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2015 Subaru WRX: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader May 2015

The 2015 Subaru WRX has become the automotive equivalent of a cult classic. As it's been since the beginning, the latest WRX shares its basic platform with the humble Impreza, although that's about all the two have in common. For 2015, the WRX and its sizzling sidekick, the WRX STI, return with a new look, a vastly improved interior and even better performance. Sadly, the 5-door wagon variant didn't make the cut, leaving only the sedan to carry the storied nameplate. The good news is that the WRX now offers the option of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), so those unaccustomed or uncomfortable with driving a manual can enjoy the fun, too.

With only two real rivals, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and VW's Golf R, Subaru isn't worried about losing any ground to the competition. Buyers get an enormous amount of performance for their money, with a choice between the 268-horsepower WRX or the 305-hp WRX STI, which also features a more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, a stiffer suspension and a hydraulic vs. electric power steering setup. Best of all, unlike many high-powered performance cars, the WRX makes an excellent year-round companion because it's as comfortable being a daily driver as it is an animal on an enclosed track.

What's New for 2015?

The WRX and WRX STI are all new for 2015. A 1-inch-longer wheelbase nets a larger, more comfortable interior, as well as improved ride comfort. For the first time, the WRX can be ordered with an automatic transmission.

What We Like

Great bang for the buck; all-wheel-drive traction; impressive fuel economy; choice of powerful turbocharged engines; comfortable sport seats

What We Don't

A lot of road and wind noise inside the cabin; outdated navigation system; firm ride on STI

How Much?

$27,090-$43,000

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Subaru WRX uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine that produces 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy with the 6-speed manual is rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, while the CVT automatic earns 19 mpg city/25 mpg hwy. The more powerful WRX STI comes with a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine and is offered only with a manual transmission. EPA estimates for this model are 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The WRX and WRX STI offer six different trim options: WRX, WRX Premium, WRX Limited, WRX STI, WRX STI Launch Edition and WRX STI Limited.

The base WRX ($27,090) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, 17-in alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, incline-start assist, steering wheel controls for audio and Bluetooth, cruise control, aluminum alloy pedal covers, AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM satellite radio with six speakers and USB/iPod integration, HD Radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, illuminated power window switches, electric-assist power steering, automatic climate control, power windows, mirrors and door locks, sport seats, a rear backup camera and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel.

The WRX Premium ($29,290, manual; $30,490, CVT automatic) adds the All Weather Package (heated seats, heated side mirrors and windshield deicers), fog lights, illuminated vanity mirrors, power sunroof, SI-DRIVE performance-management system with two manual shifting modes (6- and 8-speed) and steering wheel paddle-shift control switches (automatic only), and a low-profile trunk spoiler.

The WRX Limited ($30,790, manual; $31,990, CVT automatic) adds an 8-way power driver's seat, leather seating, LED low beam headlights and welcome lighting.

The WRX STI ($35,290) brings a more powerful 2.5-liter engine, hydraulic power steering, LED low-beam headlights, Brembo brakes, 18-in alloy wheels, front and rear center limited-slip differentials, Driver Controlled Center Differential (DCCD) and fog lights.

The WRX STI Launch Edition ($38,190) brings 18-in gold BBS alloy wheels, leather seats with Alcantara inserts, a short-throw shifter and keyless access with push-button start.

The WRX STI Limited ($39,290) includes 8-way power driver's seat, 18-in BBS wheels, automatic on/off headlights and a 440-watt 9-speaker Harman Kardon stereo.

Options for the WRX Premium include navigation radio with Harman Kardon audio and smartphone Aha app integration. The Limited trim offers the navigation upgrade, as well as keyless access and push-button start. There are also numerous dealer-installed options that include upgraded Kicker speakers and subwoofer, a performance exhaust and a short-throw shifter kit.

Safety

All WRX and WRX STI models come with front-seat side-impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, a driver's knee airbag, electronic traction and stability control, and incline-start assist, which keeps the vehicle from rolling backward when starting off on an incline of more than 5 degrees. The STI is equipped with Brembo performance brakes for better stopping power.

The Impreza, on which the WRX is based, excels in both independent and government crash tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Impreza five stars overall, with four out of five stars in the front-crash test and five stars in the side-impact and rollover crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested the 2015 WRX and bestowed its best rating of Good in all crash-test categories, while also awarding the WRX a Top Safety Pick rating.

Behind the Wheel

We can overlook the noisy cockpit and hard plastic bits inside the WRX's cockpit. We can even avert our eyes when it comes to the WRX's frenetic styling. Why? Because the WRX is such a brilliant performer, offering the kind of performance that can shame cars that are twice, even three times, its price. On the track, the new 2.0-liter turbo proves a willing partner that's always ready to serve up ample power. The torque-vectoring system helps avoid understeer when exiting corners, and the firmer suspension holds this car in the curves as if the tires were glued to the asphalt. While a manual transmission is usually preferable in a performance car, we might actually trade the WRX's notchy 6-speed transmission for the new CVT automatic. With SI-DRIVE, the system simulates manual gearshifts (six in normal mode, eight in Sport Sharp) via a set of steering wheel paddle shifters.

In the STI, the ability to choose torque distribution and differential settings, coupled with the 305-hp engine, creates a driving experience worthy of the fastest supercar. It's no wonder the WRX has attracted many enthusiasts lacking the funds for an Audi S4 or BMW M, but won't let that ruin their good time.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution -- The Lancer Evolution is the top-end performance rival of the WRX. Unfortunately, the Evolution's more radical X trim has been dropped, leaving no real competitor for the STI trim.

2015 Volkswagen Golf R -- Volkswagen's all-wheel-drive Golf R is a new rival worthy of a test drive. The R has a much nicer interior, better navigation and audio systems, plus its ride is more livable. On a track, however, the WRX STI is still the more desirable car.

2015 Ford Focus ST -- The Ford Focus ST doesn't offer the sure grip that comes with having all-wheel drive, but it is a scorching performer and loaded to the max for just under $30,000.

Used Audi S4 -- 2010-2014 Audi S4 models are a great alternative to the WRX, as they offer a much better interior, more hp and a higher pedigree.

Autotrader's Advice

Unless you're a die-hard track enthusiast, we'd say the WRX is the preferable choice over the STI. It has plenty of power, offers the option of an automatic transmission, and is as realistic as a daily driver, plus it costs less.

Find a Subaru WRX for sale

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2015 Subaru WRX: New Car Review - Autotrader