The Outback is the car that turned Subaru’s fortunes around: in the mid-1990s, the company took a Legacy wagon, fitted it with a lifted suspension and rugged-looking body cladding, and ended up with a massively popular small crossover. Outback is all-new for 2015, and the result is an impressive, if unexciting, vehicle. Read my full review at AutoFocus.ca.
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1. This one goes to 11
Subaru’s STI takes the WRX sports car and cranks everything up: there’s more power, more grip and more tech, including an adjustable centre differential. If you want a taste of what it feels like to drive a rally car, this is the one to try.
2. (Not-so-) little wing
If someone you know buys an STI, here are some questions to ask them: Is the wing FAA-approved? How quickly does your laundry air-dry when hung from it? Does it improve your cell reception? (It’s standard on the pricier two of three STI models, and not included on the base model.) (Credit for the wing jokes goes to my friend Steph Willems. When you’re done here, go read his excellent blog.)
3. What’s this button do? Oh shi—
The STI gets limited-slip differentials front and rear, and a driver-controlled centre diff: you can fiddle with the latter’s various adjustments to change how the car handles when flung around corners. It all makes it easy to forget you’re driving a real car, and not in your basement playing Forza Motorsports; I prefer the relative simplicity of the standard WRX.
4. Gripping story, bro
Between those differentials and a set of grippy tires, the STI drives much differently than the WRX. It was impossible to break the rear end loose on public roads, whereas the WRX seemed more willing to drift through fast corners.
5. Power play
Despite its bigger engine and extra power, the STI doesn’t feel much quicker than the WRX, and you have to beat the crap out of the car to feel what difference there is in a straight line.
The last STI that I drove was a 2008 model. Where I remember that car having a surprisingly comfortable ride, this one does not. It’s punishing, actually, and as a result, the car isn’t much fun to use for everyday driving. The new WRX is much easier to live with as a daily driver.
7. Big gulp
My average fuel consumption was higher than 12 L/100 km in city driving, and barely better than 9.0 on the highway, making it a solid 20 to 30 per cent thirstier than the WRX I drove a few weeks ago.
8. No hatchbacks allowed
Subaru disappointed countless fans of the old WRX and STI (including me) by building this new one exclusively as a sedan. It’s still a perfectly practical car—just not as practical as it used to be.
Exterior photos by Chris Chase; Interior photos courtesy Subaru Canada
1. More than meets the eye
Subaru’s high-performance WRX is based on the compact Impreza, but the differences between them are greater than they might appear based on exterior appearance. The WRX’s turbocharged motor nearly doubles the power output of the Impreza’s, and its drivetrain is beefed up to handle all that power.
2. Surprisingly practical
Due to its four-door sedan roots, the WRX is that rare sports car that comes with everyday practicalities such as plenty of rear-seat and trunk space. I do miss the hatchback body style of the previous-generation model, though.
If you’re like me, you’ll forget about the lack of a hatchback once you hit the gas. It’s not a scary-fast car, but it’s pretty damned quick, and the all-wheel drive system gets the power down efficiently. Want to feel like a rally driver? Hit the gas as you power through a corner, and feel the rear wheels push the car through the curve.
4. Transmission switch-up
My tester had the standard six-speed manual transmission. The option is a continuously variable automatic, but – no offense to those who don’t drive stick – that’s not the transmission that belongs in this car. The clutch is heavy for driving in heavy traffic, but the shifter feels deliciously precise and mechanical in its movement.
5. What’s that sound?
I’ve long complained about Subaru’s poor-sounding stereo systems. This one’s better than in the last WRX I drove (a few years ago), but it’s clear that Subaru’s focus was on making this car fun to drive, not fun to listen to.
6. Efficient fun
The WRX’s fuel economy has come a long way: I averaged 8.0 L/100 km in an even mix of city and highway driving, which matches the Subaru’s highway estimate for the car. In straight highway driving, I averaged less than 7.0 L/100 km, which is pretty great for a performance car at cruising speeds close to 120 km/h.
7. Comfortable support
Well-bolstered seats are a necessity if your plan is to drive this car in any manner close to what it was designed for. These ones are, but not so aggressively that they’re a pain to repeatedly get in and out of while running weekend errands. Plus, they’re comfortable for long drives.
8. Lower price, low profile
At $30,000, the 2015 WRX costs $2,500 less than the car it replaces, which is always good. But my favourite thing about the WRX? It looks enough like its downmarket Impreza cousin to avoid attracting too much attention – especially from the cop you just sped past.
This third-generation Impreza is a better all-around car than the versions that came before it, and, in some ways, it’s better than the redesigned 2012 model that replaced it. This car gets good reliability ratings from many sources, but continues to be haunted by the possibility of head gasket problems in its horizontally-opposed engine. Read my Autos.ca review here.