2015 Subaru WRX First Drive on Edmunds.com
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2015 Subaru WRX First Drive

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (2)
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

2015 Subaru WRX Sedan

(2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo AWD 6-speed Manual)
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The Evolution of the WRX


Brake, turn, accelerate, jump.

Once it was being ruthlessly caned on a tortuous bit of tarmac called Skaggs Springs Road on a cold, clear day near the Pacific Ocean, it became clear that the 2015 Subaru WRX restores the faith. The original Subaru WRX gave American enthusiasts the car for which they'd been clamoring. Various permutations in intervening years had, well, uneven success in replicating that result.

The 2015 WRX resets the clock.

2015 Subaru WRX

What Makes This a Sharper WRX?
The 2015 Subaru WRX sheds the word "Impreza" from its model name, but the approach remains the same. Subaru engineers took the current Impreza, ran it through the fast-car operating room and produced a WRX that nods at previous ones, yet goes its own way.

For starters, the engine that has powered every previous WRX, known internally as the EJ-series, is gone. There's no five-door body style either. And you can get leather seats and an automatic. So, has the WRX gone soft?

Actually, it's stiffer. Reinforcements to the Impreza's body shell have resulted in torsional rigidity that is up by 41 percent, while bending stiffness increases some 30 percent over the old WRX. It's all in pursuit of improved handling, as a stiff chassis allows the suspension to better respond to inputs from the road.

It also allows that suspension to effectively exploit higher spring rates. In the case of the new WRX, engineers did just that, stiffening the front springs by 39 percent and the rears by a whopping 62 percent. Handling, then, is the focus of the new car.

And at the risk of giving away the plot early, yes, this is easily the sharpest, most precise WRX ever. The somewhat ropey body roll and rubbery driveline lash of previous cars is a memory. The new WRX's body stays impressively flat in corners, and it changes direction with newfound alertness. And there's grip: Subaru says the new car orbits its skid pad at 0.93g, just 0.01g less grippy than an Evo on the same surface, while exhibiting a roll angle similar to a BRZ or Porsche Cayman.

The flip side of all this precision is a ride that's stiff-legged and busy in casual driving. Yet the car somehow soaks up all the bumpiness when you go on the attack. Pound it down truly crappy, wondrous roads like Skaggs Springs Road and it stays faithfully on line and never loses its composure.

2015 Subaru WRX

Uses the Brakes To Turn. Here's How
Suspension travel is said to be similar to that of the outgoing car, while there's a noticeably firmer brake pedal backed by a 1-inch-diameter master cylinder (up from 15/16 of an inch) and bigger, thicker disks.

Turn-in is assisted by what Subaru calls Active Torque Vectoring, which drags the inside front brake to help point the nose, reducing initial understeer. Its electrically assisted steering's ratio is quicker, too. The outcome is that response from the helm is immediate and very precise.

What's more, the chassis remains alert even when cornering loads are high, allowing minute adjustments to your line that would have been lost in the syrupiness of the old car. Steering effort from the new rack is a shade light and it could use more feel, but that's just being fussy. This is one capable car.

2015 Subaru WRX

The New Engine Is a Noticeable Upgrade
The new car's direct-injected 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, known internally as the FA20, is borrowed from the Forester Turbo with minimal changes. Stiffer valve springs and revised cams support higher revs (6,700 rpm redline versus 6,000 in the tall wagon), while the Honeywell turbo huffs out a max of 15.9 psi boost pressure.

In the 2015 Subaru WRX this flat-4 generates little more peak power than the EJ25 2.5-liter four in the outgoing car (268 horsepower at 5,600 rpm versus 265 at 6,000 rpm) but its 258 pound-feet of torque from 2,000-5,200 rpm is a meaningful improvement. The new car's additional 59 pounds isn't enough to sap the fun out of the broader torque curve.

The torque is more accessible in day-to-day driving, especially as there are now six forward gears rather than five in the old car. This cable-shifted manual gearbox is an adaptation of the Forester's six-speed, adding carbon-lined synchros and a shifter with shorter throws. After rowing the lever on our drive in Northern California, we're pleased that it moves through the gates free of notchiness or resistance.

2015 Subaru WRX

A Better CVT Than We Expected
And then there's the automatic, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is Subaru's way of expanding the WRX's appeal that's got the fanboys all abuzz. With paddle shifters, two modes, three levels of aggression and a clever calibration that switches to stepped ratios when the throttle is depressed beyond a certain point, the CVT actually works astonishingly well.

In fact, based on our time with both transmissions, we reckon it's possible the CVT car could be quicker point to point than a manual one on a tight, technical road with lots of gearchanges. The reason? There's no torque interruption during gear ratio changes in the CVT, whereas in the manual there's a brief pause following a gearchange before the floodgates reopen in earnest.

Nevertheless, Subaru's stopwatch tells a different story. Sixty falls in 5.4 seconds with the manual and 5.9 seconds with the CVT in "launch mode," activated simply by two-pedaling the car on the line and then releasing the brake and flooring the gas.

Both versions of the new car are deceptively rapid, as the flat torque delivery spells less drama when you squeeze the throttle. It's responsive and enthusiastic, not abrupt. The engine note has lost the characteristic flat-4 warbling chuffle, too, due to the pairing of exhaust pulses within the twin-scroll turbo. Consider it the price paid for the new mill's more tractable power delivery.

2015 Subaru WRX

Your Mileage Will Vary
Fuel economy takes a jump forward. Manual-equipped WRXs are projected to turn in 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway), an increase of 3 mpg over the current car. Things get murkier for CVT-equipped cars, but suffice it to say that in the real world you can expect better than the numbers on its sticker of 21 mpg combined (19 city/25 highway).

Left in "Intelligent" mode it is said to unofficially achieve 25 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway). For a more thorough explanation, read our First Look at the 2015 WRX.

It Wouldn't Be a WRX Without Styling Controversy
Exterior changes are comprehensive. Relative to the Impreza upon which it is based, the WRX gets a unique hood, headlights, front fenders, doors, fascias, rear blisters.... In fact, every panel is new save for the roof, deck lid and glass.

All that work has resulted in styling that's charmless and anonymous, lacking even endearing quirkiness like that of previous WRXs. If styling could be a color, the new WRX would be beige.

There's no shortage of wind or road noise in the cabin, but the panoramic visibility on offer is terrific. Its slender A-pillars, low cowl and door-mounted mirrors afford a great view that allows you to place the car with confidence. The thick-rimmed, smaller-diameter steering wheel feels great, though its leather wrap has been processed to within an inch of vinyl. And the seats continue the WRX tradition of offering lateral support beyond what you'd expect from looking at their bolsters.

More Variations Than Ever
Three trim levels bring new levels of creature comforts to the once-basic rally special. You'll be able to have leather seats with heat and power adjustments in the range-topping Limited trim, along with LED headlights.

The CVT gearbox, navigation and 440-watt Harman Kardon boom-boom audio system will be optional on the upper two trim levels. No word yet on pricing, though it's likely the Limited will stretch the model's MSRP to new heights.

Despite the added features, the new 2015 Subaru WRX has decidedly not gone soft. In fact, its driving experience and capability is arguably closer to that of a (gasp!) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution than previous WRXs. How this twist of irony plays out among die-hards of either brand is something we're looking forward to watching.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

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Comments

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    "(2.5L 4-cyl. Turbo AWD 5-speed Manual)" - It's a 6-speed, isn't it? I wonder why they opted for sedan only. I see lots of WRX wagons around my Subaru heavy town.

  • ed341 ed341 Posts:

    The design is starting to grow on me, especially the black with dark wheels, or blue. Seems much tougher looking than the old one, without a boy-racer image. Even the anonymous back looks good with the quad exhaust. Overall a subtly aggressive M3 type of style, which isn't a bad thing, in my opinion.

  • meest00gt meest00gt Posts:

    Not a bad looking car, but not as aggressive as I'd like a rex to be. Reminds me heavily of a 2005ish Legacy GT. Again not a bad looking car, I actually really like the styling, I just think it's a bit off for the personality of the car.

  • I remember reading that the WRX would be built on a completely different chassis than the Impreza. What happened? Perhaps this was just auto news media speculation or an attempt on the part of Subaru to generate major hype and media buzz. I think the old car had more graceful lines (especially the 5-door), but I am still grateful that the WRX exists.

  • slivka slivka Posts:

    Talk about not leaving well enough alone. Why couldn't Subaru just slap on wider fenders on Impreza and be done at that. As is, the exterior front styling is totally... "beige". :( And no wagon?!!! :(

  • joefrompa joefrompa Posts:

    A lot better looking in these pictures than the pics I've seen previously. Nice solid review too. I'd like a bit more commentary on the steering itself - feedback and what not. I love the comments on visibility AND wind-noise/tire noise. People often forget that the legendary cars of yore often were so much fun because of great driving positions, excellent visibility, and a plentiful dose of wind and tire noise to put you into the elements. Tire noise is an important part of understanding what's going on at the corners as well. One thing I wouldn't enjoyed more commentary on is engine sound and exhaust noise.

  • pasuriole pasuriole Posts:

    The WRX is beganing to look a little long in the tooth in styling compared to its competitors.

  • s197gt s197gt Posts:

    "Seventeen-by-8-inch wheels now boast a 114.3-mm bolt pattern. Big news in WRX land!" Why? Does it increase/decrease wheel options going to a different bolt pattern?

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @s197gt: Yes, because the 5X110 pattern doesn't offer quite as much choice as the traditional 5X114.3mm pattern. For those people who won't ever loosen their own lugnuts it won't matter, but I'm assuming that most WRX owners are the types that will be swa

  • wackford wackford Posts:

    No 5 door, not interested, no matter how much improved it is!

  • s197gt s197gt Posts:

    duck87, thanks. the article never explained. i know my mustang (and other fords) use 5X114.3 and i think it is used by nissan and someone else... i am curious how/why manufacturers pick certain bolt patterns? why not standardize it? i can understand the need for backspacing/offset/width/diameter to vary but not the bolt pattern.

  • henry4hire henry4hire Posts:

    RIP warbling chuffle

  • duc87, the old bolt pattern was 5x100. This is still used for all Subarus (including the BRZ/FR-S) except for the new WRX and 2004-present STi/STI.

  • Whoops. MY2004 STi had 5x100. MY2005 went to 5x114.3. :)

  • nightvzn nightvzn Posts:

    It's interesting that in all the discussion of the WRX's newfound awesomeness, there's been surprisingly little speculation about the forthcoming STI. Granted, Internet speculation is typically worth less than the bytes that comprise it, but with the WRX getting this sharp and verging on Evo territory, one has to wonder what Subaru has in store for the new uber-WRX. I'm assuming they're working hard to avoid the embarrassingly blurred distinctions between the two cars that have plagued the STI for the last few years and undermined its value proposition vs. its little brother. I keep hearing dual-clutch is in the works for the STI, but beyond that, almost nothing, whether official or purely speculative. I think it deserves the new 2.5-liter engine with a treatment similar to the WRX's 2.0-liter, but I have a feeling it'll just be a more heavily sauced 2.0.

  • nightvzn nightvzn Posts:

    Also, not sure why they mention the "warbling chuffle" as having disappeared with this new car. My 2006 WRX had that sound very distinctly, but I've never heard my 2010 Impreza GT sound even remotely like that. It does have a very nice boxer rumble/bellow with the SPT exhaust :D but no 2006-esque chuffle, with or without the SPT. Seems to me the sound is (sadly) long gone.

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    I like it. The sedan-only format is a bummer, but at least the styling is a little less boy-racer than before. In slate grey you could even convince other drivers that you've left puberty.

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    @subytrojan: Typo =/ @s197gt: Both sizes are "standardized", though I think most manufacturers use the 5X114.3mm (or 5X4.5 inch) pattern and only a few use the 5X100. You can argue that 5X114.3mm designs are slightly stronger (lug spacing, torsi

  • jeffinoh jeffinoh Posts:

    I wish it looked more like the concept. I liked the squashed roof and interesting shapes of the lights, but neither made it to this car. Its attractive, tho. And if ya need more flash I'm sure the aftermarket will come up with whale tails etc. Subaru is really on the forefront of CVT tech it seems. CVT is a liability in most other cars.

  • zoomzoomn zoomzoomn Posts:

    To say that I'm kind of disappointed is an understatement. Not nearly as aggressive departure from the Impreza as I was hoping for. Even the last car did a better job of that and it was a sleeper compared to the gen that preceded it! That said, hopefully it drives like a proper rex. Lastly, I know that it is blasphemy, but I'm glad that they put an autobox in it, even if it is a CVT.

  • thelosers thelosers Posts:

    Hey Subaru...Why no hathback model ???

  • slivka slivka Posts:

    test

  • rsholland rsholland Posts:

    I hope Edmunds gets one as a long-term tester—and that it's the CVT model. I think this new sport-tuned CVT could be a real winner as an all around daily driver; a vehicle that can do it all, from canyon carving to grocery runs, all with equal grace.

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