Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted October 31, 2014 18:00
The red devil
Subaru had us going there for a minute when they said that they weren't really considering bringing in the WRX with a manual gearbox for the Philippine market. After numerous requests by customers, however, Motor Image has given in and brought what the crowd wants: a 2014 WRX with a 6-speed 'box and three pedals.
Based on our our brief drive of it, Subaru's customers are definitely getting a lot of car for the money.
Style-wise, the 2014 Subaru WRX 6MT is identical to the WRX CVT before as both have the same shape, the same creases, the same details, same wheels and the same tires. Subaru's designers really did their work in turning the Impreza's general shape into something mean, poised and aggressive on the street. I still prefer the black hue of the WRX CVT, but you do see more of the design details in this red WRX MT.
The architecture of the dashboard is the same one-size-fits-all unit that Subaru uses on the Impreza, XV and Forester, but it does come with many updated design details to signify that this is far more than just a run-of-the-mill model. The pedals are of the sporty metal type. The steering wheel rim is thick with red baseball stitching, and has a cool flat bottom that makes for easier ingress and egress for, uh, bigger guys. There are faux (or are they real?) carbon fiber panels on the dash. The dials light up in red while at the top of the center stack is a multi-info display that also acts as a boost gauge.
There are some differences over the WRX CVT. Of course, Subaru has replaced the paddleshifters and the automatic gate in favor of the manual stick with a leather boot and 'WRX' embossed on the rim. What is unusual, however, is the deletion of SI-Drive in this version, as gone are the buttons on the steering wheel that allows the driver to select either Intelligent, Sport or Sport Sharp.
Powering the WRX manual is the FA20DIT; those last three digits signifying that this 2.0-liter flat four has direct injection and is turbocharged, thereby making it more powerful than the previous EJ255-powered WRX. This new 2.0L makes 268 PS and 350 Newton-meters of torque while the 2008 WRX had 230 PS and 320 Newton-meters from a 2.5L.Also, as opposed to the last 5-speed manual WRX we drove back in 2008, this one has 6-gears.
Pulling away from the parking lot, it's clear that this WRX 6MT is far more direct than the one before. Just to get it out of the way, fuel economy in the city is 8.4 kilometers per liter (25 km/h average) while highway economy is at 12.9 km/l; very close to the CVT we drove, but have to admit I wasn't being all too economical with this WRX.
The gearbox and the way the stick slots into the gates is proper for a sport sedan of this caliber. The transmission feels good and positive, though I still think the Honda CR-Z has the better manual 'box than this WRX and even the 86/BRZ, a sentiment that was overshadowed once I pushed that throttle down on Subaru's latest street fighter.
The thrust afforded by the 268 PS turbocharged motor in this WRX does get that blood flowing. Nail that accelerator down in second gear and you'll realize how fast the boost will take over. Achieving 0-100 km/h in just 6.0 seconds can really put a smile on your face, but as addictive as the boost is, the WRX wasn't built to just go fast in a straight line, and so I make my way up to the mountains in the east to see what the WRX MT can really do.
As expected the uphill is no problem for this all-wheel drive fighter, but best of all is the braking and its balance all around the corners. You really do feel confident and surefooted in the WRX; it's precise, accurate and does it again and again, turn after turn. There really is no substitute for a great gearbox on a road such as this.
Of course there are drawbacks to the WRX 6MT, and unusually it's the gearbox and clutch. This WRX is great when you're on an open road or in minimal traffic, but in the city with moderate to heavy traffic this manual gearbox can be tiring as the clutch is quite stiff.
Personally I still prefer the WRX CVT over this WRX 6MT because the former is more convenient to drive and more enjoyable everyday as an all-around performance car. Nevertheless, at PhP 1,818,000 for the WRX 6MT (PhP 70,000 less than the CVT), Motor Image definitely has a winner in their stable with the 2014 Subaru WRX, whichever transmission you choose.