Subaru's WRX sits between the Impreza economy car and the STI rally car. It has a turbocharged engine, but does not make as much power as the STI. For the 2011 model year, the WRX gets the same wide track and body kit as the STI, giving it improved handling over the 2010 model.
The WRX has been a favorite for its low cost and near-rally car specs. The 2011 model is a good compromise between cornering performance and every day comfort.
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Subaru offers the WRX in hatchback and sedan formats. As the engine uses a fairly powerful turbocharger, the big scoop in the hood is necessary.
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The WRX's 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine produces 265 horsepower and 244 pound-feet of torque. The 14.2 PSI turbocharger results in some turbo lag, but gives the car plenty of power once spooled up.
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With its high roofline, the WRX offers ample passenger space front and back, contributing to its everyday practicality.
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Subaru's all-wheel-drive system defaults to a 50-50 distribution of torque between front and rear wheels. The system is capable of sending 100 percent of torque front or rear, depending on conditions.
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For 2011, Subaru increased the WRX's track by 1.5 inches, making it match the STI's. The increased width helps out handling, adding to the performance side of the WRX equation.
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The hatchback version of the WRX has ample and versatile cargo space, something we like about this style of car.
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Although not upscale, the cabin materials and interior design of the WRX are very nice. For 2011, Subaru updated the navigation system, giving it a Bluetooth phone system.
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The steering is a nice compromise for good handling and everyday use. It is not too twitchy, yet still responds precisely under pressure.
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Subaru does not bother putting a turbo pressure gauge on the instrument cluster, in keeping with its daily driver mission.
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Although we like most of the power-train tech, this gearbox is terrible. A five speed, the gate has no precision. We would also prefer closer ratios to get better use out of the turbo.
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The navigation system is DVD-driven, and very basic. It shows 2D maps only, and there is no external data, such as traffic or weather.
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The touch-screen keyboard is easy to use, but Subaru locks out destination entry while the car is underway.
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The Bluetooth phone system works very well, and accepts transferred contact list entries from a paired phone.
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The CD/DVD slot is hidden behind the LCD, which is not the best arrangement. It plays MP3 CDs and DVDs.
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The auxiliary input not only includes audio, but also has a composite video jack.
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We were impressed with the wide array of audio tuning available in this head unit, but the car's six speakers are not really up to the task of fine audio reproduction.