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2015 Subaru WRX - First Drive

The WRX moniker is all grown up.

Peter Tarach
Mar 6, 2014

Subarus have never been known for their stunning good looks and boxer engine motivated AWD, but to be fair the 2015 Subaru WRX isn’t an ugly car. The proportions are right with aggressive front and rear bumpers that give the car quite an athletic look. However, it’s not likely going to turn heads, not stock at least. Lowered with some proper offset wheels is another story, but let’s save that for a little later on.

What the new WRX does best is deliver in the performance department. Its new 2.0L turbocharged boxer engine delivers 268 hp and 258 ft-lb of torque, which is a bump of 3 hp and 14 ft-lb of torque over the outgoing 2.5L boxer engine. Despite the half-liter deficit, the new FA20 boxer engine delivers crisper throttle response with less noticeable lag. Overall, it’s very apparent the new motor is better in every manner than the old one, delivering improved fuel economy while boasting better performance. An interesting thing to note is that the turbo is mounted under the boxer engine rather than off to the rear passenger side like previous generations. This is done for both better emissions and performance improvements. But how it will affect turbo upgrades is yet to be determined.

Another significant improvement over the outgoing WRX is the addition of a new 6-speed manual transmission. Say goodbye to the old 5-speed because from here on out, it’s six speeds of driving enjoyment. Feel and shift quality-wise, the new 6-speed is reminiscent of the STI’s gearbox, providing smooth engagement and precise gates no matter whether you’re banging a gear or granny-shifting it.

2015 subaru WRX interior navigation leather steering wheel Photo 2/5   |   2015 Subaru WRX Interior Navigation Leather Steering Wheel

The big news is that for those tired of having three pedals (I know there are some of you out there), an optional CVT automatic transmission is offered for the 2015 Subaru WRX. Before you assemble the lynch mob, consider that there are more sports cars on North American roads with automatics than manuals. Subaru is meeting demand where demand is due.

The term CVT is usually the kiss of death for automobiles looking to excite, but stereotypes be gone because the one in the WRX feels nothing like what a common CVT is like. This one is actually quite sharp and responsive—and with the Si-Drive modes (Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp), it behaves like a legit sports-oriented automatic transmission with six and eight speeds (virtual gears since CVTs don’t have actual gears). In Sport Sharp, eight gears seem a bit redundant, but maybe on the track they’ll be more beneficial—not that we’ll see loads of slushbox WRXs at lapping days.

Unlike in years past, Subaru decided to devote all its time and resources into one chassis, so the hatchback WRX is dead, and there are no intentions of bringing one to market. It’s sad because the utility of the hatchback is undeniable, but on the bright side, the new WRX sedan chassis is vastly improved over the old one and offers torsional rigidity that’s 40 percent better than its predecessor, all the while being safer than ever.

2015 subaru WRX turbocharged boxer engine Photo 3/5   |   2015 Subaru WRX Turbocharged Boxer Engine

On the suspension side of things, larger brakes offer 40 percent more fade resistance while an increased brake booster and improved master cylinder provide solid pedal feel. Larger sway bars, stiffer springs, and an overall tighter suspension enhance lateral g’s and reduce body roll over the outgoing model. Add a superb electric power steering system (think BRZ for feel and weight), and you’ve got a WRX that feels much more connected to the road and, more importantly, turns in with much better agility. If there were ever a complaint I had about previous generations, it’s that they all exhibited generous amounts of understeer near the limit. With the 2015 Subaru WRX, it seems to be all but gone. Despite its curb weight of 3,267 pounds (3,450 for a fully loaded auto), the WRX feels lighter with much more precise handling.

Inside, the new model is all grown up with a much more premium-feeling (and looking) interior. However, all the right traits are still there to keep you engaged. The 14.5-inch D-shaped, thick-rimmed steering wheel is absolutely perfect, enhancing the driving experience significantly. The seats offer adequate bolstering for spirited driving, while the color multifunction display provides loads of information ranging from AWD info, mpg, to a real-time boost gauge (which we pegged at 20 psi multiple times). There’s even a 940W Harman Kardon sound system and smartphone integration available. The WRX is all grown up!

The takeaway here is the 2015 Subaru WRX actually lives up to being a significant improvement over its older siblings. The engineers at Subaru have done a great job fixing all the minor issues that plagued generations past while improving quality and, more importantly, driving performance. Make no mistake, the new WRX is an absolute blast to drive. Hell, it’s even fun to drive at a normal pace—and that’s why it’s going to be a real winner for many years to come. There’s just one aching problem for me: Those damn 17-inch stock wheels look way too small, but that’s what the aftermarket is for.

2015 subaru WRX rear bumper quad exhaust Photo 4/5   |   2015 Subaru WRX Rear Bumper Quad Exhaust

Specs & Details
2015 Subaru WRX

Engine 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine

Horsepower 268 hp

Torque 258 ft-lb

Transmission 6-speed manual, CVT automatic

Price TBD

2015 subaru WRX driving down scenic road Photo 5/5   |   2015 Subaru WRX Driving Down Scenic Road
By Peter Tarach
352 Articles

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