By Zach Vlasuk
From its early days as a street-legal rally car to its current role as the poster child of the American boy racer, the Subaru WRX has undergone the most significant overhaul in its 23-year history. Longer, wider, faster, and, above all, more refined than ever, the 2015 Subaru WRX sedan is no longer the wild child of specialty sports cars – and that's a good thing. Of course, the range-topping 2015 Subaru WRX STI has been heavily updated as well to satisfy the needs of hardcore performance types. Available in sedan body styles only, the all-wheel-drive-equipped WRX and STI are well positioned to challenge 2-door and 4-door versions of the Honda Civic Si, Ford's Focus ST hatchback, and the 4-door Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
If you are looking for an affordable sports sedan with all-weather capability, superb handling, and laudable fuel economy, far be it from us to disapprove of the Subaru WRX. Given its newly available CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) and added creature comforts, the WRX has become a feasible alternative for non-enthusiasts.
The Subaru WRX and high-performance WRX STI sports sedans are all-new for the 2015 model year.
Driving Impressions The Subaru WRX has long been one the few sports cars that consistently exceeds its published performance credentials in the real world. Case in point: No matter how hard we...... pushed the WRX, traction under power was beyond reproach, and understeer (where the car pushes straight into corners) went unnoticed. The latter is an impressive feat for an all-wheel-drive sports car, particularly one fitted with electric-assisted steering. Speaking of which, Subaru worked hard to give the 2015 WRX an electromechanical steering system worthy of its dynamic persona, and the hard work paid off. In terms of ride quality, the new WRX handles rough pavement with unexpected compliance compared to its stiff-legged predecessors. This newfound sense of civility comes despite the fact that Subaru engineers stiffened virtually every steering, chassis and suspension component. The ride is taut, naturally, but not overly so. Then again, the same cannot be said for the STI, as every road imperfection – big or small – transmits directly into the cabin.
6-SPEED MANUAL TRANSMISSION
Standard on both the WRX and STI, Subaru's revised 6-speed manual gearbox is one of the best in the business on account of its precise action, positive-engaging clutch, and short throws.
Whether you're a seasoned track buff or all-around spirited driver, factory-installed seats rarely offer the appropriate support. Such is not the case with the Subaru WRX – the standard front seats feature high-grip fabric and aggressive leg and side bolstering to keep you in place and focused on more important things – like driving.
While "sophistication" and "WRX" were mutually exclusive terms, the latest WRX actually has a refinement story to tell. With soft-touch materials for the upper dash and door panels, a full-color driver information display, leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, and available 8-way power driver's seat, the WRX is now just a few shades behind the markedly more expensive Volkswagen Golf R when it comes to overall interior quality. As for functionality, the outboard rear seats provide more than enough room for most adults, and the trunk offers nearly twice as much space as the Lancer Evo.Exterior
Subaru's decision to retire the WRX's time-honored association to the Impreza moniker is a clear way of saying this prominent sports sedan has officially taken on an identity all its own. Consequently, the 4th-generation WRX and STI share very little with its mainstream counterpart. Save for a few pieces of glass, the 2015 Subaru WRX and STI sport a wholly unique exterior, most notably the flared front and rear fenders, distinctive "nose-cone" front-end design, and thinner A-pillars for enhanced outward visibility.
In base form, the 2015 Subaru WRX includes such standard equipment as automatic climate control, a backup camera, a 6-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, 17-inch alloys, a 60/40 split rear seat, and an active torque vectoring system that brakes the inside front wheel in a corner to help relieve the WRX's inclination towards understeer. STI versions add dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, and Alcantara (suede-like) upholstery. Standard safety features on both sedans consist of seven airbags, a full complement of electronic stability aids, and Subaru's Ring-shaped Reinforced Frame body structure that helped earn the 2015 WRX and STI class-topping safety ratings.
Aside from an extensive list of dealer-installed accessories, most options for the Subaru WRX and STI are tied to trim levels. Opting for the WRX Premium model lands you a moonroof, rear spoiler, and heated front seats, while the WRX Limited adds LED headlights with an auto on/off function, leather, and an 8-way power driver's seat. STI Limited models gain an 8-way power driver's seat, lightweight 18-inch BBS wheels, a 9-speaker harman/kardon premium audio system, and leather. Because Subaru's current navigation system is about as useful as a DVD rewinder, we recommend taking a look at the latest series of aftermarket navigation systems from Pioneer and Alpine. What's more, most aftermarket nav units cost considerably less than Subaru's factory offering.
Not unlike years past, a pair of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines powers the Subaru WRX and STI. The difference this time around is that the WRX features an all-new 2.0-liter engine, while the STI soldiers on with the previous 2.5-liter. Both models come fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox and symmetrical all-wheel-drive, with the WRX offering the option of a sport-calibrated continuously variable automatic transmission. We know what you're thinking, but believe us when we say that the WRX's new CVT is a truly capable autobox. Lastly, it's worth noting that both engines require premium fuel.
2.0-liter turbocharged flat-4
268 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg (manual), 19/25 mpg (automatic)
2.5-liter turbocharged flat-4
305 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
290 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23 mpg
The 2015 WRX carries a starting MSRP just north of $27,000, with the STI holding down a roughly $8,000 premium. Fully-loaded prices for the WRX and STI check in right around $35,000 and $41,000, respectively. Opting for the WRX's new CVT automatic transmission will set you back an extra $1,200. The Ford Focus ST and Scion FR-S start in the neighborhood of $25,000, while the Honda Civic Si sedan and Hyundai Veloster Turbo begin in the low-$23,000 range. Regardless of which model you choose, take a look at KBB.com's Fair Purchase Price tool to ensure you get the best deal on your next car. Down the road, we expect the 2015 WRX and STI to maintain reasonably strong 5-year resale values, topped only by the segment-leading Civic Si.