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September 11, 2018

Review: 2018 Subaru WRX 2.0 CVT

In the realm of performance cars, the pecking order can change quite quickly—one moment, you’re top of the heap, and in the next, you’re bottom of the pile. Four years therefore is an eternity in this segment, one that the Subaru WRX finds itself precariously in. With a replacement due in about a year or two, it’s no longer the segment’s young gun, but rather, it’s now the elder statesman. Has Father Time been kind to the latest iteration of the World Rally eXperiment?

If aesthetics is the sole gauge of longevity, then yes, the WRX still manages to look fine. With styling that’s downright conservative, it’s managed to outlive car fashion faux pas. Yes, it did go under the knife last year, but that’s mainly to keep the styling in line with the rest of the Subaru line-up. Still, it’s worth mentioning that the new exterior elements—the larger lower air intake, headlight-integrated daytime running lights, and 18-inch gunmetal alloys are all worthy, or should we say, necessary changes.

Ageless as it is outside, the WRX is starting to feel long in the tooth inside. Some elements, like the thick, flat-bottomed steering wheel and heavily-bolstered sport seats still work, but the rest of the cabin feels like it’s stuck in 2014. Ergonomics continue to be spot-on, but the material usage betrays its econobox origins. The 7-inch touchscreen is a great upgrade from the previous prehistoric set-up, but because this still isn’t Starlink, it doesn’t have functions like as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Kudos though for the 2018 model’s sharper-looking center display, revised rear seats with center armrest, one-touch power windows for all, and the addition of Blind Spot indicators (no EyeSight here).

Mechanically, the 2018 WRX remains unchanged from before and that means having 265 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque. The outputs aren’t particularly stellar, but don’t get it wrong: it’s never short on power. It lacks the raw, guttural sound of the STI’s EJ25 engine, but the FA20DIT is actually the more flexible, more tractable engine, even at low rpms. The Lineartronic CVT means a split-second delay before the turbo spools up, but once it does, it delivers. The SI-Drive is supposed to add some civility to the equation, but the default Intelligent mode only serves to choke the performance. Keeping it in Sport results in the best balance of every day performance and fuel economy. Oh, and for the curious, the WRX manages 6.41 km/L at an average speed of 15 km/h.

Curiously, there’s a disconcerting experience with the WRX that mimics a previous experience with a direct-injected, turbocharged engine from another brand: the sudden loss of power. While the previous experience was coupled with a rise in temperature, in the case of the WRX, the engine temperature still read normal. Hard presses on the throttle would still deliver some power, but not before some high degree of hesitation. This on/off power delivery is certainly dangerous, especially when it happens in stop-and-go traffic. This is purely anecdotal, but in both cases, the fuel used is a popular 95-octane fuel from the largest oil company in the Philippines.

For 2018, Subaru says that the WRX’s handling has been tweaked making it feel more natural. However, without a back-to-back drive with the old one, the differences cannot be validated. Still, the key here is accessible performance on any road or surface. The steering is commendably quick and linear, obliging late dive downs through corners. Steering aside, the suspension makes for a quick, secure, fun sports sedan. Despite its four-door layout, it subjectively has the same level of agility as say, the BRZ. And of course, just like any Subaru, the standard all-wheel drive with brake-based torque vectoring adds a thick layer of security. In this case, the 45/55 front-to-rear split can move torque around to the set of wheels that need it the most.

Countermeasures have been put in place against unwanted NVH such as thicker door glass door sealing, and a foam-filled windshield beam. Despite these measures though, the WRX won’t be mistaken for a cushy compact or executive sedan. For sure, it’s quiet even at highway speed, but the standard 18-inch Dunlop tires are still audible. In terms of ride, it’s stiff, but at least it keeps larger jolts in check.

Few cars in the Philippine market can offer the WRX’s unique combination of sportscar fun with family-friendly practicality. And with its P 2,008,000 price tag, it’s pretty much the only one left at that price range. Father Time may have withered away some of the mystic surrounding this iconic Subaru, but it’s still the car that can melt weekday duties into raucous fun. It’s a car built not just for the weekend, but for weekdays as well.

2018 Subaru WRX 2.0 CVT
Ownership 2018 Subaru WRX 2.0 CVT
Year Introduced 2014 (Refreshed: 2018)
Vehicle Classification Compact Sedan
The Basics
Body Type 4-door Sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders F4
BHP @ rpm 268 @ 5,600
Nm @ rpm 350 @ 2,400-5,200
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 6.14 km/L @ 15 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,595
Width (mm) 1,795
Height (mm) 1,475
Wheelbase (mm) 2,650
Curb Weight (kg) 1,482
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Dunlop Sport Maxx RT 245/40 R 18 W (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No, with Rear Camera
Other Safety Features Hill Hold Assist
Blind Spot Indicators
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED), Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric (driver)
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
USB x 2
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. With regards to the sudden loss of power, this can be solved via a FMIC upgrade. This commonly due to heat soak for turbocharged vehicles. Perrin has developed one with a crash bar, such an outstanding product!

    With regards to the FC, it's good enough for a sports sedan. A true car guy will love this!

    1. I’m not sure if it’s heat soak eh. All the meters said normal naman eh.

    2. Have you tried using 97 octane or more? It might help having higher octane rating on a turbo to reduce pre-ignition. Switched from 91 RON to 95 on NA and 95 to 97 on turbo around a year ago. Fuel seemed to be a bit different when gas stations started offering heavily discounted prices when you have a certain card membership. Just an observation.

    3. upgrading to fmic will produce more turbo lag on the stock turbo.

    4. That's true IF you don't custom tune it.

  2. The fuel used must be XCS. Wag na kasi mag petron.


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