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2014 Subaru WRX Review: Manual And CVT Auto Models Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | Mar, 27 2014 | 42 Comments

2014 SUBARU WRX REVIEW

What’s hot: Fabulous balance and grip, sensational front-end, fast and comfortable.
What’s not: ‘Tame’ rear styling, and more exhaust noise needed.
X-FACTOR: An absolute return-to-form for Subaru’s hero car; the new WRX is simply the best passenger performance car money can buy in its segment.

Vehicle style: High performance small sedan
Price: $38,990 (WRX manual) - $45,990 (WRX Premium CVT) plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 197kW/350Nm 2.0 litre | 6spd/8spd CVT auto | 6spd manual
Fuel consumption listed l/100km: 9.2 (manual), 8.6 (CVT) | Tested: 12.8

 

OVERVIEW

The king is back. Rex rules.

This new WRX is improved everywhere. And its usurpers - Renault’s mad-hat Megane RS 265, Ford’s Focus ST and Volkswagen’s Golf GTI - can now all resume positions in the back seat.

They had a crack, they tried, but this new WRX spanks them all.

The Impreza interior, shared by the WRX, no longer looks like it was borrowed from last decade; there is a sense of quality inside these doors that has been missing for at least two generations.

In the new WRX, in the Premium-grade cars we sampled, it is nicely trimmed and comfortable, and airily modern.

And, on road, it’s an absolute belter. The 2.0 litre turbo boxer ‘four’ up front, though carrying a smaller capacity than the 2.5 litre it replaces, is more powerful and less peaky, and will howl its head off but uses less fuel.

There is a sense that this Rex has ‘grown up’.

Though it has lost none of its manic ability to straighten a mountain road, it has moved subtly a little sideways to now feel more the ‘grand tourer’, and less the brat.

Below the new WRX is the best front-end we’ve seen for a long-time. It tucks in and turns so well that it sets a new standard - in this price segment - for cornering response, feel and precision.

So, do we like this car? Crikey, you’d try to hump it if it was legal. We joined Subaru Australia for the launch in Tasmania. This is our report.

 

THE INTERIOR

  • Two multi-information displays (driver information, infotainment and communication functions)
  • Bluetooth/iPhone/USB connectivity and audio streaming
  • Climate control, cruise control, immobiliser and alarm
  • Sports seats with contrast stitching (fabric for WRX, leather in WRX Premium)
  • Height and reach-adjustable multi-function steering wheel
  • Leather trim highlights to steering/shifter/handbrake
  • Remote central locking, keyless entry, auto-off and self-levelling headlights
  • 17-inch alloy wheels,
  • Tinted windows and roof mounted ‘shark fin’ antenna
  • WRX Premium adds:
  • Push button start and auto headlights and wipers
  • Satellite navigation, and harman kardon audio
  • Electric sunroof
  • Leather trim throughout and powered driver’s seat,

No complaints with this interior. It’s not the best in the class - that accolade still rests with the Golf GTI - but the new WRX is comfortable, nicely laid-out and classy.

The seats are well-shaped with enough bolstering for sporty driving, but not so deep that you’ll lose yourself in them (like the sports seats in the Megane RS 265).

Both cars we drove, manual and CVT, were WRX Premium models.

The entry model gets fabric seats, but the Premium picks up smart leather throughout with contrasting red stitching and electric adjustment for the driver’s seat.

These are good seats for press-on driving: the squab in particular is well-padded with very good under-thigh support.

But the overwhelming impression of this interior is of a sense of space.

With the windscreen and a-pillars moved forward, a low-set dash and higher hip-points, and clear instruments under a hooded binnacle, the new WRX feels considerably bigger inside than the previous model and offers far better visibility.

It is helped by small design touches like the relocation and re-shaping of the wing-mirrors to also aid visibility when driving. (And that really helps when you’ve got the racing eyes on and hunting the apexes on a tight winding road.)

There’s good legroom in the rear seats, which also get some shaping, and a bigger boot (under that rear lip-spoiler) now offers 460 litres of cargo space. No trouble getting all the family clobber in there.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • Engine: DOHC 2.0 litre twin-scroll turbo with roller rockers and high-strength cam-chains
  • Transmission: 6-spd manual or 6-spd and 8-spd Lineartronic CVT auto with sport shift (paddles)
  • Power/torque: 197kW/350Nm
  • 0-100km/h: 6.0 seconds
  • Suspension: MacPherson strut (with coil spring) front, double wishbone rear
  • Brakes: front ventilated discs, solid discs rear
  • 17-inch alloys with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx RT 235/45R17

Well, let’s get one thing out of the way first: this is the best CVT you’ll find at this end of the market.

If an auto per se is anathema to a sporting driver, this one, like a good DSG, offers the kind of performance that will change minds.

It is switchable between a normal mode, I for ‘intelligent’, Sport and Sport# (ie. Sport Sharp). In the first two modes, it operates with six stepped-ratios, this rises to eight ratios in Sport#.

In this latter mode, it ‘zinks’ between shifts like a DSG, and even under full power is free of the rev-flaring that otherwise typifies the continuously variable transmission.

It might not win you over to two-pedal driving, but it will convince you that a sports CVT can be every bit the equal of a conventional auto or DSG.

The manual too is a cracker.

Now six-speeds (yes, it took Subaru a while to get there), it has a really nice throw, a greased-lightning gate (the WRX now gets the STI shift-assembly), and ratios that are just right.

Under the bonnet is a fully square (86mm x 86mm, bore and stroke) direct-injected DOHC and turbocharged 2.0 litre four-cylinder boxer engine.

It’s a beefed-up version of the Forester’s FA engine, producing 197kW (at 5600rpm) and 350Nm of torque over a wide, wide 2400rpm-5200rpm.

Subaru claims a 0-100km/h time of 6.0 seconds. Whatever: point-to-point, this is a very quick car with enough power to flatten any hill and overtake in the blink of an eye.

The wheel is reach and rake adjustable, and, if driving the CVT, the shift-paddles sit right at the finger tips.

It’s a great steering wheel. Small, chunky to hold and with a flat bottom, it provides terrific feel for the road (Subaru is getting this right, where others seem to struggle) and a tight 14.5:1 ratio for direct sports responsiveness.

Tip this car into a corner at speed, and it’s a razor. The front sits extraordinarily flat, and, even when over-cooking things, it holds its composure astonishingly well.

Where a front driver would be compelled to understeer, the all-wheel-drive WRX hunts through the apex like it’s on rails.

You can get onto the gas early (in fact, it’s better if you do, as it spools up the turbo) and simply fire out the other side and let the torque-vectoring take care of traction.

There is so much torque, and over such a wide band, that it makes sense - and you’ll be faster - holding a higher gear through corners than you otherwise would.

The levels of grip mess with the head and upend notions you might have been carrying of mass, momentum and rapid changes of direction.

The chassis too, with stiffened cross-members and greater rigidity (up 40 percent), is also responsible for this greatly improved cornering performance (not that the old model was shabby).

Not once, neither in sudden hollows nor on negative cambers, did we detect that disconcerting weight transfer that can occur when punting rapidly left to right - just a wonderful ‘still’, composed chassis.

You get the sense that this car could make any rabbit look like a half-reasonable driver (there’s one rabbit I’m closely acquainted with…)

It is also comfortable on road. For compliance, it has that same firm but elastic feel of the Focus ST. You don’t need to worry with the new WRX that your kidneys might never forgive you for the purchase.

This new WRX is simply a car to enjoy. We could wax on about it for the next half hour, but you get the drift.

Lastly, fuel consumption is pretty good.

We averaged 12.8 l/100km on a rapid run into the Tasmanian highlands. Over part of it, we were absolutely wringing its neck. That’s not too bad for a performance turbo.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars

Safety features: The new WRX comes with a full suite of dynamic and passive safety features including seven airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution, child seat anchor points, reversing camera, hill-start assist forward and reverse, vehicle dynamics control and seatbelt indicator lights.

All WRX models get three years roadside assist and a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Subaru has done what it needed to do with its new WRX. It is not just a better car than the model it replaces, it streets its competitors.

High-performance driving doesn’t get much better. We love the Renault Megane RS 265, but this Rex is far more liveable: less the stick of dynamite but just as quick.

It feels bigger, roomier and much more focussed on-road than, fortuitously, Ford’s Focus ST, which we also like a lot. But will be left for dead by the Rex on a mountain road.

And though it’s smaller, the sense of space inside the new WRX will have it leaning on Holden’s similarly-priced SV6 and the Falcon XR6 Turbo.

The new WRX however is far better balanced and lighter on its feet, and far more the razor than either of that pair.

This is a very, very good car from Subaru. It is very well priced, beautifully engineered and a gem on-road. (The STi, coming next month, is really going to have to pull a rabbit out of its hat.)

Our advice, get down to your Subaru dealer and check it out for yourself. If you can find an interesting road for the test drive, this new WRX will knock your socks off.

It is absolutely the most compelling car of 2014 thus far. It is that good.

(Rex mortuus est, vivat rex.)

 

Price (excludes on-road costs)

  • WRX sedan manual $38,990 (a saving of $1000 versus MY14)
  • WRX sedan Lineartronic CVT $40,990
  • WRX Premium sedan manual $43,990
  • WRX Premium sedan Lineartronic CVT $45,990

 
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