ll probably be impressed with how the WRX handles highway driving. I didn’t notice any excessive wind or road noise, and the seats were comfortable enough that I would gladly recommend any WRX owner go ahead and use it for to go on a road trip. If you spring for the top-of-the-line WRX Limited and add the navigation package, you get a car that actually feels pretty luxurious. The materials aren’t quite high enough quality to give the cabin a true luxury-car feel, but compared to previous WRXes, the latest version is definitely made out of higher-quality materials.
Depending on how you option your WRX, there are a surprising number of creature comforts as well. For the purist, a base model with a manual transmission is probably all they’ll want, but for a car that its owners are probably going to use to do everything in, it’s nice to see more options available.
Those available features include adjustable throttle mapping, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, emergency braking, a rear-view camera, keyless entry, push-button start, an upgraded sound system, GPS, a sunroof, leather-trimmed seats, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and Subaru’s STARLINK infotainment system.
Loading up a WRX with all those features might feel unnecessary to purists, but at the same time, drivers who are going to be spending a lot of time in their cars will probably find that their ownership experience is much more enjoyable with some or all of those available creature comforts. Yes, a fully-loaded WRX costs $36,000, but even with $10,000 in options over the base version, you’re still getting a lot of car for your money.
One thing you won’t get, though, is an exceptionally-aggressive exhaust note. It’s a little disappointing not to be able to hear as much of the exhaust while driving, but at the same time, you also don’t have to worry about the drone getting old after a while or annoying your neighbors. Ideally, your neighbors would all love the sound of a sports exhaust, but the reality is that not everyone does. You can still hear the turbocharger, though, which is refreshing.
Finally, the biggest question most buyers are going to have to answer is whether or not to stick with the manual transmission or go with the optional CVT. As a manual-transmission enthusiast, I could never fault anyone for choosing to shift their own gears. That would probably be my choice if I were using my own money for a WRX, but at the same time, the CVT is still quite good. It feels much sharper than early CVTs did, and if you’re looking at the prospect of commuting in your WRX every day, you probably won’t regret the decision not to stick with the manual transmission.
Unlike a lot of hardcore sports sedans, the Subaru WRX is a car you can definitely enjoy using as a daily driver. The level of performance that it offers comes with a few compromises, but none of them are so serious that they legitimately affect the cars drive-ability on a day-to-day basis. If you’re willing to make those accommodations, though, the WRX’s character and performance capabilities will easily convince any enthusiast that their decision was worth it.