More mature, high tech Subaru WRX still the same. But different.

A Subaru WRX will always stir up the emotion in our office. We have owned them for the days when they were still GTs, lived them, loved them, tuned them, raced them. So the arrival of this new one certainly was a red letter day!


There’s no mistaking what new WRX is

Riding on a 25 mm longer wheelbase, WRX’s angular new 75 mm longer, 30 mm broader and 10 mm lower latest Subaru lines deliver an unmistakable stance. Especially in this iconic WRC metallic blue. Add a signature bonnet scoop and a few other age old WRC nuances and you know exactly what it is before it even comes near.

Once closer, the newcomer’s hexagonal grille, C-shape driving lit steering responsive multifunction LED headlights, and spoilers complement that aggro stance. Subaru calls its black plastic finishes complete with trailing edge outlet vents sporty. They frame cool polished 18-inch 245/40 rubber. Some like the garnish. Others miss a simpler finish.

We also miss the old GT’s rally lamps and pillarless windows but swing the door open to reveal the biggest change in WRX history. Those of us who lived and loved the old Tupperware GT and its base ‘80s Corolla cabin with Momo wheel and splendid rally seats may feel foreign in here. This thing is positively space age in comparison!


Meet the highest tech WRX yet

The outgoing car was high tech too, but this one does the job far better. Gone are the complex and oft confusing double screens and all their switchgear. They’re replaced by Subaru’s impressive and relatively easy latest 11.6-inch infotainment system. With 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound and drive mode select, among many other info features.

The hub of a broad range of functions, the monster high-res new tablet screen uses common smartphone logic to deliver a safe and intuitive interface. Best of all, the Auto, CarPlay and Bluetooth rich system still has good old physical buttons and knobs for the most common volume and temperate controls.

Rather than the classic GT’s bare leather-wrapped Momo, the latest WRX has state of the art flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel. It’s still small and keeps the leather, but it manages pretty much the whole car. You can run everything from audio to voice recognition and Eyesight Assist with both hands on the wheel, off those fingertip buttons.


A familiar offbeat Subaru murmur

Our flagship tS ES WRX even had GT-like aluminium pedals and steering-mounted shifters. The luxurious Ultrasuede clad whiplash reducing seats, while no longer rally buckets, have been reworked for both comfort and support with 3-stage heating and 8-way power adjustment including lumbar for the driver. And the cabin is now much bigger too.

Prod the start button and there’s a familiar offbeat Subaru murmur. Some complain that it’s mute compared to the GT and early WRXs we remember. They forget that most of those cars had aftermarket exhausts downpipes and dump valves fitted and it was all that that brought about the brr-phee-whap that tuned Subys have become famous for!

This latest WRX finally breaks the 200 kilowatt barrier with a new 202 kW 350 Nm 2.4-litre version of Fuji’s famous turbo petrol boxer four. Happily, there’s still a 6-speed manual to be had, but ours had the new 8-speed Subaru Performance Transmission that they say is up to 50% faster. It is integrated with Subaru multi-mode Si-Drive Performance Management.


Superlative Subaru symmetrical all-wheel drive

And yes, while it has all the gizmos, WRX of course benefits the distinct and superlative advantage of Subaru’s surefooted symmetrical all-wheel drive. That together with its Subaru Global Platform’s more rigidly mounted, longer stroke suspension, 14% more lateral and 28% torsionally stiffer chassis, make for sublime and most surefooted handling.

Taking of gizmos, WRX is complemented by Subaru’s sensor-based Vehicle Dynamics Control. It includes Active Torque Vectoring, ABS, EBD and ESC for optimum traction and handling in all driving conditions. We prefer all that off anyway. That AWD system is good enough all on its own. Needless to say, the WRX is a supremely dynamically safe motorcar.

Our WRX tS ES came complete with Subaru’s latest innovative EyeSight Driver Assist 4.0 now with an improved dual camera set field of view. Its many assistance programs include Pre-Collision Braking, Autonomous Emergency Steering, Lane Departure Prevention, Adaptive Cruise and Steering Control, Traffic Sign Recognition and an Intelligent Speed Limiter.


Age old secret WRX advantages remain

There’s more – WRX has eight airbags, including a driver’s knee bag, And there are many other hidden Subaru World Rally-derived highlights that few other carmakers have even thought of, 20 years later. Like all-round visibility and wheel hoses that direct water spray from puddles away from the car and not onto the windscreen to blind the driver’s view…

We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the latest Subaru WRX. Not only did it evoke so many magical memories, but it also shows us the way forward. Look, performance is a moot point. Over the years, WRXs have always delivered late-5 second 0-100 acceleration. Nothing has changed there. This one achieved that in CVT, not the 8-step mode, by the way.

Pricing has become a little more exclusive. In the old days WRX was closer to Golf GT on the price lists. Today it’s more a Golf R rival. But then the Subaru is now far more sophisticated, even if Golf R is much quicker. WRX is still however a GTI rival on the drag strip.


A different breed of WRX owner?

And while it may seem mute to some, the answer to that is quite simply to modify your new WRX to deliver the angst you may expect. That, after all, is why you remember the WRX for that. Most were modified. Out the box they all seemed mute.

Truth be told however, this latest Subaru WRX will likely appeal to a far more sophisticated new owner type. One who’s not bothered with all that noise and drama. It will appeal to someone who wants something a little different. Something more fun. And something highly pedigreed. This latest Subaru WRX is very much all of those… – Michele Lupini

Engine: 202 kW 350 Nm 2.4-litre turbo petrol H4
Drive: 8-step CVT automatic AWD
0-60 km/h:        3.02 sec
0-100 km/h:       5.98 sec
0-120 km/h:       8.02 sec
0-160 km/h:       13.70 sec
400m:             14.1 sec @ 163 km/h
80-120 km/h:      3.68 sec
120-160 km/h:     5.68 sec
VMax:             250 km/h
Fuel:             8.5 l/100 km
CO2:              192 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 150K/3y 75K km
LIST PRICE:       R859K
RATED:            8
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