Subaru WRX Long-Term Test Introduction: It’s time for some boost

Just as we’re saying goodbye to our futuristic and illuminating long-term Kia EV6, we’re saying hello to an old-school friend in the form of a long-term Subaru WRX. That’s no slight to the Subaru – we already adore it. But it does do service to describe what the automotive industry is like these days and the vastly different ways you can spend your hard-earned cash.

The WRX was recently redesigned with what can only be described as a controversial new styling direction (but isn’t that the case for every WRX ever?), and the staff is already split on whether they love it or hate it. As every internet comment section related to the WRX will tell you, it’s all the plastic cladding down the sides and in the rear that draws the most attention. We don’t have the definitive answer for you today, but we’ll see what a year of staring at it does for our varied stances.

What’s less controversial is how the new WRX is motivated. Under its hood is the new 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer-four that makes a stout 272 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. The redline is low at just 6,100 rpm, but this WRX’s engine feels like a smooth-revving modern marvel compared to the four cylinders from the old WRX and STI. That said, there’s no escaping the characterful, rumbliness that we all know and have come to love from the WRX.

The interior is another point of minor contention and great progress for Subaru in this generation of its sport sedan. Its base trim comes with an odd dual display setup, while the higher trims (including our Limited tester) has a tall, vertical touchscreen that fills the entire central dash area. Subaru hasn’t exactly been leading the industry when it comes to tech, but fancy gizmos and the likes of them aren’t what the WRX is about. This is an old-school performance sedan with three pedals, a manual handbrake, a boosted engine and a great AWD system. And boy are we excited to spend a year with it.

Why we got it

The WRX is about as storied a nameplate as it gets when the topic is all-wheel drive performance cars, and since there’s a new one – without an STI to accompany it – we decided it’s time to see if this version stands the test of time (and lots of miles).

We’re also planning on having some fun with it over the summer months by dipping into ProDrive’s catalog of aftermarket parts. We drove the ProDrive WRX Prototype last summer and decided this long-termer would be a perfect candidate to see what mods may or may not be worth it for prospective WRX owners interested in adding a little bit more than what came from the factory. After all, Subaru’s already said there won’t be an STI, and the TR only goes so far.

You can also expect comparison tests with other affordable compact performance cars over the course of the year. The WRX starts well south of $35,000 and doesn’t go much over $40,000 when fully loaded. For what you get, it already sounds like a hell of a bargain for enthusiasts. We’ll see how it fares against the best in the AWD biz like the Toyota GR Corolla and VW Golf R, and maybe even see how we like it versus front-drive challengers like the Hyundai Elantra N and Honda Civic Si.

What we got

To assuage your worries right away, yes, we specified a WRX with the six-speed manual transmission. The CVT in the WRX GT might be one of the best CVTs we’ve ever driven, but it’s still only a fraction of the fun you can have with the notchy six-speed. For exterior paint, we went with Solar Orange Pearl. It was a touch call between that or WR Blue Pearl, but the orange is striking in person.

We also chose the WRX Limited trim, which is the highest spec and comes with the most possible features. Unique to the Limited are steering-responsive LED headlights, Ultrasuede-trimmed seats, a 10-way power driver seat, a moonroof, an 11-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, navigation, side mirrors with turn signals, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. Mostly, we checked this trim box so that we’d be able to let you know if any of the extras are worth ponying up the extra money for them or not.

We also took to the accessories section of the configurator to add some premium add-ons such as the $551 black-painted trunk spoiler, $350 LED grille emblem, $402 auto-dimming rearview mirror, $268 auto-dimming side mirrors, $375 CD player kit (because, duh, why not?) and $132 all-weather floormats. The auto-dimming mirrors are already a godsend in nighttime driving and are totally worth the extra coin. And the grand total comes out to $39,923 after the $1,020 destination charge, just narrowly staying under the $40,000 mark. 

We’ll have a full update for you once the snow starts falling in Michigan (it’s been a pretty dry winter), but we also procured a set of Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 winter tires to make sure the WRX can live up to its full potential in these cold months.

So, follow along as we put this new WRX through the wringer. It’s going to be a fun year.

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