Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos, Jet Rabe | posted August 07, 2014 11:00
Three letters that command respect in automotive circles; letters that are synonymous with Japanese automaker Subaru.
Earlier this year Motor Image held the regional launch and drive of the next generation WRX (and it's more powerful brother, the WRX STI) at the Clark International Speedway. Needless to say, that test was really more of a preview on the track, something that's hard to translate to real world roads and conditions.
One thing that is most apparent in this new, turbocharged all-wheel drive sedan is the name. Or lack of it. In the same way that Nissan dropped the Skyline name for the R35 and stuck with just the GT-R badge, Subaru also chose to drop the Impreza name in favor of just calling it the WRX. As expected, they received the same criticism from JDM (Japan Domestic Market) purists and enthusiasts. It's understandable; can you imagine the uproar if Porsche chose to drop the 911 name and just retained the Carrera, GT3 and Turbo monickers?
Nevertheless the new Impre... err, (just) WRX looks good. Instead of just installing a more powerful engine, upgraded electronics and a hood with a scoop like the previous generations, the 2014 WRX sports a very different look from its non-turbocharged baby brother.
The wheelarches are significantly wider than before, and the rear end has been indeed modified with a more aggressive, more athletic appearance. The whole design is completed by a set of blacked out 17 inch wheels rolling on Dunlop Sport Maxx tires. The black ensemble that is this example of the 2014 WRX really forms a very stealthy but still aggressively styled performance sedan.
The WRX is also significantly different in dimensions over the Impreza. Wheelbase is a little longer at 2650mm (Impreza: 2645mm), overall length is also extended at 4595mm (Impreza: 4580mm) and so is the height at 1475mm (Impreza: 1465mm). The big difference is in the width, as the WRX is much wider (without counting the mirrors) at 1795mm; 55mm wider than the standard Impreza models at 1740mm.
Inside, the 2014 WRX gets the same dashboard architecture found in the Impreza. If you read our review of the 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i, we were rather unimpressed by the interior; not so in the WRX.
Many interior details have been updated and upgraded. The steering wheel is now proper given the sporting nature of the WRX with a flat bottom and a thick rim. The steering wheel, the shifter and the seats are all wrapped in leather with red stitching. The gauge cluster is far better than the Impreza's with red lighting and a rather cool color LCD that shows which mode of SI Drive you've got activated (more on that later). The trim and center panel pieces are all in carbon fiber (though we're unsure if it's faux or actual CF), accented by matte metallic accents on the A/C vents and the shifter receptacle. My favorite, however, has to be the small multi-info LCD on top of the dashboard; toggle the switch and you can see how much boost the turbo is making.
We can go on and on about the features such as the climate control and the cool air it makes, the 2DIN audio unit with Bluetooth and USB connectivity and the decent sound it produces or the abundance of rear legroom and trunk space, but are those things really what you want to know about the 2014 Subaru WRX? We thought so.
At the heart of the WRX is an all new engine: a 2.0-liter flat four turbo intercooler engine, a better tuned version of the engine in the current Forester XT. WRX fans might note that the engine of the previous generation was the 2.5-liter EJ255 that made 230 PS and 320 Newton-meters of torque. This smaller 2.0-liter engine in the 2014 WRX (the FA20DIT) is able to produce more power and torque at 268 PS and 350 Nm, respectively, thanks to direct injection and an upgraded turbocharger.
Apart from the all-new engine, the Philippine-spec 2014 WRX gets a Lineartronic CVT instead of the 5-speed manual like before. The difference in acceleration times is minimal. The WRX with the 6-speed manual can sprint from 0-100 km/h in 6.0 seconds. This WRX with the Lineartronic CVT can do it in 6.3 seconds. To put that in perspective, the 2014 WRX STI can achieve the same in 5.2 seconds. Also, like any WRX before (or any other Subaru of late, for that matter), the 2014 version gets the latest iteration of Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive System.
As expected, the 2014 WRX with the CVT is a very easy drive in the city; the CVT is quite a convenient feature to have in town, giving the WRX smooth acceleration in stoplight to stoplight traffic. What was surprising was the fuel economy in the city, as the WRX achieved a decent 7.8 km/l with moderate traffic to somewhat heavy (25 km/h average). It may not sound like much, but given that this is a turbocharged sport sedan, it's pretty good. Also, on the highway, the WRX was able to achieve 12.8 kilometers per liter at a sedate 83 km/h average speed.
Of course being a performance car the WRX's suspension is on the firm side of the spectrum; definitely firmer than the 2008 version that we drove. There's still a fair bit of absorption, but don't expect anything close to a magic carpet ride here. What you can expect is the athletic agility and cornering that Subaru is known for, as well as the stability at speed.
On an expressway in heavy rain, the 2014 Subaru WRX shows that Confidence In Motion is no mere catchphrase; it's the real deal. The WRX's wide track and all-wheel drive system give the driver the confidence and control to maintain a decent pace of 80-100 km/h on an open expressway. The highway stability in these bad weather conditions (post-Glenda) is incredible, what more in the dry? We recommend slowing down, but it's always good to know that the car you're driving is safe and ready for any weather condition.
Head up to the mountains or a racetrack, the 2014 WRX can really show off what it's made of, especially if Sport Sharp is engaged. That's the beauty of SI Drive, a system that modifies the way the engine is mapped depending on how you want to drive. For casual driving select Intelligent; the most conservative setting for better comfort and efficiency. For brisk driving select Sport; it'll improve engine response at the expense of fuel economy. For serious driving select Sport Hashtag, err, Sharp (S#); it will let the FA20DIT off the leash for instantaneous response.
Acceleration at full throttle is indeed sharp as the FA20DIT is in it's most aggressive mode; ditto for the Lineartronic CVT. Brake hard for a corner and the WRX will dig deep and scrub speed quickly. One thing very noticeable is how well the WRX manages its weight; the back end does not easily go light (like a front wheel drive) to spit you out of the corner. It's always composed and ready for more Manage the revs of the engine properly in the corner (between 3000 to 3750 rpm) and the turbo picks up instantly to rocket you out of the apex and back on the straight. A manual transmission version would indeed be more fun, but the CVT works very well already.
It's hard to find weak spots in the 2014 Subaru WRX offered by Motor Image. I do wish they got a little more creative with the interior instead of being obsessed with symmetry in everything, but that's just a matter of preference.
Sure, the two-door Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ are the 'in' cars of the moment, but the WRX offers more in all respects. The bottom line is that at PhP 1,888,000, the daily-driveable performance machine that is the 2014 Subaru WRX is worth every peso.