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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2015 Subaru WRX Overview Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2015 Subaru WRX and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2015 WRX featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
Our Review Process This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.
Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2015 Subaru WRX and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2015 WRX 4.4 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2015 WRX.
Vehicle Limited 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
Review Purchased the WRX after test-drive & reading reviews of WRX and WRX STI - I liked the STI's acceleration, handling, and in particular the brakes, but did not care for the appearance of fin or stiffness. As a 40+ yr old, I was looking for a car that was fun, but non-descript in a corporate parking lot and comfortable as a commuter/pick up the kids vehicle. I've driven the WRX 46K+ miles, and live in the Colorado foothills, windy road. It is a blast! Took awhile to get used to timing (turbo lag) and too many RPM's while shifting does release a horrible smell, but this only occurs when not careful. The car is very light; braking and acceleration = very responsive. I'm 6'2 200 lbs. Four concerns since my earlier review @ 6K miles -- 1) clutch is being replaced @ 46K miles. This is the 3rd manual transmission that I've owned, have driven approx. 100,000 miles with manual cars prior to purchasing the WRX. My last manual Subaru (2010 forester) had the original clutch when sold back to the dealer at 75K miles. I do drive the WRX "actively", but this seems soon for the clutch to go. 2) The car sold to me in Colorado came with summer tires. However, I did not realize they were summer tires; this was not mentioned or explained at any time during the sales process, and the tires do not say "summer" on them. I could have researched the tire model to determine this, but this was not on my mind with a 5 month old car heading into its first winter. At 15 degrees or so, the tires became non-functional. Literally. As in, on a moderate uphill grade road getting home, after stopping to get the mail, the car not only wouldn't drive forward, it slipped backward as I accelerated from 0 MPH to 5 MPH, on an angle, toward a fence. I put the WRX in park, left it there & walked 1/2 mile home until it warmed up the next day, then parked it until new tires were available (paid by Subaru per my complaint on this issue). While doing maintenance a year later at a Subaru dealership, another WRX owner mentioned getting into an accident his first winter due to the tires. Not acceptable. 3) A/C stops working in summer after awhile when the car is parked (I often work in the car or take conference calls). After reviewing other forums, I learned that revving the engine a few times causes the a/c to kick in again. a/c works fine while being driven. 4) Battery had to be replaced after 24 months. I did accidentally drain it completely around 1 year ago (left interior light on, parked for a few days due to bad weather), so this may be my fault. So, these may just be fairly normal maintenance issues, spouse drives '14 Forester XT (automatic), has not experienced any of these issues in 3 years of ownership.
Edmunds Value Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color
Available Subaru WRX 2015 Submodel Types: Sedan, STI, STI Limited, STI Launch Edition, STI Series.HyperBlue
Available Trims: Premium, Base, Limited, STI, STI Limited, STI Launch Edition, STI Series.HyperBlue
Exterior Colors: Crystal White Pearl, Ice Silver Metallic, WR Blue Pearl, Dark Gray Metallic, Crystal Black Silica, Pure Red, Lapis Blue Pearl, Lightning Red, Galaxy Blue Pearl, Hyper Blue
Interior Colors: Carbon Black cloth, Carbon Black leather, Black/Carbon Black leather/sueded microfiber, Black alcantara
Popular Features: AWD/4WD, Alarm, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Auto Climate Control, Aux Audio Inputs, Back-up camera, Bluetooth, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Post-collision safety system, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, USB Inputs, Heated seats, Sunroof/Moonroof, Upgraded Headlights, Power Driver Seat, Leather Seats, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Navigation, Keyless Entry/Start, Blind Spot Monitoring, Upgraded Stereo, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Pre-collision safety system