On Valentines Day 1994 Subaru announced the release of an all-new model called WRX. Based on the Impreza it was crammed full of go faster bits and had over the top styling that had car enthusiasts excited from the word go. Even the big-car boys, in their hot Holdens and fast Fords grudgingly admitted Subaru had introduced something very special.
Twenty years and a few weeks later an all-new Subaru WRX has hit the roads down under. Hit the roads in Tasmania so we journalists could play on some Targa stages. The boss of Subaru Australia, one time motoring journalist Nick Senior, hails from the Apple Isle. More to the point, Tasmania is one of the biggest markets in the world for Subarus on a per capita basis.
Pumped guards, a big bonnet scoop, large wheels shown off by prominent side skirts – what else would you expect from a Subaru WRX? However, while it has a strong frontal appearance, some consider the tail to be too tame. Gone are the huge wings of the past, replaced by a more subtle wing. Stand by for the STi version that’s due out in April, the spoiler is sure to make a reappearance then.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
In the European manner, Subaru has gone down in size with the old 2.5-litre boxer engine now replaced by a high-tech 2.0-litre flat-four with direct injection, twin-scroll turbocharger and active valve control. This new unit puts out 197 kilowatts of power and produces 350 Newton metres of torque all the way from 2400 to 5200 rpm.
Automatic transmissions have never been big sellers in Subaru WRX, but a CVT unit is on offer for the first time. The efficiency of these transmissions mean the engine will be operating at its best speed all the time instead of rising and falling in revs as it runs through ratios.
Most of the new MY15 Subaru WRXs will use a six-speed manual in the early stages, but the CVT (Lineartronic in Subaru speak) is expected to significantly gain in popularity. Keep in mind that the guys in their mid-20s who bought their first WRXs in 1994 are now staring at the big 50…
Way back in 1994 a driver’s airbag was an optional extra in the WRX! The MY15 has seven airbags, a more rigid body with many crash protection features, there’s a sophisticated stability control and brake assist electronics. Subaru Australia has pushed hard on safety for many years, yet this car takes things one step further, gaining almost a perfect score in crash testing, so obviously getting a five-star rating with ease.
Driven in standard mode the new Subaru WRX has good performance and feels nicely refined. But may we suggest forgetting that and go for either the S or S-sharp modes? That will unleash the engine’s full performance and speed up its responses, as well as those of the CVT.
Road grip is immense by courtesy not only of the famed Subaru all-wheel-drive system, but also the electronics that subtly brake the inner front wheel to haul the car onto the correct line should you push it extremely hard at bends. A clever centre differential gets into the act as well.
Comfort is okay, but only just at times. Sporting suspension and large wheels with low profile tyres (45 per cent) make the ride on the jiggly side at times. The back seat is larger than before and can handle adults well. The fronts are semi-sport units, meaning they’re easy to get in and out of and still provide reasonable support during hard cornering.
We’ve kept the best news till last. In 1994 a new Subaru WRX would have cost you $39,990 – now the price list starts at just $38,990. Talk about a high-performance bargain!
Larger, more refined, safer and crammed full of additional equipment that wasn’t even dreamt of in 1994, the MY15 Subaru is in the right place at the right time as buyers shift away from big high-performance cars into hot hatches (even if the WRX is a sedan, not a hatch).
The complete MY15 range is:
WRX sedan: $38,990 (manual), $40,990 (CVT automatic)
WRX Premium sedan: $43,990 (manual), $45,990 (CVT automatic)
Note: These prices do not include dealer or government charges. Contact your local Subaru for driveaway prices.