Muddying the Subaru WRX, as it should always be: Motoramic TV

April 10, 2013

If we were playing a word association game and I said, “fun Subaru,” your response would probably be, “BRZ.” For the past year or so, the BRZ has garnered more attention than the rest of the Subaru lineup combined. And that little rear-wheel-drive drift machine is a riot. But for a mere $300 beyond the BRZ’s $26,265 base price, you could have a car that’s faster, more comfortable, more year-round usable and potentially more orange. And it’s right there in the same showroom. No, not the Tribeca. I’m talking about the WRX.

Remember the WRX? This is the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive rally rocket that established Subaru’s performance credentials. And it’s still here, its 2.5-liter turbo flat four and 5-speed manual transmission transplanted into the latest Impreza. The WRX powertrain has been around for a few years, and 265 hp isn’t exactly shocking when Chevy rental cars are running around with 300 hp. But the character of the engine, and thus the car, shows through in its torque stat: 244 lb-ft at a lofty 4,400 rpm.

For comparison, a Volkswagen Golf R makes similar power — 256 horsepower and 243 lb-ft — but its torque peak arrives a full 2,000 rpm sooner. While turbocharged engines increasingly deliver linear power (see: the BMW M5 and its torque peak stretching from 1,500 to 5,750 rpm), the WRX harkens to a day when turbos were finicky all-or-nothing brutes. Indeed, the WRX has the power delivery of a rubber band snap to the temples. It’s nothing, nothing… wham! You’re flying. It’s crude fun, which is the best kind.

And the WRX’s talents are accessible year-round, in any condition. In fact, a muddy dirt road might be the best showcase for the WRX’s ability to turn raucous flat-four clatter into forward motion and rooster tails of gravel. The Subaru only weighs about 3,200 lbs., its low weight abetting agility and making those 265 horses feel like more.

This year there’s a special edition of the WRX that wears searing orange paint and billboard stickers that I estimate add at least 20 horsepower. The special-edition WRX is named, creatively enough, the WRX Special Edition, and Subaru is only building 200 examples of this model (plus another 100 of the WRX STI).

You know that whenever a special edition rolls out, big changes are afoot, and Subaru’s WRX concept car underscores that a shakeup is imminent. But in the meantime, the WRX remains an affordable way to stoke your World Rally Championship fantasies on your way to work. So next time someone asks if you’ve driven the fun Subaru, the correct response should be, “Which one?”