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2015 Subaru WRX First Drive

Less "raw" than before, but the brand's new AWD rally-inspired sedan is a huge step above the last generation

Peter Tarach
Dec 16, 2013

2015 Subaru WRX Drive Details:

  • Subaru won't offer 5-door hatchback this time around, just 4-door sedan
  • New, more powerful 2.0T engine is much smoother & responsive than outgoing 2.5T engine
  • CVT is surprisingly aggressive for an automatic transmission
  • Stiffer chassis and new Electronic Power Steering do much to improve handling

We've covered features and specs, and also brought you the world premiere of the next generation Subaru WRX. The rally-inspired, high-performance 2015 model is all new basically from the ground up, including a new boxer-four under hood, new optional performance automatic transmission, new torque-vectoring feature, and the model's first six-speed manual gearbox.

2015 Subaru WRX top front right view 2 Photo 2/14   |   2015 subaru wrx

All that is well and good, but what we really want to know is: how does it drive? To which Subaru responded, come out to Northern California in early December and we'll let you take it for a spin. Fair enough.

2015 Subaru WRX front right view 2 Photo 3/14   |   2015 subaru wrx

First, let's talk options and packages, because those have changed somewhat from the outgoing WRX. While an STI version is in the cards, there will be no five-door hatchback or wagon this time around, Subaru deciding to focus all of its resources into the sedan to make it as good as possible.

2015 Subaru WRX engine Photo 4/14   |   2015 subaru wrx

As we've already mentioned, the 2015 Rex will be available in either six-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and the CVT has three different modes: Intelligent, a six-speed Sport mode and an eight-speed Sport Sharp mode. Paddle shifters are available for the auto trans version.

2015 Subaru WRX front right view 6 Photo 5/14   |   2015 subaru wrx

This is probably a good place to start with our hands-on evaluation, because we were a bit surprised at how sorted out the WRX's CVT is - very nice and aggressive when it needs to be. Forget the notion that a CVT is a slouch, because this one proves otherwise (we guess not too surprising when you stop to think how far similarly high-tech semi-auto gearboxes have come, a trend started by Euro automakers and carried on in models like the Lexus IS F and Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ).

2015 Subaru WRX side detail Photo 6/14   |   2015 subaru wrx

The drive train wrangles power made by a new 2.0-liter direct injection turbocharged mill, a lump that replaces the outgoing 2.5L EJ engine and makes three more ponies (for 268 total) and 14 more pound feet of torque (for 258) with 500cc less displacement. From behind the steering wheel it is overall a much smoother and responsive engine than the old one.

2015 Subaru WRX013 Photo 7/14   |   2015 Subaru WRX013

This new car isn't simply more powerful, though; indeed it can handle like the dickens. A physically more rigid chassis structure helps the new WRX be more precise and agile - tighter, if you will - ultimately making the sedan more toss-able and fun to drive. Paired with the platform's new Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system, as well as the specially tuned suspension, and we swore we were driving the lighter, rear drive BRZ, it was that much fun. The new WRX is undoubtedly one of the better EPS cars out on the market today.

From the driver's seat it seemed like the cabin was hugely improved over the old Rex, feeling a lot more "premium." Greater bolstering on the seats and the "D" shaped steering wheel appealed to our inner pilot, but we geeked out the most over the dual gauge instrument layout. It features a 3.5-inch LCD central screen to display various functions including oil level, remaining washer fluid and selected gear ratio, and a new multi-information central display with 4.3-inch LCD screen to provide a multitude of vehicle system functions, including a rear camera display, a boost gauge display, audio, Bluetooth and climate control settings, and a VDC screen showing traction control operation.

2015 Subaru WRX dash Photo 11/14   |   2015 subaru wrx

Our time in the new WRX wasn't all goodness and light. We weren't particularly big fans of the soft brake pedal, which works well enough, but it would be nicer to have a pedal with some backbone to it for that added modicum of confidence when you wring the car out.

That said, we can't hate on the 2015 WRX. It's a huge step above the third-gen. Rex, now feeling more like a refined automobile. Purists will miss the raw nature of past generation WRX's, but the fun factor and soul are still there.

By Peter Tarach
352 Articles



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