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2018 Subaru WRX Drivers' Notes | Turbo traditionalist

Autoblog Staff

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: The Subaru Impreza WRX is one of my favorite enthusiast sedans. It's invigorating, just a bit raw and makes you want to drive it more and more. Our tester has subtle blue paint and aggressive black wheels, which strike the right tone. It's sporty without being stupid. Inside is black leather, red stitching, and plastics that are decent, or at least non-offensive. Good looking car, overall.

I was excited for my one-night stint in the WRX. I blitzed home, dashing in and out of traffic in the lower gears. This thing is like a hovercraft, and with the windows down and the engine growling and buzzing, I made record time. The steering is tight, the clutch engagement is heavy, and the brakes have just the right amount of pedal depth. I felt focused and in control. I've always felt the WRX is the right Impreza for me. The STI is awesome, but unusable for many everyday driving experiences. I could live with the WRX longterm, and love it.


Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: If you've ever lamented that turbo cars don't feel like turbo cars anymore, you should check out a WRX. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four definitely takes a page from the peaky boosted beasts of the past. Driven at low rpms and gently enough that boost still builds, the turbo is laggy and takes a while to hit peak boost. This means that in mild driving, you'll be just shy of the speed limit when the turbo whacks you in the back, and you'll have to jump back off the accelerator just a moment later. But the rush of the turbo kicking in is still pretty entertaining, and a unique feeling that has been engineered out of a lot of other turbo cars.

If you drive the WRX hard, though, the turbo engine becomes much easier to work with. The lag disappears, and the turbo spools right up. But you do have to be running the boxer right up close to redline to keep it responsive.

These characteristics aren't something I personally enjoy. But the way the rest of the WRX drives is spot on for me. The steering is weighted nicely, and the car is very responsive. It also feels quite neutral, much more so than even good front-drive and front-biased all-wheel-drive cars. There's a bit of lean, but the chassis is always composed and communicative. And the benefit of the slightly roll-y suspension is that the WRX has impressive ride quality. The manual transmission has a nice mechanical feel, and each shift is smooth and short. If Subaru could make the engine a little more responsive at normal speeds, I'd be at the dealer ready to plunk down a downpayment right now. But for now, I'll leave it to turbo traditionalists.

Associate Editor Reese Counts: There's nothing else on the road quite like the Subaru WRX. Compared to a lot of performance cars in this price range, the WRX still feels raw. Despite no longer running in WRC, you know there's rally heritage behind the engineering. There's significant lag from the turbo, meaning you have to wring its neck to really get anything from the new 2.0-liter flat four. Peak torque doesn't hit until 5,200 rpm. That's astronomical compared to a lot of modern turbocharged cars that can hit peak torque as low as 1,700 rpm, holding flat until the horsepower kicks up. The steering and clutch are both heavy, though they both feel precise. It takes some effort to drive this car fast, though I enjoyed wringing it out.

I was expecting the ride to be a lot more harsh than it actually was. The refresh for 2018 really did wonders for NVH. Previous WRXs weren't all that comfortable on the road, but I think I could go on a long trip with this car and not feel my spine crunch or my ears bleed. Still, I don't think this is the car for me. If there was still a hatchback, I might change my tune. As it stands, I'll take a Volkswagen GTI Sport and save a few grand.

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