A True Jekyll And Hyde
Though considered a practical saloon, the Subaru WRX is really a sports car, which happens to have four doors, and a slightly tamed attitude. This 2018 WRX update brings some light but welcome refreshments to the table, before an all-new model that finally uses Subaru’s all-new Global Platform arrives around 2020.
For this refresh, the Subaru WRX gains a new, sharper front end, featuring the latest interpretation of Subaru’s hexagonal grille design, as well as its “hawk-eye” LED headlights. Adding some style to this refreshed WRX are features that range from 18-inch alloys, automatic steering responsive LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights, and rain sensing wipers. Fine tuning for the end of its life cycle update brings larger Jurid brake pads that provide 20% better efficiency and performance, recalibrated steering, and retuned fixed rate dampers for added compliance and improved stability. The WRX’s low, aggressive body work, subtle rear lip spoiler, integrated hood scoop, side vents, and quad tip exhausts all hint at it’s performance potential, but it never looks over the top; that’s the job of the more hardcore WRX STI.
Subaru has also updated the WRX’s interior for 2018 to make it more “liveable”. There’s a new infotainment system, as well as more premium interior materials. The cabin layout is simple, with controls that are all within reach and are easy to use. Overall, Subaru has done a good job updating the interior, but it still isn’t a particularly upscale place to be in. At times, it feels pretty drab, especially compared to its chief rival, the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
An additional color TFT LCD screen is located on top of the center console, which is operated via a small toggle switch just above the main infotainment screen, between the aircon vents. The display can be configured to show performance stats, such as the turbo boost gauge that’s fun to watch as it cranks up the boost when you decide to hoon it.
For a compact sports sedan though, it managed to have a practical and roomy cabin. The seats up front offer some helpful bolstering that hold you in place under hard cornering. The seat design offer just the right aggression, and aren’t as in-your-face as the STI’s Recaro bucket seats. Being the CVT variant, this WRX is equipped with niceties that include an 8-way electronically power adjustable driver’s seat, and a leather interior. Those seated at the back won’t complain for a lack of legroom, except for the middle passenger who might find the center driveshaft tunnel too intrusive. Trunk space is quite roomy as well, and flexibility is increased through its 60:40 split folding rear seats. As a whole, the WRX manages to add practicality into the mix despite being a performance-oriented saloon.
Powering this Subaru WRX is powered by a FA20 horizontally-opposed H4 boxer engine with turbocharging and direct injection, producing 268 hp @ 5,600 rpm and 350 Nm of torque @ 2,400 – 5,200 rpm. Power is sent to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission.
How does the WRX drive? It continues with the lineage of being a performance sedan that offers a good compromise between the hardcore nature of the WRX STI, and the daily usability of the standard Impreza. Its drivetrain is set-up mainly for carving canyon roads rather than muddling in traffic, and while the WRX doesn’t match the abilities of some of its rivals, it doesn’t compromise much of what a performance car buyer wants. The ride is firm without much compliance over worn roads where the thin 225/40 tires give a slightly brittle ride along with some tire roar. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a back breaking experience, and the WRX will cruise without fuss over motorways and nicer surfaces, but its suspension and wheels fails to smooth out some of the scuttle beneath.
However, come onto a fast-flowing bit of tarmac, and the driveline feels cohesive with plenty of predictable grip from those sticky tires. The all-wheel drive system has improved over the previous generation WRX, providing predictable understeer that’s a bit less playful in engagement compared to other rivals. The thing I love about the WRX is that, it can be coaxed into playing its rear end. The viscous central differential and rear limited slip differential gave it a wiggle of oversteer when provoked out of corners. Loose surface poise is also impressive and there’s plenty of reassuring grip when gently throttling around fast corners in an ode to the rally gods.
Though the engine suffers from torque gap in low revs around traffic, it does bring a raw performance flavor when given some stick, and above 2500 rpm, the turbocharged 2.0 litre engine is absolutely relentless. It has a wide meaty torque band, and the turbo whine, whistles and grunts from the overrun are simply an amazing feeling while driving if you ask me.
The latest update for the WRX that will see us through until the new generation arrives is a finely tweaked interpretation of the original concept. Some charismatic flaws encapsulate what has made Subaru’s rally-bred vehicle a cult classic and then some. Unlike many modern high performance cars nowadays, the WRX still has a conventional hand-break lever which is oh so crisp for doing J-turns. It also has a snortingly capable drivetrain, and even an decent CVT (but please get the manual). This Subaru WRX with a CVT offers great performance in a practical enough package that’s still usable everyday. It’s a true Jekyll and Hyde with this transmission. If you’re not up for a bit of fun with the manual transmission, and you don’t want the effort to drive a manual in Manila’s traffic-clogged streets, this CVT variant is as easy to live with as a big dog, kinda like a German Shepherd. Annoying at times, but you’ll love it dearly.
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.2 out of 5