Of course, a WRX is not something you get if you are merely looking for cheap and comfortable transportation. It is all about Subaru's Symmetric All-Wheel-Drive system. Unlike the STI, the WRX does not let you dial in exactly how much differential lock you want, but the all-wheel-drive, which by default puts torque at a 50-50 distribution, can put 100 percent power to the front or rear wheels as required.
Taking this 2011 WRX into the curves, we got to experience the pure joy that is all-wheel-drive handling. Sure, the car did not remain perfectly flat as we twisted it in the turns, its soft suspension allowing for a bit of lean, but those wheels dug in hard, holding the pavement and allowing a little rotation at the limits.
The wide body kit on the car is more than just cosmetic, too, as Subaru increased the track of the WRX by 1.5 inches. This wider track makes the WRX feel more planted in the corners than the previous generation.
We were ecstatic to find that, while negotiating a turn at speed, a little brake application adjusted the car's behavior without everything going very wrong. This capability becomes especially useful in blind corners when the road suddenly turns in a little sharper than expected.
Subaru helps the WRX's handling with steering tuning that is reasonably sharp, but short of sports-car twitch. In normal driving situations, the car's suspension and steering made it something we could easily live with. And although we could adapt to the turbo lag, the gearbox would never prove satisfying.
At 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway, the WRX is not exactly an economy car. But our frequent use of the turbo brought our own fuel economy average down lower, to 17.3 mpg.
Subaru says that its new navigation head unit includes iPod controls, but a dealer accessory iPod port is required to activate it. This is one of those little things that Subaru should probably make standard with the navigation option.
Lacking that input, we relied on the auxiliary audio jack, satellite radio, and CD/DVD slot. Actually, as the navigation head unit supports video, the WRX includes a composite video port along with its RCA audio jacks in the console. And behind the LCD is a CD/DVD player. We don't particularly like disc slots behind LCDs, but most WRX buyers would probably rely on an MP3 player anyway.
The six-speaker audio system in the car initially sounded about average. Higher frequency sounds were somewhat buried and the bass did not stand out. But then we discovered the extensive audio controls in the stereo. Along with typical fader and balance controls, the WRX includes a four-band parametric equalizer. This type of equalizer is very advanced, letting you not only increase or decrease particular frequency volume, but also change the actual frequency each band controls. Not only that, but the WRX also includes several different surround-sound settings, although these are more useful for videos than music.
We spent some time fiddling with the equalizer, hoping to get a more satisfying sound. And it mostly worked. The change in frequency volume gave more life to the highs and made the bass strike with a sharper note, but the bass was a little strong for the car's audio system, causing the interior panels in the car to rattle annoyingly. Ultimately, the amp and speakers for this audio system are not quite up to the promise of the audio controls, and would be a good target for an upgrade.
The 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX offers some good cabin tech features with the new navigation system, but falls short in a few areas, such as not offering traffic updates. We love the ability to extensively tune the audio, but the car could do with better speakers and amp.
Performance tech is much better, starting with the turbocharged boxer-style engine. The all-wheel-drive system and wide track make for fantastic handling, and give it some extra safety in slippery conditions. The main drawback is the gearbox, which feels like it came from a truck.
As for design, we love a hatchback, and the looks of the WRX have grown on us. The wide body kit helps the design considerably. The touch-screen interface design is very intuitive to use, and shows nice aesthetics.
|Model||2011 Subaru Impreza WRX|
|Trim||Premium 5 door|
|Power train||Turbocharged 2.5-liter four cylinder engine, 5 speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||19 mpg city/25 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||17.3 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional with navigation|
|Disc player||Single MP3 compatible CD/DVD|
|MP3 player support||None|
|Other digital audio||Satellite radio, auxiliary audio input|
|Audio system||6 speakers|
|Price as tested||$30,690|