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Edmunds: 2006 Subaru WRX TR Follow-up Test

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New look, more power and a throwback price

By Chris Walton

Date posted: 04-03-2006

The Subaru Impreza WRX: The one that started it all. Before Evo, there was WRX. Most people drop the "Impreza" and sometimes the "Subaru" part of the car's name and go simply with "WRX." That's model awareness.

Since 2001 (or the 2002 model year), when Subaru's World Rally Championship (WRC) driver took the WRC driver's title, Subaru took a chance on the U.S. market and delivered a 227-horsepower all-wheel-drive compact sedan to performance-hungry drivers here.

We can still hear those smug Brits waxing poetic on the turbo version of the "Im-PRET-za" we never could get our hands on. Fast-forward to model-year 2006, and the U.S.-spec WRX is on its third face-lift and second engine, but at its 2002 price. The TR model (for "Tuner Ready") fulfills the promise of the original car's price of $24,620, as it was in 2002.


One might think that the TR model with a five-speed manual transmission is a stripped-down, roll-up-window shell of a car minus A/C, radio and floor mats. Not so.

While the new model's interior is, indeed, drawn from the base-model Impreza 2.5i sedan, it has all of the above basic equipment plus all the good stuff, including viscous-coupling all-wheel drive, limited-slip rear differential, larger disc brakes, bigger wheels and tires, and a retuned sport suspension. There's also a new-for-'06 turbocharged 2.5-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder (or "flat-four") engine with an air-to-water intercooler.

Replacing the 2.0-liter engine with the 2.5 marginally increased the output from 227 to 230 horsepower. However, the addition of variable valve timing and the extra cubes show more dramatic improvements in engine torque, from 217 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm to 235 lb-ft at 3,600 rpm. This addresses one of the chief complaints of the previous base-model WRX.

Newfound motivation

It used to be that the plucky little WRX was a blast to drive at wide-open throttle, flying past unsuspecting Mustangs and GTOs, but the lack of low-rpm torque made it soft around town where the majority of driving occurs. If you wanted to accelerate into that vacant space in the next lane, you had to downshift to raise the rpm to a sufficiently powerful range. Now, not so much.

There really is a noticeable improvement in the drivability of the WRX. Here's what one of our drivers wrote in the logbook: "The additional displacement is readily apparent. There's a new surge of torque beginning at 2,500 rpm up to 3,500, where the horsepower begins to rise. The rush of power from 4,000-6,000 rpm is still a manic experience." And the additional combination of horsepower and torque did improve our instrumented acceleration runs, as well.

The new WRX TR outran our 2002 WRX test car to 60 mph by almost a full second at 5.5 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 14.2 seconds at 95.6 mph, or 0.7 second and 5.6 mph faster.

Cosmetics or real performance gain

Unfortunately, we can't definitively say the "plus-one" tires and enhanced brakes similarly improved the TR's performance. Newly vented, 11.3-inch rear-brake rotors with two-piston calipers replaced 10.3-inch solid discs with single pistons for 2006. Vented front brakes go from two- to four-pot calipers, as well.

We witnessed improvements in the fade resistance of the WRX's brakes, but the 60-0-mph braking test resulted in an uninspiring 126-foot halt compared to a previous WRX, which stopped in 115 feet.

Similarly, the new half-inch-wider wheel/tire package (205/55R16 became 215/45R17) didn't necessarily translate into improved slalom performance. Even with new aluminum lower links on the front suspension and quicker-ratio steering, the 64.9-mph-average slalom (versus previous 64.5 mph) is only an entertainingly speedy pass.

To put that in perspective, we recently tested two front-drivers, a Honda Civic Si and VW GTI, to 68.7 and 66.1 mph averages respectively. Those are markedly better performances. We know this isn't the ultradedicated WRX STI, but feel like the TR's suspension could stand a little more firmness and unless you need M+S tires, replace them post haste.

But then again, that's why this model is called "Tuner Ready," and Subaru just happens to offer its own factory-authorized suspension components through its Subaru Performance Tuning (SPT) arm. But be careful what you order because only some of these bolt-on parts maintain the car's original warranty — others are "intended for off-highway use only."

Two reasons to buy

All things considered, the addition of the $24,620 TR model does ensure the entry-level WRX fan a $1,000 discount. The rest of the WRX sedan line begins at $25,620 and has been expanded for 2006 to include a new, more premium-level Limited series with a base MSRP of $28,120.

The TR, indeed, leaves the door open to a well-supported world of aftermarket and manufacturer-authorized performance enhancements. We're happy Subaru didn't forget how and why the WRX earned its reputation, and that's by being a low-priced sleeper compact that also works as an all-weather soft-roader.

In these ways, the WRX TR continues to appeal to two camps of traditional Subaru buyers: those who can't wait to start "personalizing" and those who appreciate mud-and-snow tire tread over street cred.

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Link: http://www.edmunds.com/insideline/do/Drive...rticleId=109865

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Purely my opinion but this thing looks goofy without a rear spoiler:

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When will Subaru give it a real redesign?

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Purely my opinion but this thing looks goofy without a rear spoiler:

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I agree, both it and the Evo look odd without their spoilers.

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Too bad the styling past it's freshness date years ago.

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