My first few weeks in our long-term 2023 Subaru WRX have been like getting reacquainted with an old friend. Autoblog had a memorable 2015 WRX, well, nearly a decade ago. Time flies. That was a great sports sedan, and this one is shaping up similarly. Here are my early impressions.
1. The past is always present
Cliche, I know, and Shakespeare and Faulkner’s sentiments are apt when understanding the new WRX. This isn’t some great departure from what the car is or means. You don’t wake up one morning, decide you need a new sedan for commuting to your hybrid office and land on the WRX. Unless you’re a hardcore enthusiast. That’s why even though I’m driving a modern car, it makes me think of this, and other things of similar ilk.
2. So about that ‘modern driving’…
It’s a lot of work to operate the WRX. It’s also fun and rewarding. With compromise comes blessings, as Bruce Springsteen wrote. The WRX is small and tight. Harsh even. Loud. It feels rattly and stiff. It’s not very comfortable. It’s quite the opposite. You can go faster more easily in many different vehicles.
What’s better than an enthusiast-oriented six-speed manual with a heavy clutch? The throws are not numbingly long, yet not intimidatingly close. Just right. The chassis is rock solid and keeps the WRX flat when pushed. The steering returns satisfying feedback and is lighter than you might expect. It’s loud. The 271-hp boxer turbo four provides plenty of motivation for a car that weighs less than 3,400 pounds. All of this works together to build uncommon character. When I drive this WRX, my mind flashes back to the MazdaSpeed 3 and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Those are long gone, and Subie fans can get halfway to an STI with the TR package, which we memorably tested in Sicily.
4. Winter beater
Plowing through snow and slush, the WRX is nearly unstoppable with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and our winter Blizzaks. There’s clearly some compromise in the raw athleticism, but that’s counterbalanced by husky-like ability to mush through winter. The only downside: when the snow melts and Michigan’s pock-marked roads are their worst, the low-slung WRX and its ultra-stiff suspension will rattle your fillings.
5. Daily driving has its ups and downs
I rolled up a fair amount of miles on this thing. It’s loud as hell on the expressway, or really any road. The back seat is tight. The trunk is decent actually, and I was able to cram large orders from Target and Kroger back there on a single trip. I also wedged in a sled, skates and hockey equipment for another winter adventure. Sedans have been forgotten by many car buyers, but they still serve a purpose.
6. The design is growing on me
I like it, but I also think it’s a bit much. The molded arches’ texture around the wheels is said to help aerodynamics, but I’ve never been a fan of plastic wheel wells on anything. Our 2015 WRX with gold Sparcos and clean sheetmetal cast a more appealing profile. Perhaps even worse, the new WRX has nearly half of the rear end engulfed in plastic. Conversely, the gaping hood scoop, LED lights and fenders recall the best of the WRX’s design elements over the years. Credit to Subaru for taking risks with the design. There’s really no point to playing it safe with a machine like the WRX.
7. The case for sedans
There’s something to be said for a sedan. A car. An actual automobile. As I’ve said, bordering on repetition, this WRX has an enthusiast spirit. But take away that, and sedans as disparate as Honda’s Accord and Civic, the outgoing Dodge Charger and BMW 3 Series all conjure a timeless feel of an attractive car. Crossovers are the descendants of station wagons, which coined the term grocery getters. Cars can be the opposite. Frankly, the sedan segment has shrunk so much, they’re almost enthusiast-oriented by default.
8. It has a CD player!
A veritable compact disc player, that’s nicely integrated into the center storage console. What in the name of Carson Daly made this happen? I found my old Case Logic CD binder, dropped in a Counting Crows album from 1999 and felt a wave of nostalgia wash over. There’s a line in one of the songs: “if dreams are like movies then memories are films about ghosts.” That’s sort of what the WRX strives to capture.
9. Looking ahead
I keep a Jack Nicklaus four-wood in my golf bag. Belonged to my dad. It’s from the 70s, at least, maybe even the 60s. I can whack a ball pretty far and get nice loft with it, but it’s a lot of work. Far better to swing easy with the titanium hybrid I use for half my shots in a given round. But I like golf and have a sense of history. Sometimes it’s more fun to do what’s harder. That’s the lens through which I plan to view the WRX.