When I reviewed the 2015 Subaru WRX I likened it to a neutered pet. That might seem slightly harsh, but it was grounded in truth: Subaru outfitted the WRX with a CVT. Yes, a continuously variable transmission. Sure, it was available with a manual if you wanted, but my particular tester featured the dreaded CVT. I was not enamored and questioned the company’s tactics.
Well, this time around I’ve warmed up to the idea. For 2016 Subaru’s tweaked and reworked the CVT and I’m less offended by the feature than I was last year. Perhaps that’s a sign of my maturity … no I can’t even write that with a straight face, that’s most definitely not it. Subaru’s just improved it enough to make it tolerable and possibly even good.
So good in fact that we decided to pair it up with a DSG-equipped 2016 Volkswagen GTI to see which was the better option when you’ve got a cool $40k burning a hole in your pocket… You’ll have to check out our turbocharged comparison to find out there results on that one.
In the mean time, let’s get back to the 2016 Subaru WRX.
I’ve always liked the look
One thing’s for sure; when it comes to Subaru they tend to polarize when it comes to their exterior designs. And they’ve never, ever been one to design a sleek, sexy, silhouette. That just doesn’t exist. Well, wait, the BRZ might come close … but I digress. It was designed by Scion so…
When it comes to the WRX “sleek” is not a term that immediately comes to mind. However, chiseled, muscular, masculine, defined, and meaningful all do. Over the years, the delivery of said reactionary terms has evolved and changed, but those have always been the underlying messages conveyed by the overall look of the WRX -- and they are only heightened in the 2016 WRX STI.
From the low and wide stance to the quad exhaust pipes, slightly protruding hood scoop and functional side cooling vents, the 2016 Subaru WRX isn’t just styled to look good it’s styled to be functional as a track-ready, rally-inspired ride. Those bits and bobs aren’t just there for show, and I love that about the Rex.
Unlike the STI, the Subaru WRX has a more demure rear decklid spoiler that sits atop its LED taillights and rear diffuser, but it does the job beautifully and is just enough of a performance touch to make a statement without being so over the top and in your face *cough*STI*cough*.
Inside, the 2016 Subaru WRX has come a long way. What used to be a bare-bones, purely functional, no-luxury cabin is now quite comfortable and accommodating. Equipped with a 7” infotainment system complete with navigation (that’s not entirely horrible to navigate) as well as multi-function LCD colour display screen sitting atop the dash, the WRX offers up all the necessary information with ease. Hooking up a Bluetooth device is a breeze, and thankfully there are plenty of knobs and buttons to press (it’s not all touch-sensitive). Unfortunately, Subaru doesn’t yet sport CarPlay or the equivalents for smartphones, however, Subaru’s STARLINK apps are available.
As Subaru calls them, the “performance-designed” seats are actually quite comfortable. And while they aren’t RECARO, they are plenty comfy and offer up lateral support for those more aggressive on-road maneuvers.
Space in the backseat is sufficient, and while the ’04 WRX I used to drive only featured a pass-thru in the rear and rather tight rear door openings, this 2016 model offers up 60/40 split rear seats and much larger door openings, making the Rex a much more suitable family car and one well worth considering if you’ve got a small family.
Now about that CVT…
Let’s start with all the good stuff lurking beneath the sculpted 2016 Subaru WRX hood: a twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder BOXER engine that pumps out 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Now, controlling all that power (and coupled to Subaru’s symmetrical AWD system) was a Sport Lineatronic CVT + Variable Torque Distribution. Essentially, the system works with the AWD system and sends more power to the rear wheels for a more dynamic driving experience.
And fear not, the CVT isn’t drone-y. Subaru programmed in 8 “gears” that you can row through yourself with paddle shifters or with the gear lever.
Turbo lag seems nearly nil with the CVT and power is instant. Drop your right foot on the throttle (which his highly sensitive) and you’ll rocket forward as all four wheels propel you in the proper direction. Steering is slightly vague and something I only became aware of once we lined the Rex up next to its hot hatch competition… I had thought it was extremely precise, then found it much more relaxed. The STI, by comparison, is on rails.
Riding atop the long travel, fully independent suspension and performance-tuned chassis, the 2016 Subaru WRX is comfortable enough on rougher surfaces, though it can be jarring at times. The suspension is golden for tight corners and quick lane changes, with little to no body roll at all, but can get a bit bumpy when the road gets uneven. Where the WRX really shines though is in the snow, and anyone who’s purchased their vehicle in the summer and not experienced the white stuff with it yet is in for a very, very pleasant surprise.
A little bit of turbo and a lot of AWD
When I reviewed the 2015 model, I started the piece reminding you all that once you’re a Subaru lover, you’re always a Subaru lover -- them’s the rules. And they still are. I may have been disappointed with certain iterations over the years, but I always finish up the week with a smile on my face and a bit of hesitation returning the key.
The WRX is a fantastic sedan (bring back a hatch, Subaru!), that’s capable, practical and loads of fun to drive, no matter what the weather. Sure, the manual is more fun, but the CVT really ain’t half bad (yes, I just wrote that). And while my particular tester tipped the scales over $40k, a base WRX starts at $29,995 and that’s more than affordable and well worth the price of what you get.