2016 Subaru WRX Review: A hatchback away from turbocharged nirvana
– Detroit, Michigan
I’ve got a mega soft spot for the Subaru WRX, faults and all. It’s certainly not a perfect daily driver, with its lackluster, loud interior, but it’s arguably one of the most compelling cars in the small performance segment. You get an aggressive, turbocharged engine, a fantastic all-wheel-drive system, and plenty of convenience features, all for around $30,000. Any complaint I have about the WRX is overshadowed by its sheer driving pleasure. The turbo-happy antics and rally-car-for-the-street engineering means the WRX can turn grocery runs and commuting into hilariously enjoyable experiences. I love this thing. Period.
- In a world of endlessly adjustable driving experiences, the WRX is a breath of fresh air. There is no sport button. There are no suspension settings. There are no varying stages of traction control. You get in, and the turbocharged flat-four delivers 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels, and how much fun you want to have is directly related to the heft of your right foot and the quickness of your hands. Three cheers for enthusiastic simplicity.
- To expand on that point, I love how perfectly set-up this car is from the get-go. There’s a super small smidge of turbo lag off the line, but then a wave of torque is available through the range in each gear. There’s no need to downshift to pass while cruising in sixth on the freeway, and your favorite back roads can largely be negotiated in third and fourth gears. The WRX is like a puppy, just constantly ready for playtime. Combine its eagerness with a stiff but remarkably amicable suspension, and weighty, direct steering, and you’ve got one of the best-driving compact cars money can buy.
- Thank heavens, Subaru finally updated the infotainment system. You get a larger, more responsive, prettier display for 2016, with flush-mounted hard buttons on either side for different functions. Even the steering wheel controls are more logically laid out. This isn’t a huge change from the 2015 model in the big picture, but trust me, the improved center-screen functionality is a huge win for day-to-day usability.
- There’s one caveat to this car’s one-size-fits-all dynamic demeanor: you can’t turn it off. Get stuck in a traffic jam in the manual-equipped car and suddenly it’s leg day for your left side. The suspension may largely be compliant enough to deal with highway commutes, but potholes and pavement irregularities result in jarring motions. Granted, the overall balance and stellar behind-the-wheel feel make up for these small gripes. It’s just important to note that the WRX isn’t perfect all of the time.
- I saw a 2015 WRX through 20,000 miles of use at my last job, and by the end of our year-long test, the interior was a total rattlebox. It’s kind of a shame that this 2016 car, with only 5,000 or so miles on the odometer, still buzzes and rattles from time to time. Subaru’s interiors aren’t what I’d call great, and that’s really a disappointment. I know this is kind of a ‘cheap’ car in the grand scheme of things, but a Volkswagen GTI and Ford Focus ST both offer far better, quieter cabins at the same price point.
- Subaru once told me that the decision to kill the hatchback model was so the engineers had more money in the budget for chassis and engine development. I sort of believe that, but it’s hard to compete with the true hot hatches of the world when you’ve got a sedan shape. I bring this up as a negative because the sedan/hatch mix in the last-generation WRX was about 50/50. The added functionality is indeed missed.
|2016 SUBARU WRX PREMIUM|
|ENGINE||Turbocharged 2.0L Flat-4|
|OUTPUT||268 Horsepower / 258 Pound-Feet|
|EPA FUEL ECONOMY||20 City / 27 Highway / 23 Combined|
|CARGO VOLUME||12.0 Cubic Feet|
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com