Best of both worlds
Despite the practicality offered by a wagon, this automotive form is very niche here in the Philippines. That’s true for hatchbacks too.
Yet when you take a look around, you’ll see wagons everywhere. Maybe there’s even one in your garage. They just happen to be a little taller and are called SUVs or crossovers.
So we do like wagons… in a manner of speaking. Maybe that’s also why I’m really liking this wagon, but there’s probably way more to it than just the body style.
It’s been a while since I’ve been behind the wheel of a proper Subaru; you know, the kind that has three letters that tell you all you need to know. By that, I mean W, R, and X. And this time a wagon is available. Subaru of course has been marketing the Levorg, the Legacy wagon the Subaru Outback; three models that are very much wagons. But a WRX Wagon is different because, well, the three letters are very much coveted.
Subaru actually never launched a wagon version of the WRX in the Philippines before (as far as I can remember anyway). All the examples I’ve seen are saloon versions; there are none of the older coupes or wagons that were sold officially. If you saw one on the street here, it’s almost certainly a gray import and not an official unit.
Clearly, we’ve been missing out on this option because it’s the performance car that you won’t have any problems justifying to your significant other. Visualize it: you’re out shopping for an SUV, but then you spot the WRX Wagon and make your way to it. You have responsibilities, and that usually means you need something that has space.
Pop the tailgate and you’ve got space for all kinds of stuffy you may need to bring whether it’s several boxes of flat-pack furniture for your new condo, bag supplies for the baby and a stroller, or even all your gear for that next camping trip.
A sedan really can’t compare to the cargo space and versatility of a wagon. Even when the rear seat is up, you’ve got a space that measures about 41” x 42”. When you fold down the seats, the max length goes up to 64”. The only real advantage of a sedan is that the trunk is isolated from the cabin, meaning if you bring back something smelly from your travels (e.g. Vigan longganisa even in a cooler) the scent will unlikely permeate into the cabin. Keyword there is unlikely.
And then there’s the impression the vehicle has while you walk up to it for the first time. Actually, it’s the lack of it. Historically Subarus aren’t automotive beauty queens. I have yet to meet someone that uses the word “pretty” when describing the design of a Subaru; the BRZ may be the exception, but that’s kind of difficult to use because it’s part Toyota.
That’s definitely true for the WRX; a model that has always been quite muscular with the way they shape the body. Yes, it looks cool because of the performance inclinations, but it has never been “pretty”. That’s also true of the new WRX sedan which has all that odd black cladding and other exterior bits, but not the wagon.
Apart from the presence of the hood scoop nothing about the car really sticks out, and that’s actually a good thing. This WRX Wagon GT-S looks perfectly at home in a gated community just cruising along, and won’t have a problem with any of the speedbumps unless the HOA went nuts with the height. It won’t stand out while parked outside a church on Sunday with its sedate looks, nor will the sound of the exhaust disturb the priest, pastor, or minister.
Inside, the story is the same: it looks like a normal car: leather seats, all kinds of power amenities, automatic climate control, power steering, cupholders, and the like. You sit behind the wheel and it just feels natural; like it was made for you. Then you look around and see the usual gauges, the usual controls, and the usual switches.
Actually, there are less of the usual. In my reviews of previous Subaru models, I’ve noted that there seems to be an overabundance of buttons and screens. In the older WRX, there were three screens (multi-info on gauge panel, multimedia screen, and another one above it) and a lot of buttons all around.
In the 2023 WRX Wagon, there are only two screens: one on the instrument panel as per usual and a much larger portrait touchscreen that houses most of the secondary features of the vehicle. If you look at that panel beside the driver’s left knee, the buttons are largely gone as most functions are now on the big screen. Even the A/C is controlled via the screen. Normally I’d be wary of housing too many vehicle functions in the screen (like with Ranger/Everest) but given that none of the functions are critical (like the diff lock on the 4x4 Ranger/Everest) it should be fine. Even if the screen goes down for whatever reason, you can still drive the car.
The rear seat of the WRX Wagon is a nice place to be in. Seats aren’t the plushest, but comfortable. There’s not much here to talk about other than the armrest, but I wouldn’t mind spending time here on a long drive. I do wish this had the sunroof, but that seems to be reserved for the high-end tS variant. But if you’re a family guy, then you can easily mount a child seat here.
And that’s the key to the WRX Wagon: it’s going to be a great family car because of the attention to safety. The platform ensures that, and you can actually see it by looking at extra reinforcement below the rear doors. This gets a lot of airbags, vented disc brakes front and rear, stability control, torque vectoring, and many more. But the big highlight is EyeSight; a dual camera system that -together with the other sensors- enables features like adaptive cruise, auto emergency braking, lane keep, and many more.
If you’re just going to use the WRX Wagon GT-S as a car for the town, then this will certainly serve you well when it comes to refinement. Yes, it’s got performance, but it also feels slick around the city. The suspension is surprisingly plush for a car branded as WRX, the noise deadening is impressive, and the CVT is smooth.
One would think that a powerful 2.4L turbo boxer with 275 PS isn’t going to be good in city traffic with vibrations, but you’d be surprised too. A horizontally-opposed engine is actually a super smooth one because the vibration of one piston moving left to right is canceled out by the other moving right to left. If anything, this is probably smoother than a 4-cylinder inline because of the design.
Fuel economy is likewise interesting. We were expecting low figures, and that’s true if you’re just at a standstill; any car will be doing 0 kilometers per liter at that point. But when traffic moves at an average of 21 km/h, then 7.4 km/l is easily achieved. Even on the highway, we were getting 12.9 km/l, and we don’t even really try to be efficient nor were we using the start/stop feature for traffic. One of the big reasons behind that is that the bigger engine doesn’t need to rev as much as the smaller 2.0L from before, and the Intelligent mode of the SI-Drive works well to restrain the initial prod of the throttle. That reduces the wasteful initial lunge caused by throttle response.
Of course, this is a WRX. When you go to roads where the straights are tempting, then that’s when the fun starts. 275 horsepower is distributed to the all-wheel drive system, and the car really starts to show you what it's made of. Official figures say this can do 0-100 km/h in just over 6 seconds, though with regular gasoline (not the high-octane stuff) we were getting 7. Still quick, but if we had more time we’ll exclusively use 97.
When the road gets twisty, then everything else comes into play like the good braking system, the balance of the all-wheel drive system that’s as symmetrical as origami, and the low center of gravity afforded by the flat engine; the single heaviest component of the car. You can even play around with the SI-Drive to give you a maximum response like in Sport #; that’s Sport Sharp, not Sport Hashtag. In that mode, the manual mode will activate so you’ll have to use the paddle shifters.
And once you’re all done, you’ve probably got a smile on your face, and you can calm the car down by flipping back to Intelligent mode and driving casually. That’s the beauty of the WRX. You’ve got a punchy drive when you want it, and a practical car as a daily. There’s no need to have a daily car and a separate performance car for weekends only; this does it all.
This doesn’t come cheap though. When we drove the WRX Wagon GT-S, the price was PHP 2,588,000. At the moment of this writing, it’s already at PHP 2,658,000. But honestly, if you’re in the market for a WRX, the price won’t matter as much. What matters is whether it can deliver a thrill.
As much as I like the GT-S, it’s not the variant I would be looking at if I was in the market for a WRX Wagon. If anything, I’d be checking out the tS at about PHP 150,000 more. The reason is that it comes with a lot more, including nicer wheels, a sunroof, adjustable suspension, and more.
If you're going in, you may as well go all in.