LOS ANGELES -- From the moment that the fourth-generation Subaru Impreza debuted at the 2011 New York Auto Show, enthusiasts have been clamoring for the next WRX. At the same time, they've been praying that Subaru not ruin their beloved rally-bred ride in the process. Almost two years later, the 2015 Subaru Impreza WRX has finally bowed at the 2013 LA Auto Show and, aside from a few oddities, it's looking rather impressive.
The underpinnings are based on the fourth-generation Impreza, but Subaru says that 80 percent of the WRX's exterior body panels are unique to the performance model. Underneath the skin, the wide-body Wrex has a wider track and a stiffer chassis than the standard Impreza.
The front end is where the most obvious styling differences can be found. The WRX's blacked-out headlamps and foglight surrounds give it a menacing look. Larger grille openings help to cool and feed air to the more powerful engine.
Beneath the hood, scoop, and intercooler, you'll find the engine bay filled with a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected Boxer engine. Output is estimated at 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
When equipped with the CVT, the WRX will gain a few new tricks. The driver will be able to select between six-speed and eight-speed "faux-gear" manual shifting modes and between Intelligent, Sport, and Sport Sharp drive modes with the Intelligent Drive controller. The CVT model also features a unique all-wheel-drive system and will boast up to 30 highway mpg... still think I'd take the three pedal model.
Like the standard Impreza, the WRX's cabin has undergone a tech upgrade. The performance model will be available with keyless access with push-button Start, heated front seats, a power driver's seat, and a 440-watt, nine-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system and navigation with Aha smartphone integration. That's a huge step up from the last time we tested an Impreza.
Though navigation is available, the Impreza WRX on display featured the standard audio system and automatic climate controls. We previously criticized this system for being a bit difficult to use. Fans of aftermarket stereos will appreciate that it looks easy enough to yank from its faux carbon fiber surround.
Like the standard Impreza, the WRX features a new multi-information central display with 4.3-inch LCD screen (not lit in this photo). This screen displays a variety of vehicle system functions, including the rear camera display, a boost gauge, audio, Bluetooth and climate-control settings, and a VDC screen showing traction control operation.
The WRX has also never been univerally praised as being a beautiful vehicle; its enthusiasts love its function over its often odd-looking form. While this 2015 model starts out with an aggressive front end, the design lacks a strong finish at the rear. I'm sure I'll get a lot of hate mail for saying this, but the '15 Wrex sort of looks like a Nissan Sentra from this angle.