When the engineers at Subaru speak, Colorado listens.
Go throw a rock onto Interstate 225 and try not to hit a Subaru. It’s nearly impossible. It’s like that way here and nowhere else, short of a few spots in the Pacific Northwest and New England. Colorado buys more Subarus and the fat bonuses and long wait times for anything with a turbo in it around here should be proof enough of that.
That’s why when the company announced that it was discontinuing the hatchback version of the 2015 Subaru WRX, we all sat up and took notice. That felt like losing Boulder to the state of Utah. Then Subaru announced that the WRX would get an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and continuously variable transmission closer to the Impreza than the STI. There went Vail.
That’s because most of us knew that the smart money in the state used to go to WRXs, and not more-powerful STIs. That rock that you threw onto the freeway bounced off the windshields of many WRXs because the powertrains were so similar. Justifying the price difference — more than $8,000 this year — was hard to do considering the horsepower gap was so small— just 27 this year again. The two looked almost identical. Then it should be no surprise that when the new WRX and STI models were announced last year, Colorado reached quickly for the WRX expecting nearly the same imperceptible differences between the two cars.
After a week of living with the WRX in Colorado, it’s not as clear anymore.
Sure, the WRX’s 268-horsepower, direct-injection turbocharged four offers plenty of power to pull up and down mountain roads. The symmetrical all-wheel drive system is there too, and depending on whether you pick manual (you should) or optional CVT (you missed the point) transmissions, the power delivery to all four wheels feels smooth and precise. Subaru’s electric power steering is pretty good too, especially considering that the feel of the STI is so precise that stepping down to a different rack almost sounded like trading down. It most certainly was not.
Of course, helping that steering is the fact that the new WRX is bolted into Subaru’s strongest chassis yet. Although the weight is nearly the same (60 lbs. over the outgoing model); the rigidity and skeletal grip in the 2015 is far better than previous years. It’s no stretch to say that this is the best WRX to come from Subaru yet thanks to the chassis. Torsional rigidity is up 40 percent and body rigidity is up 30 percent, according to engineers. All that means is that the car feels planted and solid going into the corner, and fast and ready to run out of a corner.
Like many years, the STI and WRX differed in this respect: the STI handled better. This year, the WRX handles so well that it’s possible to believe that it’s gained even more ground on the STI, but it hasn’t. Whereas the WRX is in another stratosphere in terms of handling, the STI is in another universe.
Yes, it’s really that good.
In day-to-day driving the WRX feels like it’s been engineered to be more approachable as an everyday sedan. The power delivery isn’t as quick as the STI, but that’s because it’s a completely different engine. The WRX no longer feels like a car that deserves to be chipped, dropped, modded or winged. Approaching the performance 2015 STI isn’t preferred, nor is it possible without a shop setting up your suspension.
The gap has widened and it’s centered on whether you take your car to the track or whether you just like to act like it on the highway sometime.
Starting at just over $27,000, the WRX is a value considering its standard bucket cloth seats are comfortable and the WRX manages a respectable 21/28 mpg on city/highway.
It’s clear that the 2015 WRX is a better sedan than the STI. It’s also clear that the STI now is a super sedan.
P.S. We just still miss the hatchback in this state.