Kiss the five-door good-bye.
Because the 2015 Subaru WRX will only be available as a sedan. And with critical dimensions only tenths of an inch different from the current Impreza sedan, anyone is justified in asking what it is, exactly, that differentiates the 2015 Subaru WRX's platform from that of the current Subaru Impreza.
The answer, in truth, is not as much as early reports led everyone to believe. It was widely reported that this new WRX would utilize its own platform, possibly with a shorter wheelbase. That's not the case.
Even so, Subaru's WRX is dignified as a proper performance model with genuinely effective chassis reinforcements, clean-slate suspension tuning and, of course, an ample power increase over the Impreza.
Replacing the outgoing WRX's 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-4 (265 horsepower, 244 pound-feet) is a revised version of the 2.0-liter boxer engine utilized in the 2014 Subaru Forester XT. This turbocharged direct-injected mill gets new cams and valve springs suited to the higher-performance application. A twin-scroll turbocharger and variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust cams both contribute to increased output of 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
A six-speed manual transmission is now the base transmission for the WRX, replacing the existing car's five-speed. A three-mode (Intelligent, Sport, Sport Sharp) continuously variable transmission (CVT) will be optional. Manual shifting is available through steering-wheel-mounted paddles. When shifted manually, "Sport" and "Sport Sharp" modes offer either six or eight simulated gears, respectively.
Though it's not the first CVT-equipped car with sporting intentions (Juke Nismo, anyone), it is the first genuinely powerful and capable car so equipped. Subaru knows this and promises that the CVT is capable of delivering an experience real drivers can appreciate while still offering the practicality they need. That's a tall order and one about which we will reserve judgment until we've driven the car. A launch mode that optimizes all powertrain settings for the best acceleration, however, is a promising sign.
Subaru estimates a 5.4-second 0-60 time for the manual-transmission WRXs and a 5.9-second time for CVT-equipped cars using launch control.
Following Subaru tradition, manual-transmission cars will utilize a viscous coupling center differential with a 50/50 torque split. In CVT-equipped cars, front/rear torque split will be metered by a planetary gear differential controlled by an electronically actuated hydraulic clutch. Nominal torque split for this transmission is 45 front/55 rear, but the active differential is capable of heavily biasing torque to either axle.
Brakes Make You Faster?
New to the 2015 Subaru WRX is an active torque-vectoring system on the front axle. By applying the brake pressure to the inside front wheel during acceleration through a corner, the system is able to drive more torque to the outside wheel. The result, says Subaru, is more neutral balance. The rear axle lacks both a limited-slip differential and torque vectoring.
Three stability control modes — On, Off and Traction — are standard. Ironically, Traction mode disables both traction control and stability control while retaining active torque vectoring. "Track" might be a better name for this mode, though Subaru's general counsel no doubt thinks differently.
Even the once-raw Subaru WRX can't continue without a social conscience. Combined fuel economy increases from 21 mpg to an estimated 24 mpg in manual-transmission versions (21 city/28 highway). CVT-equipped cars are predicted to yield 21 mpg combined (19 city/25 highway), thereby eliminating one of the CVT's primary selling points.
This comes with at least one considerable caveat, however. Insiders at Subaru tell us CVT-equipped WRXs could have come to market with a 30 mpg highway rating, but that retaining the rating would be subject to a customer survey conducted by the EPA one year into ownership. It's a similar gamble to the one Hyundai famously lost last year.
The lower rating is the result of an EPA drive cycle that utilizes all three of the car's drive modes and the fact that those modes are retained through key cycles rather than defaulting to the most efficient setting. It's a compromise made in the name of performance, which says something about Subaru's commitment to the WRX's legacy.
The bottom line, said Subaru's Director of Corporate Communications Michael McHale, is that "we [Subaru] believe the car will deliver 30 mpg on the highway, but we need to be conservative in this unique situation."
Subaru estimates the CVT take rate will be about 20 percent of all WRX sales.
Though its suspension configuration is shared with both the outgoing WRX and the current Impreza (MacPherson struts up front and double wishbones in the rear), Subaru promises sharper response thanks to stiffer spring rates and larger stabilizer bars.
Front spring rates are increased 39 percent, while rear rates jump 62 percent relative to the existing WRX. Stabilizer bars are larger at both ends as well: 3mm up front and 1mm in the rear. Aluminum replaces stamped steel in the WRX front control arms and ride height is decreased 5mm.
Electrically assisted power steering with a quicker ratio (14.5:1 vs. 15.0:1) replaces the full-hydraulic system in the current WRX.
High-tensile steel in specific locations helps the new car achieve a 40 percent increase in torsional rigidity versus both the current Impreza and outgoing WRX. Bending rigidity is up 30 percent relative to the outgoing car. A 1-inch increase in wheelbase also yields significantly more rear legroom. We saw a 6-foot-2-inch rear-seat passenger nestle comfortably behind the driver seat he'd adjusted for his driving position.
Dunlop Sport Maxx RT rubber tires sized 235/45 are fitted to standard 17-inch wheels at all four corners. Brake rotors increase 0.8 inch in front, though sliding calipers remain at both ends.
Weight gain, at 59 pounds for manual-transmission models (3,267 pounds vs. 3,208 pounds), is within reason.
If there's a single detail that dominates the WRX's cabin, it's the thick-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel. Though comically girthy, the wheel still manages to feel good in your hands. Aluminum pedal covers remain from the previous WRX, but the seats offer better lateral support and are optionally available in leather.
The instrument panel layout remains familiar, with two large gauges (a tachometer and speedometer) consuming most of the available space. Center-mounting of the tachometer will, apparently, be withheld for the STI. Similar to the Forester, there are two LCD screens in the center console: a 3.5-inch multifunction display mounted high and a lower 4.3-inch screen capable of showing boost, audio functions and the rearview camera display.
Automatic climate control is standard, while keyless entry and push-button start are optional. A 60/40-split folding rear seat remains and allows for a pass-through to a larger trunk.
Not a Camry
Pricing for the 2015 Subaru WRX will be announced in February 2014 and sales will begin in early April next year.
This is the first all-new WRX since the 2008 model year. That car, Subaru realized in subsequent years, lacked the desired character WRX buyers are seeking and the company has spent ample resources over several model years improving both its performance and its looks.
Now, however, Subaru appears to understand that the WRX can't be an all-wheel-drive Camry. Though a CVT does raise some red flags about the car's character, it's mostly a nod to selling more cars rather than a true watering down of the brand.
Everything else, on paper at least, looks solid — even without a hatchback.
|Year Make Model:||2015 Subaru WRX 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)|
|Vehicle type:||Four-door sedan|
|Configuration:||Longitudinal, front-engine electric motor, all-wheel drive|
|Engine type:||Turbocharged, direct-injected, flat-4, gasoline|
|Valvetrain:||DOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing|
|Compression ratio (x:1):||10.6|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm):||268 @ 5,600|
|Torque (lb-ft @ rpm):||258 @ 2,000|
|Fuel type:||Premium unleaded (required)|
|Transmission type:||Six-speed manual|
|Differential(s):||Front: open, center: viscous limited slip, rear: open (brake-based torque-vectoring front axle only)|
|Suspension, front:||MacPherson strut, coil springs, stabilizer bar|
|Suspension, rear:||Double wishbone, coil springs, stabilizer bar|
|Steering type:||Electrically assisted rack-and-pinion power steering|
|Steering ratio (x:1):||14.5|
|Tire make and model:||Dunlop Sport Maxx RT|
|Tire type:||Performance front and rear|
|Tire size, front:||235/45R17|
|Tire size, rear:||235/45R17|
|Wheel size:||17-by-8 inches front and rear|
|Brakes, front:||12.4-inch ventilated disc, two-piston sliding calipers|
|Brakes, rear:||Disc, single-piston sliding caliper|
|0-60 mph, mfr. claim (sec.):||5.4|
|Fuel economy, mfr. est. (mpg):||24 combined/21 city/28 highway|
|Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.):||15.9|
|Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.):||3,267|