2008 Subaru Impreza WRX review: 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX

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2008 Subaru Impreza WRX

(Part #: CNET2008SubaruImprezaWRX)
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The all-wheel-drive system on the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX helps the car hold the corners well. The navigation system has impressive graphics and a complete points-of-interest database. The stereo has the most tweakable equalizer we've ever seen in a car.

The Bad Bluetooth cell phone integration doesn't seem to be available, and the Impreza WRX's fuel economy is mediocre for a small car.

The Bottom Line Except for fuel economy, the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX works well as an all-purpose car. But if you want something more tightly tuned, wait for the STi version.

7.5 Overall
  • Cabin tech 8.0
  • Performance tech 7.0
  • Design 7.0

Subaru's WRX gained cult popularity among video gamers and drivers who wanted racing performance on a budget. We tested out the newest iteration, the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX, and have some bad news: the WRX has matured. Oh, it still has rally handling, a screaming engine, and a scoop on the hood for its intercooled turbocharger. But its refined body style will make it fit right in the corporate parking lot, and even the Subaru Forester has a hood scoop.

The first thing we noticed about the new WRX were the sides, which look an awful lot like they were stripped off of a BMW 3 series and shortened. Yes, it's that smooth flame-surfacing, broken up only a little by the beltline and a rib. Of course, with the cheapest BMW 3 series starting above $30,000, Subaru's new WRX can claim the ground BMW ceded as it took its cars up-market.

The WRX lives in a middle ground between the standard Subaru Impreza and the highly tuned Subaru Impreza WRX STi, with a short detour to the Subaru Outback, part of the Impreza line. Despite its mature look, this new WRX mostly delivers on the performance expected of it. It also shows Subaru's direction in cabin electronics, with a really nice-looking navigation system and a stereo that true audiophiles can appreciate.

Test the tech: Turbo test
On our first run out in the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX, we felt the power of the intercooled and turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Acceleration is good below 2,500rpm, but above that it becomes incredible as the turbo spins up and the car gets its peak 224 horsepower. So we thought it would be interesting to run some acceleration tests starting with and without the turbo wide open.

For our first test, we launched the car from just over 1,000rpm. With the clutch engaged, we stomped the accelerator and held the gears until 6,000rpm before upshifting. The car behaved very well, with no wheel spin and no tendency to pull to either side. Our time to 60mph on this run was 7.02 seconds.

For fast launches, we would prefer a close ratio gearbox.
On the second run, we revved the car up to 5,000rpm before dropping the clutch. Again, the car was very well-behaved, with no wheel spin. We upshifted at high rpms again. Because of this transmission's wide gear bands, we could hold second gear all the way up to 55mph, but it also had a significant rev drop on the upshifts. Our time for this run, with the turbo blowing fast from start, was 6.75 seconds, .27 faster than the low rpm start.

Finally, we let the driver modulate the accelerator, without trying to launch from a specific tach reading. For this run, we got our best time of 6.45 seconds. While starting with the turbo running at full speed achieved a better time than launching from idle, the car performed best when the driver was allowed to find the sweet spot of rpms, power, and gear.

In the cabin
As we would expect from the sporty version of the Impreza, the WRX includes sport seats for the driver and passenger. These seats have fixed headrests and a sculpted look that goes well with the general interior theme. The dashboard curves in to meet the center stack, somewhat like the cabin of the Subaru Tribeca. The interior also has a clean look, with few buttons marring the curving surfaces. The stack is particularly simple, only hosting HVAC controls, vents, and an LCD for the navigation and audio systems.

Subaru includes an information pod at the top of the dashboard, which shows temperature, time, and fuel economy, among other things. With the navigation option present, the LCD also shows trip computer functions, with more detail than shown in the information pod. The LCD trip computer also has an analog display that shows three animated dials indicating such things as average and instant fuel economy.

The map resolution and general graphic quality are first-rate.
The navigation system impressed us with its next-generation graphics. We've seen few navigation screens that looked this good, from the high-resolution maps to the 3D route guidance graphics. But it doesn't show enough street names, making navigating by the map difficult. The interface is very good, with a touch screen and buttons along the bezel for selecting maps, destination entry, and the audio system screens.

Beyond its pretty graphics, the navigation system stood out as one of the best we've seen because of its complete points-of-interest database, including retail establishments, and its usefulness in planning complicated trips. For each place or address you enter, you can choose to make it a waypoint or the final destination. With the waypoints, you can change their order, delete some or all, and easily enter new ones, all from a convenient list screen.

On the lower part of the LCD's bezel is a button labeled Tilt. This button lets you set an angle for the LCD, something we didn't find particularly useful, or open it up completely to reveal a disc slot. This single-disc slot handles MP3, WMA, and RedBook CDs, as well as DVDs. Yes, when the car is parked, you can actually watch DVDs on this LCD. There is also a composite video jack alongside the RCA jacks in the console, letting you plug in an MP3 player, video game, or other video device. XM satellite radio is also available. The onscreen interface makes it easy to find and select music from MP3 and WMA CDs, and satellite radio.

The in-dash disc player also handles DVDs.

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