Vancouver, BC -- This driving event put on by the good people at Subaru Canada was equal parts educational and fun. The goal was more than simple: experience the WRX and BRZ on some of the most incredible roads in Canada, and in various driving conditions. Although these two Subies could not be more different, the take away was clear: the engineers from Fuji Heavy Industries know exactly what they’re doing.
The Subaru WRX is a staple in the sport car segment, so much in fact that thanks to it, Subaru has a stronghold on the category with a 12.9% market share -- the largest of all carmakers in Canada. The rally-inspired car provides its driver with all the necessary tools, in all seasons and conditions, to drive. And drive we did.
I love the WRX; but then, so do many of you. We love it for its power, responsive AWD system, impressive handling, and strong brakes -- and since the 2015 revamp, its modern good looks. This car is the complete package and it is more every-day useable than the STI. In my world, my ’16 Rex would sport the STI’s massive rear spoiler, and I’d be king.
As close as possible to a German as a Japanese car can be, stepping aboard the WRX comes with an immediate feeling of familiarity where all driving elements come to hand with relative ease. The seats hold and hug in all the right spots, the steering telescopes, the pedals line up perfectly, and the pedals are positioned just so.
There’s an added sense of confidence on top of everything the WRX already brings to the table once strapped in and prepped to hit the road. This legendary automobile emanates strength and control that are at the driver’s disposal, to do with what he or she pleases. Each time I’d sit behind the fat, flat-bottomed, and grippy wheel, I’d allow the car’s aura to seep into me as I looked ahead at the road, and mountains I was about to conquer.
I get more or less the same feeling when I slide into my 2003 WRX, but a 2016 Rex is a very different animal, as opposed to beast. The level of refinement found in the current car eclipses all previous WRX models and it is a welcome bonus.
Let’s talk drive
The 2016 WRX undergoes no considerable changes over the ’15 save for colours and interior kit and trim. All the important go-fast bits are unchanged that is, unless you opt for the optional 18” wheels that include inverted struts borrowed from the STI.
This then means that its turbocharged flat-4 cylinder 2.0L engine still pumps out 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. My point on refinement earlier has much to do with the engine. My old 2.0L has a narrow powerband and concentration is required to maximize the turbo’s boost. With the new car, torque flows amply from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm and as it begins to drop off, max hp swings in at 5,600 rpm.
This scenario does two things: One, it makes acceleration feel linear which to some can translate into boring. Two: up- or downshifting usually means the engine will be in or near its sweep spot, allowing for consistently brisk acceleration. The latter turned out to be a huge asset through the mountain passes and uber twisty roads we tackled.
“Slow in, fast out” is a rallying golden rule, and it applied in many instances during our trek through the Coast Mountains then into the Canadian Rockies. I’m quite accustomed to the WRX’s pedal placement so heel & toe comes easily. Rapidly decelerating towards a blind lefthander, I’d push the shifter up into 3rd with a throttle blip with a clutch-punch and a good dose of braking. These actions would bring engines revs to roughly 5k where, by the time I’d release the middle pedal, I’d be back on the “go” with plenty of easy torque on tap. This recipe was repeated countless times; the FA20 never went cheap on me.
By the time I’d left the apex, I was already 75% into the throttle and this is where the viscous-coupling limited-slip centre differential AWD system would differentiate the power for me. As I unwound the quick-ish electric steering, if I’d done things right going in, the Rex was going to seamlessly power me out.
The WRX’s chassis works much harder than the BRZ’s and that’s a fact I truly adore. The weight transfers, pitch and roll, are noticeable but only serve as messengers for how hard the driver is pushing. I love this kind of information.
And steering and brakes
Although the improvement is vast over all previous generations, the current WRX’s 14.5:1 steering ratio is still geared for the road and less aggressive than the STI’s 13:1 ratio. On-centre feel is fair but I’d still prefer more bite and a sharper response, especially on BC’s fantastic roads.
To say we drove hard through some sections is an understatement. Mountains mean elevation changes, which translate into heavy braking at times. The WRX’s 4-wheel disc brakes were put to the test; they resisted fade as best they could despite getting very hot. In normal driving conditions, including some track time, they are brilliant.
The WRX effect
There’s a certain respect that comes with these three letters. They were earned in the last decade of the 20th Century and that respect blossomed in the early 2000s through numerous wins in WRC events and other motorsports disciplines. Enthusiasts picked up on the growing star on four wheels.
The WRX stands as a symbol of powerful determined motoring. It has a forcible conquering appeal that commands respect. Let me put it this way should you be in the market for this car: No one will ever look at it then turn to you and say, “You should’ve bought the other car.”