Search CarGuide.PH

January 26, 2009

Review: 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX

Everyday traffic in Manila is such a finicky creature.  One moment, you’re cruising the length of EDSA at about 80 km/h and the next; you’re stuck behind the Love Bus.  You think you can escape it by leaving earlier (or later) or by taking another route, but after sometime you realize: traffic here doesn’t follow a particular time or place.  It comes and goes at will and no amount of u-turn slots and bus lanes can fix it.  The best you can do would be to make the daily commute much more bearable: a roomy and comfy cabin, a compliant ride and a nice stereo would be welcome things to have as you crawl next to everyone else.  But what about the times when things are moving faster?  When you wished you had a quick car with excellent performance and strong brakes to haul you in?  It may not be more than 14.28 percent of any given week (that’s Sunday to you non-mathematicians), but as an enthusiast, you just want that extra kick available when you need it the most.  Luckily, there’s the Subaru Impreza WRX—a car that’s equal parts comfortable and racy; an automotive equivalent of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde.

The story of the WRX starts from the regular Impreza, which in turn is based on a shortened Legacy platform.  Anyone who has driven the Legacy can attest to its combination of a compliant ride and enthusiastic handling; and the Impreza, even the WRX, is no different.  On just about any surface, the WRX absorbs bumps with ease.  The suspension almost feels like it has limitless travel, going over ruts and road cuts without ever jarring the occupants.  It shames any of its compact car rivals, and this is despite riding on sporty 205/50 R 17 tires.  The WRX is equally good at taking corners as well thanks to its symmetrical all-wheel drive.  At first, there are hints of understeer, but a quick nudge of the wheel will quickly reel the WRX in.  The steering, which relies on a conventional hydraulic power assist rather than the base Impreza’s electro-hydraulic system, is heavy and communicative in a BMW sort of way.  The brakes have also been beefed up with a two-piston front, single-piston rear—the very same set-up found in the Legacy 2.5 GT and Spec B cars.

The WRX, like all other Imprezas, is equipped with Vehicle Dynamic Control System or VDCS, a system which integrates stability and traction control as well as added stuff such as hill start assist.  This system can be overridden (but not completely turned off) via a dash-mounted button.

Aside from its excellent mix of handling and ride, what makes the WRX an addicting car to drive is the sound of air being sucked in by its 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine.  At start-up, this ‘Boxer’ engine cranks harder than its normally-aspirated 2.0-liter cousin—an indication of more muscle lurking inside.  But like all other Subaru engines, it settles to a nice, quiet and even idle with no vibration (what else would you expect from the consistent Ward’s Auto World 10 Best Engines winner?).  It shares the same engine from the same engine from previous WRX models, so peak power and torque haven’t changed (230 horsepower, 320 Nm).  However, engineers have improved power and torque delivery, lowering them by 400 rpm and 800 respectively.  A jab of the throttle will result in nearly instantaneous acceleration and the sounds of whoosh as the large hood scoop gulps air.  The accompanying five-speed manual gives precise shifts despite its long travel and though heavy, the clutch pedal gives a nice and positive engagement.  All in all, despite its high level of performance, the WRX manages to return a surprisingly good figure of 7.24 km/h, redline acceleration, Friday traffic and all.

The GH, as the current Impreza is designated, marks the first time the Impreza is offered in the Philippines as a full model range from a base normally-aspirated model to a full-blown STI rally car for the road.  This means, it’s actually harder to tell the WRX apart from its lesser-engined brethren from any angle except the front.  Both variants have the same road-scraping ‘Sport’ body kit as standard as well as the same 10-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels.  In fact, the only differences come in the form of color choices as well as the large hood scoop and mesh-type grille (replacing the base Impreza’s egg-crate design).

The differences between the regular Impreza and the WRX are much more blurred inside where both look completely identical down to the color combination, materials used and even list of standard features.  The words ‘MOMO’ may be missing from the steering wheel, but it doesn’t make the large-diameter, thick three spoke design less ergonomic or easy to use.  In fact, it’s the same leather-clad steering wheel found in just about every locally available Subaru car (except the Tribeca)!  The front seats are one-piece sport buckets, mounted low for that ‘racy’ feeling.  The driver features a manual height adjuster to compensate, but old people riding shotgun may complain of difficult ingress/egress.  There’s not much toys to play with inside the WRX, but at least the standard stereo system (also shared with the rest of the Impreza range) is excellent to say the least.  There’s a solid set of input selections including a center console auxiliary audio jack and 100 watts of output from its 10-speaker system.  There’s even a sub-woofer jack built into the unit if you want even more thump.

Before driving the WRX, it was quite easy to dismiss it as a half-baked idea that’s somewhere between the insane WRX STI and the tame Impreza.  Those after practically will opt for the P 1.060-million 2.0 R Sport while those who want performance will get the P 2.048-million WRX STI.  Personally, I had the same notion when I settled for a R Sport (an automatic no less) six months back.  But after trying the WRX in just about every driving situation, except for the Christmas shopping rush, one cannot help but praise the abilities of this car.  If you could only have one car to use both everyday (bringing the missus to work and the kids to school) and the occasional track day, then the WRX is the car for you.  If I only had an additional P 600,000 lying around (that’s on top of the P 1.140-million 2.0 R Sport automatic purchase price), I’d certainly opt for a WRX.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment or share your views. Comments that are derogatory and/or spam will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to moderate and/or remove comments.