Performance Maven: Subaru WRX

The WRX packs ample power in a tidy package.

2021 Subaru WRX front end
Subaru offers the WRX in standard and WRX STI versions.

Compact sedans are typically best known for efficiency and a low cost, but the Subaru WRX flies in the face of popular convention. The WRX sedan shares its chassis with the Impreza hatchback and sedan, but its mission is performance while the Impreza targets mainstream models. Both come with standard all-wheel drive, an unusual feature in this segment.

When considering the Subaru WRX, this model comes in five trims ranging from $27,495 to $41,695, plus a $900 destination charge. Our test model was a WRX Premium with suspension, braking, exterior, and interior improvements, bringing its final price to $35,259.

WRX Styling

Take one mundane sedan, in this case, the Impreza, and embellish it with front and side skirts, a hood scoop, side vents, sporty wheels set within performance tires, and include a rear wing and diffuser, and you have the makings of the WRX. It’s an endearing look to fans and reasonably intimidating to everyone else.

Inside, the cabin offers average room. The look is sporty, but it isn’t new. We’d expect updated instrumentation and dials, but we’ll make do with what Subaru offers. Some of the performance commands are set within a separate display set on top of the center stack and that’s a nice touch.
The Recaro seats were firm, yet comfortable with ample bolstering to keep passengers in place when engaged in spirited driving.

2020 Subaru WRX

High-End Performance

Consider an SRX and you’ll find two turbocharged four-cylinder engine choices. Both comprise a flathead Boxer design, an unusual arrangement where the cylinders sit horizontally opposed. This layout allows for manufacturers to place the engine lower in the bay, effectively reducing a vehicle’s center of gravity. Thus, the SRX sits low to the ground, which is better for steering and handling.

The standard 2.0-liter engine covers the first three trims. This one makes 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Both STI trims come with a 2.5-liter engine with an output of 310 horsepower and 290 horsepower. The standard engine works with a 6-speed manual transmission or with a continuously variable automatic. The STI’s engine works with a 6-speed manual alone. Our model came with the manual, which is our preferred method of driving whenever one is available.

There is nothing stealth about the WRX and that’s not a bad thing. It serves well as a daily driver, but it also allows for playtime thanks to its potent engine, smooth-shifting manual gearbox, and stiffly sprung suspension. It strikes a balance between commuter and performance car few competitors can match. The STI turns everything up a notch, delivering optimized speed, handling, and throttle control. It’s the closest to a Subaru rally car as you’ll find in any road-ready model.

We were particularly pleased how well the WRX performed on our favorite twisty, backroads. The sedan maintained its composure throughout, with the transmission serving short, crisp throws. Stay in second or third gear and enjoy the engine pumping and feel the torque motivating this pocket rocket. It’s an experience that brings delight to the driver and is much better than what the available CVT supplies. Perhaps one of the best features of the WRX is that it makes driving a stick seem easy with its quick shifts and clean clutch uptake.

2020 Subaru WRX dashboard

Safety & Technology

The best safety features are available on all but the base trim and include a pre-collision system, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Reverse automatic braking is available.

Subaru equips the WRX with a 6.5-inch display. Other tech features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility, two USB ports, Bluetooth, six speakers, HD Radio, and satellite radio. Among the options and upgrades are TomTom navigation, a 7-inch display, and a 9-speaker audio system.

Model Musings

As much as we enjoyed the WRX, the WRX STI is the prize. It’s the track-ready model with the performance chops with the tools to take on the Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen GTI. But go with the WRX if you’ll also use it as your daily driver.

2020 Subaru WRX wheels

See AlsoThree Surprisingly Small 4 Wheel Drives

Photos copyright Stumpwater Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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