We all play favorites. Is that why we have elections? Or is it just for the commercials?
In the automotive world, car buyers play favorites as well â€” weighing the pros and cons of different attributes, looking for the best combination.
It may not have the boy-racer performance of the longest-named Subaru, the Impreza WRX STI, or the more polished looks of the Outback, or the unisex blandness of the Forrester, but somehow, the WRX finds the perfect balance.
This is the car Goldilocks would drive off in because it's just right.
There are a couple of things that Subaru does really well: first and foremost is its all-wheel drive system. Known as Symmetrical All Wheel Drive, the system splits power 50:50 between the front and rear axles. It can also push torque through the axle when it detects wheel slippage. This system, which is standard on all Subarus, gives it a handling and traction advantage over just about any other all-wheel drive system. In other words, it's just better.
Combined with the sports-tuned suspension and a track that's 1.5 inches wider for this model year, the WRX becomes an absolute thrill ride if you want to push it. The summer performance tires may help a little bit too. It sticks through corners, and it's one of those cars that in a big sweeping turn you find yourself pushing the accelerator, hoping to catch that high-pitched turbo singing once again.
The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine may also play a role in injecting "go-fast" into your blood. The engine creates 265 horsepower and 244 pound-feet of torque, which for a car that weighs 3,200 pounds is more than enough juice. The WRX loves to be flogged and pushed through decreasing radius turns.
Rarely do work commutes leave a little sweat streaming down your back, but the WRX lets you hop out of the car a little more excited than when you got into it.
Even the five-speed manual offers quick throws and makes you drive with a little more enthusiasm. Drivers use manuals. A six-speed may have helped the car's mileage, though, which at 19 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway are middle of the road at best.
But that's just one of the give and takes with any car. Want great performance? What are you willing to give up?
Now there are other things Subaru does not do quite as well. Interiors, for example.
When you sit in the WRX, you look around and think: This is adequate. The seats are comfortable and offer excellent bolsters. The steering wheel, which now includes audio controls as standard, is round, and that's as exciting as it gets.
My test vehicle included a big navigation screen at the top of the center stack that felt like something a couple of teenagers in San Jose installed. There's a plastic frugality throughout the cabin that leaves the interior feeling unfinished or, worse, unsophisticated. It's all very comfortable and adequate.
Sure, there are some of the features you'd expect, such as the aluminum pedals and the big tachometer on the instrument cluster, but the interior still feels lacking, especially when you weigh it with its $26,000 price tag for a compact car. For the same price you can opt for the WRX five-door, which provides a lot more room for carrying things and people.
While the interior may feel cheap, the exterior on either model is chunky and edgy. The big air intake on the hood, which always takes a little getting used, still adds to the car's looks instead of detracting from it. The front end looks mashed down a little with a short and wide grille and the headlights round the corner of the front end. The smoked aluminum spoked rims maintain that tuner look. But there are little curves that give this car a sharp look from nearly every angle.
This car maintains a more subtle look than its more famous STI brother with simple badging and body-colored door handles and bumper. There are only the tiniest splashes of chrome here and there â€” such as the Subaru badge and the rear tail lights that come in that annoying bright silver.
But giving up a little on some of these features still leaves you with a spectacular little racer.
It will chew up corners, provide you with a smooth (but firm) ride and how much do you really care about a navigation system?
Lots of carmakers talk about no compromising vehicles, but really, there's no such thing. The WRX provides lots of performance, and to WRX owners, the rest doesn't really matter that much.
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