In 2005, Toyota bought around half of GM’s stake in Subaru. As ToMoCo never bought Saab, they never bothered with a Saabaru. Instead, Toyota decided to go for a return on their investment. How? By broadening the WRX’s appeal. That’s right, the WRX, Subaru’s de facto all-wheel drive, turbocharged, deformed-looking halo vehicle was going to bring home the bacon by appealing to moms. Ha ha ha. As such, the 2008 WRX was an abject failure. There’s no better proof/pudding than the fact that I spent a week with an all new 2009 WRX. Not since the 1950s has a redesign happened so fast. But big questions remain. Like just how much better is this new-for-‘09 Rex?
The exterior’s a big mess. Still. Viewed from the side, it’s a Corolla with big wheels. From the front, it’s the ugliest WRX yet, even if it now sports the STI’s grill. That’s truly a remarkable achievement. However, I’m reserving the bulk of my venom for the ghastly rear. Our particular tester is the sedan (as opposed to the much better wagon) and all I see a Toyota Echo with twin pipes. Blech!
The interior is no better. In fact, it’s a big step back compared to the 2005 – 2007 flying-vagina model. Sure, the gauges do an expensive-car sweep when you turn the key. And instead of illegible-in-sunlight orange, everything on the WRX’s dash now glows red. But everything’s made from cheaper stuff, which in my STI review I perspicaciously referred to as “crap.”
I particularly dislike that the doors are no longer (partially) covered in fabric. Instead, your left elbow rests against the type of crummy plastic you’ll find lining a 737. Awful to the touch. The seats have less bolstering (but do have heaters) and the steering wheel doesn’t adjust up far enough to even consider driving tricks like left foot braking. Heel and toe’s more difficult, too. Hey, at least the WRX is now manual-only, right? Sadly, it’s BMW-grade floppy and vague.
But there is a new for 2009 engine. One of the two big downfalls of the 2008 WRX: Subaru carried over the ’07 motor. Brand new car, same 224 hp and 226 lb-ft torques. For 2009, the turbo has been swapped out for the STI’s larger turbo plus some piping and ECU upgrades. But big deal, right? I mean, the resulting numbers are 265 hp and 244 lb-ft. Nice, but… Caution! You’re about to enter the all spin zone! When the WRX’ tachometer crests 4,000 rpm, something miraculous occurs. Oh. My. Lord. It’s fast. Freakishly, worryingly, shockingly fast. Ten years ago I would have sworn it was running nitrous. How fast?
The 2009 WRX hits 60 mph from zero in 4.7 seconds. And here’s the kicker: it costs about $25k. Let’s put that in perspective. In 2002, just six years ago, a Ferrari Maranello 575M (the one with the much-admired HVAC controls) stickered for around $225k. The Fezza hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. You want new cars? A Porsche 997 costs $75k0 and hits 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. A Cayman S? $60k/5.1 seconds. BMW 335i? $42k/5.2 seconds (though some claim 4.8– which is still slower). M3 sedan? $53k/4.7 seconds. The new Mustang GT and new 370Z are both well over 300 hp machines that cost $5k more and can “only” hit 60 mph in 5-flat.
Subaru’s own STI costs $38k and manages 60 mph in 5.0. Here’s a biggie: Mitsu’s $39,000 EVO X MR? 4.9 seconds. In fact, 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds is the exact same time as a Buick GNX, a car that 22 years ago was the fastest accelerating production car in the world. $25k, friends.
The other major downfall of the 2008 Rex was the soft-as-peach-yogurt suspension. Especially when compared to all the other dental appliance loosening WRXs that preceeded it. The new WRX fixes that, to a degree. Gone is the whoa nelly! body roll, replaced by what feels like a highly-tuned Corolla. I happen to own an ’06 Rexer; the 2009 model simply lacks my car’s maybe/kinda/could be a race car feel. It’s just too comfortable, too squishy, too mainstream. Not that the new car has any issues with corners (it doesn’t). But its econo car roots are more apparent. Specifically, understeer happens. One aspect that has been improved over all predecessors is high speed stability. Thank God.
So, do you buy the 2009 WRX? As an owner of both a 2006 and a 2001 would I buy it? The obvious problem: the competition. MazdaSpeed3 anyone? Hell, the Chevy Cobalt SS is just as powerful and can whip the WRX around a track. And the Subaru is really, seriously ugly. But here’s the thing: once that big turbo fully spools and starts puking power into the transmission, you realize how little all the other stuff else matters. My advice? Get the wagon, and start looking for rich guys to humiliate.