As much as I love spending time with tech-rich dream machines, more often than not, I like my cars to be... simple. I just want to get in and go without having to fuss with driver profiles or sport settings or anything like that. I just want simple, honest fun. And for that, it's tough to beat the Subaru WRX.
- Series White gets nice suspension upgrade
- Powerful turbocharged engine
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Lots of fun for under $35K
- Interior looks as old as it is
- Not much in the way of tech
For 2020, the WRX gets a new, which is what I'm testing here. Only 500 of these versions will be sold in the US, all of which feature upgraded suspension components, "ceramic white" paint, black badges and some pretty awesome matte-bronze wheels.
At its heart, the WRX is a point-and-shoot car. The turbocharged 2.0-liter boxer-four puts out enough power for backroad shenanigans -- 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque -- but it's not so much that the car ever feels hard to manage. The turbocharger delivers 15.9 psi of maximum boost, and I love being able to just dig into the throttle in second or third gear on my favorite twisty road to unleash that torque, accented by the distant "psssh" of the blowoff valve.
The WRX's steering is lovely, with a quick ratio and plenty of feedback. In a world where sports car steering is growing increasingly numb, this is a welcome thing. Combine this with a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and Dunlop Sport Maxx summer tires and the WRX is definitely easy to drive on winding roads. The chassis is nicely sorted, settling down quickly after sharp pavement undulations. Yes, the upgraded suspension is stiff, but Bilstein shocks do their damping work relatively well.
The six-speed manual transmission is also a joy, with short throws and crisp action. This is absolutely the way I would spec a WRX, especially considering the alternative is a continuously variable automatic. If you can't drive a stick, I get it, but if you can, or are willing to learn, get the manual. Trust me.
You can opt for Brembo brakes, with larger 12.8-inch front discs with four-piston calipers, and 12.4-inch rear discs with two-piston calipers. They get the job done just fine, but the pedal feel isn't all that linear. The pedal stays near the top of its travel range, so if you put in too much force it can get pretty grabby. I just wish the pedal depressed at a rate equal to the pressure coming from my foot.
The best thing about the WRX is the way it drives. The interior, meanwhile, is functional but disappointing. If there's one big reminder that this WRX originally launched in 2014, it's here. There's minimal storage for smaller items and the center console is positioned pretty far back between the front seats, making it awkward to open and close. The cabin is also really loud, and it's all wind and tire noise.
The WRX sedan is fairly roomy, with 12 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk and rear seats that fold down for more storage. Up front, the Series White's standard Recaro seats are very comfortable and supportive. Even under the most aggressive cornering, my butt and shoulders stay where they belong.
The lackluster interior extends to the onboard technology, too. The WRX comes standard with a 6.5-inch touchscreen running Subaru's Starlink infotainment system, but my tester has the slightly-less-dinky 7-inch screen. and are standard, but you have to step up to the top WRX Limited trim to get native navigation. Starlink is easy to use, but CarPlay is better.
Charging ports inside the car are adequate, with a 12-volt outlet up front, another in the center console and two USB-A outlets. Rear-seat passengers, meanwhile, don't get anything.
If you want driver assistance aids, only a few are available. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on the WRX's top trims, and if you want adaptive cruise control, you have to get a CVT-equipped car. The standard backup camera could use an upgrade, too -- it's blurry and has a fish-eye-like lens.
As for how I'd spec my ideal WRX, since the Series White is already sold out, I'd go for a midtier Premium, mostly to get the 7-inch infotainment screen. I'll tick the box for the performance package with the Recaro seats, Brembo brakes and moonroof delete. I'm also fancy, so I'll take the $500 ultrasuede steering wheel, bringing my final price up from the $28,395 base to $34,044, including $900 for destination. That's really not bad, considering how much performance you get for the price.
It's easy to throw out the Honda Civic Type R as a competitor, but that's a full $9,000 more expensive. The Civic Si is good, but it has a lot less power and is front-wheel-drive only. Ditto the Volkswagen GTI, though you get more driver-assistance features, as well as hatchback functionality.
The 2020 Subaru WRX is a great car for people who just want a lot of performance for a good price. It's not the most lavishly equipped thing on four wheels, but it's honest, it's easy and it always makes me smile. Really, that's all I need.