The 2015 Subaru WRX got off to a bit of a rough start when the production model was shown at the L.A. Auto Show last year. First off, the exterior looked to be a fully-watered down version of the concept that was shown earlier in the year. Then came the news that the WRX would be available with a CVT transmission. The internet seemed to implode on the basis of this news, but is it all bad? Has Subaru messed up the WRX?
In a word, no.
Let's begin with the CVT since that is what I drove at the MAMA Spring Rally last month. The CVT in question is Subaru's Linetronic and the company made some wise decisions for its application in the WRX. For starters, Subaru's engineers made the CVT act like an eight-speed automatic. What I mean is that transmission will mimic the shift points of a regular automatic. This carries over when the you throw it into the manual mode, where it will simulate gears. If you were to tell me to drive around in the WRX and not reveal that it has a CVT, I would have said it has a really nice automatic transmission.
The big downside with going the CVT is a slight decrease in performance. The standard six-speed manual hits 60 MPH in 5.4 seconds, while the CVT can do the same in 5.9 seconds. Unless you live and die by how fast you can make it to the next stoplight, the performance difference is negligible.
Getting you up to speed is a new turbocharged 2.0L boxer-four making 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That torque number is pretty impressive when you take into consideration that its available from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. This engine has a lot of scoot and moves with authority when exiting a corner. Finishing off the powertrain is Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system which keeps the WRX on course.
Driving along the back roads in Elkhart Lake, I was impressed by how well the WRX corner. There was no noticeable body roll and the car seemed to hold on to road with superglue. Steering was very responsive and provided good feedback.
Now to the exterior. Let's be honest for a moment, the WRX in all of its incarnation has never been a pretty vehicle. At least with the 2015, Subaru is trying a little bit harder to make it a little bit different than the standard Impreza. The WRX has its own set of unique body panels, a functional hood scoop, and a rear diffuser. Some might call this too much, but I think it's just right. You need a little crazy with a sport compact car.
Subaru has improved the WRX's interior from looking and feeling like something from a 1980's compact car. High-quality materials are out in force, as are nicely bolstered front seats and a flat bottom steering wheel. One downside is the placement of the trip computer as it right in line of being washed out by sunlight.
In my brief time with the WRX, I came away very impressed. The addition of CVT means more people can experience the fun of this all-wheel drive rocket.
Subaru didn't ruin the WRX; they made it that much better.
Disclaimer: Subaru Provided the WRX for the 2014 MAMA Spring Rally
Trim: Limited Automatic
Engine: 2.0L Twin-Scroll Turbocharged Boxer-Four
Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 268 @ 5,800
Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 2,000 - 5,200
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/25/21
Curb Weight: 3,433 lbs
Location of Manufacture: N/A
Base Price: $31,195
As Tested Price: $31,990 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)