2023 Subaru WRX Long-Term Update: What can't you do in this car?



When I handed the keys to our long-term 2023 Subaru WRX to Senior Editor John Snyder, it was after a long day of driving it back-to-back with a 2024 WRX TR. Fear not; that writeup is coming. But with my stint in the WRX ending, I couldn’t help but think about another sporty Japanese car of which I am particularly fond. Yeah, I’m going to make this about a Miata. Don’t worry; it’ll be quick. 

I bought my first track car in 2008. It was a 1990 Miata, red, with more than 200,000 miles on it. It cost me a whole $1,350 (negotiated down from $1,500). At its first HPDE, I handed the keys to my instructor — a foul-mouthed former BMX rider whose name you might know — and asked him to give it a quick shakedown. He directed another student to a hideously under-braked 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T and sent him on his way with a simple directive: Try to find an opening. I watched the exercise unfold from my vantage point near Summit Point Raceway’s Turn 9. After fending off the Hemi for the whole session, he handed the keys back to me with a concise but heartening evaluation: “You can do anything in that car.”

It was good advice from a man who gave far more than his fair share of it, and while I still own that Miata, I hear his voice every time I walk away from our WRX. It’s communicative, engaging and quick. And more than that, it feels happy being driven hard. You really do feel like you can do anything in that car. If I didn’t already have an orange sport sedan in my garage, I’d be asking to take over the payments when this one’s scheduled to leave. 

Say what you will about the new WRX’s styling, this is the first generation of the little sport sedan that has truly gotten my attention, and while I went hard on the Miata connection above, the 2023 WRX actually calls to mind another Mazda of which I was incredibly fond: the original Mazdaspeed3. Yeah, I owned one of those too, and both DDed and tracked the crap out of it. Like my old Speed3, the WRX has its quirks. On the performance side, for example, I find the brakes somewhat lukewarm. The initial bite is a bit lacking and there’s no real sense of why; the car doesn’t feel heavy or disconnected, but that initial feel is a bit “meh.”

As a daily, there are other nits I’d pick. The premium audio in our tester is a bit of a letdown. Unless your entire collection is on optical disc, there’s not much point springing for the accessory CD player as we did since you won’t be able to appreciate the improved quality of a lossless audio format on this system unless perhaps you’re parked in your garage with the car off. And while we’re on the subject of sound, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address a glaring issue: the exhaust system. 

The WRX does not sound bad. Nor does it sound good. It sounds like a whole lotta nothing. Palmer hinted before that we might be in the market for Subaru’s STI accessory exhaust system, and frankly, it can’t come soon enough. 



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