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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2015 Subaru WRX Limited Automatic

    Yes, It Has A CVT. No, Its Not The End Of The World.

    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

    Year: 2015

    Make: Subaru

    Model: WRX

    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)

    Options: N/A

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.


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    Guest Racing juggernaut

    Posted

    So if they need to "mimic" an 8-speed why not just give the people what they want... An automatic transmission with actual gears.

    Second on your review you are correct it's probably passable as a connection between the engine and the wheels however CVT's are generally weak with limited to no room for improvement when HP is added to the engine. In short it's the cheap way out... Subaru - Build new cars that suck less.

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    Guest Racing Juggernaut

    Posted

    dfelt - I should have answered your question too, they make it feel like an 8 speed by having the Constantly Variable belt hold in 8 preprogramed locations within the transmission.

    Now I'm just guessing but I think their reason for a CVT with the feel of 8-speeds is due to cost and space. A true 8 speed transmission will take up a fair amount of space and cost a lot more to build.

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    Interesting question. I think we will see the death of the traditional manual in the next 5 to ten years. I would prefer something like the DSG/PDK dual clutch arrangement, but time will tell.

    Edited by A Horse With No Name

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    I wonder if I could go to Subaru and have the transmission reprogrammed to NOT act like an automatic. It would probably improve performance and fuel efficiency.

    How do you mean?

    Interesting question. I think we will see the death of the traditional manual in the next 5 to ten years. I would prefer something like the DSG/PDK dual clutch arrangement, but time will tell.

    As would I... But I don't see Subaru going with a dual-clutch for a bit still.

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    Audi was actually one of the first to do the "stepped CVT" feel. It was a simple programming update that came out mid-production when they first introduced CVTs in the A4 FWD models. If you bought one of the earliest A4 CVTs, it drove just like any other CVT. If you bought a later one, it would have artificial stepping programming in there to make it feel like a 6-speed automatic. If you wanted, you could go back to Audi to have that new programming removed.

    A CVT without stepping is the most fuel efficient type of transmission possible as long as it is programmed to take advantage of the engine's power properly. Introducing artificial stepping only diminishes that efficiency... and I would imagine also slows acceleration slightly.

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    I was under the impression that the WRX and/or STI had a "normal" mode in which the CVT operated continuously and a sport mode in which the CVT acted like an 8-speed. Am I incorrect?

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    Audi was actually one of the first to do the "stepped CVT" feel. It was a simple programming update that came out mid-production when they first introduced CVTs in the A4 FWD models. If you bought one of the earliest A4 CVTs, it drove just like any other CVT. If you bought a later one, it would have artificial stepping programming in there to make it feel like a 6-speed automatic. If you wanted, you could go back to Audi to have that new programming removed.

    A CVT without stepping is the most fuel efficient type of transmission possible as long as it is programmed to take advantage of the engine's power properly. Introducing artificial stepping only diminishes that efficiency... and I would imagine also slows acceleration slightly.

    One of the reasons the regular Subies came up so far in their fuel economy was their tuning of the CVT. Really, Unless your auto-crossing or running open track and want to know exactly what the car is going to do, a CVT should be the best of all worlds.

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    I was under the impression that the WRX and/or STI had a "normal" mode in which the CVT operated continuously and a sport mode in which the CVT acted like an 8-speed. Am I incorrect?

    You are correct. I didn't try the Intelligent mode during my brief drive (which I assume that will put it into the standard CVT mode).

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