By on May 22, 2014

2015 subaru wrx (1)

Please welcome Hooniverse editor Kamil Kaluski for his first review for TTAC.

Like much of the Playstation Generation, I spent much of the 90’s ogling over the forbidden fruit from the Land of the Rising Sun: Type Rs, EVOs, WRXs  – fun, reasonably priced, reliable, econobox-based sports cars with great potential. Naturally, I bought a WRX as one as soon they debuted in 2002. Six months later I promptly sold it.

I didn’t hate the original bug-eyed WRX – I was just disappointed by it. The chassis, even with a set of Eibach springs, still rolled and yawed in every direction. The engine had no power below 3500rpm, and then, out of nowhere, burst to life in a boost-filled fury. The gear ratios of the five speed manual transmission made accelerating fun, at the expense of any highway comfort.  The fuel economy would have been poor for a V8 – for an economy car four-cylinder (even a boosted one) it was abysmal.

2015 subaru wrx (5)

If you were to blindfold a past owner and put them behind the wheel of the newest WRX, they’d immediately know what car they were in. Little cues, like the seating position, the shift knob and of course, the unmistakable, off-beat boxer hum, all remind you that underneath the much improved skin, beats the same rambunctious heart. Then again, the window switches seem to be carried over from the year 2002.

Outside of its Corolla-on-steroids looks, the biggest difference in the WRX is the engine. The displacement is back to two thousand cc’s, but there’s now variable valve timing and direct injection. The result is 268hp, which in the days of 300hp+ V6 Mustangs does not sound like much.The real news is the 258lb.-ft. that is available between 2,000-5,200rpm. Now that there’s some torque being made as low as 1000 rpm, daily driving is a lot more pleasant, while cruising on the highway isn’t going to drive you into madness. And it still screams all the way from 3000 rpm up to redline.

2015 subaru wrx (2)

But wait! There is more! For the first time ever, the WRX also manages to get decent gas mileage. With a 6-speed manual transmission, the 2015 WRX  is EPA rated at 21mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. My real-world heavy-footed trip down the New Jersey Turnpike resulted in a dash-computer calculated average of 27.7mpg, which I would say is pretty darn good. A CVT is a $1200 option, but really, why bother?

With the exception of a ride that is slightly rough over the worst of northeast’s post apocalyptic winter roads, Subaru has removed any objectionable behavior from the WRX that may be encountered during daily operation. Some may find it to be sprung too softly for serious at-the-limit driving, but Subaru really needed something more than a few horsepower and a big wing to justify the existence of the STI. Overall it’s a nice compromise for the enthusiasts and that incidental WRX buyer who just wanted an Impreza with more power.

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While remaining typical Subaru (that is to say, spartan if we’re being polite), the interior also received some updates. The biggest difference is one that you won’t see: road noise. The 2015 version is orders of magnitude quieter than the boomy, gusty examples previously sold here. More than the crappy fuel economy or the wonky gearing, this was my biggest annoyance when it came to driving long distances in my old WRX.

Head and leg room is abundant for all passengers, even on sunroof-equipped vehicles such as this one, and the manual seats are comfortable and supportive. All controls, with the exception of heated seat buttons, are logically located and easy to use. With small inoperable vent windows, door-mounted mirrors, and thinner than average A-pillars, the visibility all around is excellent.

The radio/infotainment system feels dated. The main display consists of segmented characters, and some information displayed on it may be incomplete. All controls are made via a bunch of small buttons and one knob. There are auxiliary controls on the left side of the steering wheel. There is also a secondary screen higher up on the dash which shares duties with the onboard computer, fuel economy gadget, and a boost gauge. Aux and USB inputs are located in the center console. The climate controls consist of three simple knobs – it might be the most efficient setup on the market, yet everyone else insists on more complex controls. It baffles me.

2015 subaru wrx (7)

Those unimpressed by its lack of evolution should be happy to know that Subaru has managed to refine the coarser elements of past examples, without eliminating any of its character or thrills. With a starting price of just $26,295, the WRX is one of the best performance car deals on the market. And if it looks a bit too sedate or Civic-esque for you, there’s always the hotter, sharper-edged STi.

2015 subaru wrx (9)

Subaru provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

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68 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru WRX Premium...”


  • avatar

    My favorite part about driving on the highway is when younger guys see me and suddenly try to show off their wicked manual-shifting skills in their WRX, GTI or RABBIT.

    I leave em in the dust.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I think this is one of the best written reviews I’ve read on here in a while. Good work!

  • avatar
    alsorl

    Great review. I’m not one of the anti-American car worshippers on this site. Yet the Subaru is it’s own breed of engineering and design. The only problem with the 2015 is the lack if the 5door in the wagon. Subaru makes some of the best cars made today and the wrx is at the top.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I disagree with the criticisms of the original WRX’s body roll and relatively soft suspension: that’s kind of the point of the car, along with the (for a passenger car) very long suspension travel.

    It’s supposed to roll a bit more and soak up _big_ bumps in the process: it’s an offshoot of a rally car. You don’t want it to ride like a skateboard (and lose body control) any more than you’d want to be able to do high-rpm clutch-drop burnouts.

    I understand the critcism is coming from people who traditionally bought street or track racers, but if you want no suspension travel and the ability to smoke the tires then, well, buy a Mustang.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “Outside of its Corolla-on-steroids looks…”

    The Corolla’s not actually an UGLY car, it’s just kind of plain, but there’s nothing really visually objectionable about it. Same with the Camry – blasphemy, I know.

    I like the new WRX’s look. The creases give it character, and in contrast to many modern cars, its styling is not an exercise in the use of TOTALLY RADIKAL TO THE X-TREME!!! surface lines to disguise the fact that the car is basically shaped like a shoe. I’m looking at you, Euro-hatches.

    I just wish that they would’ve diverged from the all-too-common practice of making the lower rear valence a black panel to kinda-sorta suggest a racing diffuser.

    Aaaand, I’m seeing Porky Pig in the front fenders.

    Overall, pretty nice. I’d buy it.

  • avatar
    imag

    Nice review. And man do I agree on those three climate control dials. There is no need to reinvent that interface; it’s already great.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    Fantastic review, thanks for posting it. The WRX is at the top of my shopping list once it’s time to buy again. I’m thankful that this car includes things that have been missing in other recent Subarus, including a temperature gauge and decently styled (read: not partially painted black) alloy wheels.

    I’m curious if Subaru provided the review car to TTAC (who we’ve been told are blacklisted) or Hooniverse. Can you comment?

    • 0 avatar

      “Subaru provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.”

      • 0 avatar
        djsyndrome

        Yes, I read that part. The *question* is whether Subaru was providing it to TTAC (meaning we can expect more Subaru coverage here!), or to Hooniverse.

    • 0 avatar

      The car was provided to me, not an outlet per se. I’ve ran it by Subaru overlords and they said that they like the direction TTAC was going and that I would be a good addition to that site. :)

      • 0 avatar
        djsyndrome

        Very awesome – glad to see them coming around (and sorry they couldn’t take a joke) :)

        FWIW, we were parked across from a (B9) Tribeca last night. Daughter 2.0, age eight, pointed out the grill and says “those are wings on the sides, but what’s that in the middle? Looks like a big butt.” Didn’t bother to correct her.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I’ve only ridden in a bugeye WRX, and have both ridden in and driven a 2011 WRX hatch. Despite the newer car being more planted, faster, quieter, and more luxurious, I much prefer the fun factor and ‘flingability’ of the older car. A much more visceral experience. Sounds like the 2015 takes yet another step towards civility. My friend has a 2012 WRX hatch, and it’s had some serious build quality issues. Last I checked he’s had the transmission replaced under warranty, and I know they have serious issues with oil leaking into turbos. The 2003 Wagon my other friend had survived 210k miles of neglect and abject abuse before succumbing to oil starvation and throwing a rod through the block. Had he been more diligent with oil changes and checking the level the car would be fine.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    Great review. This is pretty much what I wanted to know about this car.

    I think it’s very ugly, and I’d greatly prefer a hatch, but might buy one anyway.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Nice work Kamil – now that Alex seems to be publishing his reviews elsewhere, your contributions could not be more timely.

  • avatar
    SimRacingDan

    A lot of your complaints were fixed after your bug-eye… Have you tried any other years of WRX? I had a 2006 and a 2009. I agree 100% on the wind noise. They made big improvements on it on the 2009 model, but it was still somewhat noisy. The 2006 was really too loud on the highway.

    Did you have a chance to try the climate control, specifically the heat? I liked it fine on the 2006 when you could just tell the car how much heat you wanted delivered to the cabin, but the 2009 tried to be smart and forced you to select the temperature in degrees you wanted the cabin to be at. It’d blast max hot air at you until it determined the cabin had reached the correct temperature, making the occupants (in the front, anyway) extremely uncomfortable. Turning the heat down just made it turn the heat off and maintain at too low a level, so then you’d get cold. Man, I’m miserable just thinking about it. My biggest gripe about that car. Well, the clutch catch point was also too high, but mostly I hated the climate control.

    • 0 avatar
      Alfisti

      Sir, we are kindred spirits. i do not have the language skills to adequately describe how much i LOATHE climate control. It’s an absolutely STUPID idea, just maddening.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        There are good auto HVAC systems and bad auto HVAC systems. The one in my BMW is brilliant, I literally never touch it. It’s set to 70F, and there it stays. I occasionally adjust the face level vent temp a bit (which is really nice to be able to do). The system in my FIAT is worthless, and pretty much stays in manual mode all the time.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Subaru’s climate control really is awful. My parents have either an ’10 or ’11 Forester, and it is just as SimRacingDan describes for the ’09 WRX. Unusable.

        Don’t judge all climate control by it though. As krhodes1 says, BMWs have great climate control. My E39 climate control was set it and forget it. The fan in the E46 gets a little loud and needs an occasional adjustment, but is generally very good as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Despite the three knobs, this actually is an automatic climate control system… which I had in manual the whole time. In my whole time with the car the weather was really nice – I had the sunroof and/or windows open the whole time so my dependency on HVAC was reduced.

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      The main culprit of wind noise in Subarus of that era were the seals of the frameless windows, they may have been (barely) waterproof but they were in no way soundproof. Subaru have joined the framed window club now.

      I prefer the auto climate control introduced about the ’05 model year. If too hot or cold while driving I just reach down to the rightmost knob and turn the desired direction … wait then repeat, without ever taking my eyes off the road. It’s not perfect, the temperature scale seems to bear no resemblance to reality, but it’s better than fiddling with fan speeds, hot/cold balance and outlet selectors while trying to cope with the morning commute.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Automatic climate control is awesome (no more constant fiddling because I’m too cold or too hot), but some implementations are definitely better than others, and my ’13 Forester’s is the worst I’ve ever owned.

      The best, unsurprisingly, was from Honda (’04 TSX). The one in my ’89 Taurus was also, surprisingly, very good. The one in my ’09 G8 GXP is generally good, but occasionally prone to letting the temperature slowly drift up.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Thanks for the well written review. I agree with those above that long suspension travel and other off track enhancing characteristics are somewhat the point of a WRX. The lack of a low CG wagon and refusal to put head gaskets or turbo bearings designed for a longer life in them have taken Subaru off my shopping list though. While I’m dreaming that any car maker cares what I want, I wish Ford would make a wagon V6 mustang with improved rear seat room.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      I wondered how long before someone mentioned “head gaskets”. Old problem, different generation. I’ve had more expensive head gasket problems with Toyota vehicles (2 different ones) than any Subaru I’ve owned (3 of ‘em over several 10s of thousands of miles and no leaks).

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Hmm, well, my 2.5 turbo has 82k miles an it’s due for one of the oil eaters. I’ll open the intercooler and see if it’s the turbo this weekend. YMMV, but I’m not overjoyed. I never complained when my ford or mopar V8′s ate parts because they were running 10 – 12 seconds, and that breaks stuff. So, when it comes to anecdotes we’re even. Now lets go to true delta, Steve’s wholesaler database, and CR. Nope. Subaru hasn’t got less head gasket failures than Toyota per vehicle mile. You just had funny luck.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Kamel, we must be cosmic twins! I as well purchase a brand new WRX in 02, a wagon in silver with the MT short shifter and gauge package. I made it nine months and 9k miles and promptly rid myself odd the disaster known as the WRX.
    If the outside temp was over 90 the car would not run unless over 3k RPM, guzzled gas, 19 mpg was standard for me. I had too many mechanical issues to name.

    I really wanted to like the car, I loved the wagon, the AWD etc. The performance was not what I felt was advertised and generally I left the proposition very disappointed and have not considered a Subaru since. I live in CO, so that makes really unnatural as most people aspire to subie ownership around here.

    I am pleased to hear a positive review of the latest iteration. My question is would you buy it?

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Power to curb weight ratio:
    WRX: 12.1 to 1.
    Mustang V6: 11.5 to 1.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I wish I could like this car more than I do. I still prefer the GTI and the Focus ST. Waiting for a new Speed3.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Twice I had the Impreza on my list to buy but I always hesitated. Then both times I found something better, first a 2007 A3 and now a 2014 TSX SW. Mostly I blame the plastic interior and boxer engine noise. I also don’t have much need for AWD. Still I agree with the review, it’s a nice car for the price. Maybe next time.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The front has adopted some Volvo V40, while the back has adopted some 08 325i. I’m not sold on this, as that’s a lot o cash to pay for that interior, and THAT MPG, which is nothing to write home about on a car this size and weight (and yes I realize this is “performance”).

    I think the WRX has lost some of its credibility, as it is continually watered-down to make the STI seem more boom-bang impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      djsyndrome

      “as that’s a lot o cash to pay for that interior”

      Anyone who buys any Subaru for the interior has far deeper problems than can be solved here.

      You’re paying 27 large for the performance. Name another car that offers AWD and >260HP for sale in North America for that price. You can’t. This is a niche car and the money goes into the performance. The looks, inside and out, are an afterthought.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Upon a quick rack of my brain, you’re right I can’t. How much was that AWD Golf 32? Was it more than 27? I’m guessing probably. I still feel like the looks could improve, given it’s just a modifed version of a mass produced compact, and cars like the Cruze prove that compacts can look nice.

        I guess I can’t get into the mindset of the “performance enthusiast,” lol. I spend too much time thinking of Ninety-Eights and old Sixty Specials.

        • 0 avatar
          djsyndrome

          Golf R is going to be over 30k, but it’s closer to the STi than the WRX in performance anyway. Closest thing would be the Lancer Ralliart, which is one foot in the grave and almost 30k to start, if you can find one. I’m hoping the next Mazdaspeed3 makes the jump to AWD, but not holding my breath.

          And I agree about the looks. Especially after the concept was so attractive, this seems like a huge step backwards. For a vehicle that is trying so hard to distance itself from its Impreza roots you’d think they’d at least change some of the skin and general outline :

          • 0 avatar
            Demetri

            Latest Speed3 rumor is 295hp and AWD, but we’ll see:

            http://www.leftlanenews.com/mazda-mazdaspeed-3-coming-in.html

        • 0 avatar
          LALoser

          I’m on my second Ralliart. Great performance for the buck. Got the deelux with all options for that price range, instrument panel is not up to spec for even that Mobius from another article, but I never notice that when driving, usually looking out the windshield.

  • avatar

    Who let this hack in here?!

  • avatar
    blppt

    While it was true that the US first gen WRX didn’t have a lot of power down low (unlike today’s turbo engines, like my CC which has peak torque in the high teens), it wasn’t *gutless* below 3500 like the author says. I found as long as you kept the tach north of 2 grand, it had pretty decent oomph. My problem with those EJ205T WRXs was that they had a “hole” or “lull” in the power band at around 2500rpm. Solution? A stage 1 flash from Cobb.

    Also, bad fuel economy? Yeah, I guess if you spent the entire day wringing the car out—but I could do 28mpg highway in my ’03 on most trips. And that was with the 4EAT (bought dealer special, otherwise I would have certainly chose the stick). I’d imagine the 5 speed manual would be even better than that.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    The EJ22 in my 93 naturally aspirated Legacy had a flat spot at 2400 – 2500. I always suspected it had something to do with spoofing emissions testing.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Had an Impreza hatch with CVT as a loaner for 5 days last week while they sourced two obscure rubber hoses for my 08 Legacy GT. The interior was so cheap, I almost wept, the manual heater was next to useless, I stepped on the seat adjuster every time getting in, the steering required more lock than mine just to turn right onto city side streets at 15 mph, on the highway it sounded as if a window was permanenlty left open, and the ride was boundy (not bouncy). When you drove it hard, the handling actually was very good, and the thing had decent power – that surprised me.

    Nevertheless, a Mazda3 beats this thing by a country mile except for AWD. It’s a great drive.

    Upon picking up my LGT, they offered me a ride in a base WRX CVT. Same totally lame interior with the seat back/forth bar susceptible to being trod on getting in, but at least actual water temp and fuel gauges. The auto climate control rotating knobs were 10 times the quality, nice wheel, shifter and center armrest instead of rubberized plastic.

    Biggest difference is obvious body strength on same potholed roads, like a BRZ (its only attribute for me), very tight handling with no roll, and of course, powah.

    It feels like a little bulldog. And a frisky one at that.

    Combination of CVT and turbo lag made it more rubber-bandy than the Impreza, unfortunately, and tire noise was high, but no worse than CLA. Overall feels like a car that has great confidence in itself. It is not like the other anodyne cars tripping across the landscape. Get the manual.

    Got back in the LGT. Nicer switches, better seats, MUCH quieter despite frameless windows, door rearview mirrors that don’t droop downwards, better ride, nicer, lighter (hydraulic) power steering – and a totally tame feeling. Hmmm.

    Still miss my old ’99 GC Impreza. Best ride/handling compromise of the lot, but body by wet spaghetti in crash tests.

    Probably get a new WRX in a couple of years when they update it with the new Legacy’s infotainment system. At the top spec price of the WRX here in Canada, though, the new Audi A3 quattro is the same price $36K, and has a superb interior and almost identical performance according to C/ D. Everyone else, though, says the new A3 us a snooze to drive. We’ll see.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I’ve had similar experiences at the Subaru dealer. They all seem like a step down from the LGT, in both ride and interior (excepting the more modern entertainment systems). Audi interiors and ride are so very nice, I’m just cautious because improved initial quality isn’t automatically improved longevity. On my budget an interesting Audi would have to be used, so initial only quality isn’t valuable.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Hearing that the road noise is improved may have put this back under consideration if/when the time comes. That said, reviews are really mixed on that topic. In contrast to this review, Edmunds was wishing for noise cancelling headphones.

    I’ll give it a shot, but I still have low expectations for highway comfort. Of course for some perspective, my ’03 330 is about as loud as I can tolerate for a long highway commute. I miss my 5 sometimes :-(

    • 0 avatar
      Thill

      Road noise is improved over previous generations, but at certain RPM’s the stock tires have some audible road noise. It does not bother me, but I have heard that switching out the tires made a difference.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    During this day and age, this should be a 300hp car. I know it’s just a number, the parts being greater than the whole, blah blah.

    Still, they need to bump the power. 300hp WRX, 380+hp for the STi.

    • 0 avatar
      Thill

      Couple of things. Subaru tends to be conservative with their numbers with the WRX. I do think you will see some performance bumps once the STI gets a new engine, but you also have to consider MPG and CAFE regulations.

      Personally, I think the 2015 WRX has more than adequate power. Remember, it is AWD so you are not dealing with wheelspin like you do with FWD and RWD cars.

  • avatar
    WRC555

    I am a bit surprised the new 2.0L engine is only 10% more fuel efficient than my 2002 WRX. 20/26, 22MPG combined drinking lousy California gas.

    I wonder if the 2006-2015 WRX models, without a mechanical rear LSD, can really handle a gravel trail as well as the pre-2006 WRX. But I see the direction Fuji Heavy is going with the WRX in making it a road car, rather than a quasi-rally car.

    The only incentive to upgrade to MY2015 for me is the 6-speed gearbox. 1st to 2nd gear shift on the old 5 speed box sucks for sedate/commute driving.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      The Subaru lovers always lament the loss of that rear LSD! That old viscous unit was weak as hell, no use from a handling perspective it was merely a tip of the hat from Subaru to help you out of a little snow drift in the pre-VDC cars. It needs loads of wheelspin to transfer a small amount of torque. If you want trick diffs you buy the STI. FYI if you care, the viscous LSD ran up through 2007 in the WRX.

      I don’t think you will like the new gearbox, it is basically the same old 5 speed with a 6th tacked on, though the final drive is lower with this brand new motor, 4.11. I never had a problem with this box in my 09 but that motor was very strong and that trans has been improved over the years.

      Intrestingly as the WRX has become a worse “gravel car” i.e. soft suspension, it has become a better road car this new version has a way more aggressive suspension than the previous models. Suprised this review really didn’t delve into that but maybe it has been some time since the author has driven any of the previous models.

      On the other hand I had Feal custom valved “gravel spec” Bilstiens on my WRX, I don’t think the average driver has any idea how stiff a real rally car suspension is…

  • avatar
    michaelfrankie

    Less road noise would be a wonderful thing, but as Subarus go, it’s like being the skinniest kid at fat camp.

    Having owned a bugeye (my first new car) I had zero problems with it until the day I sold it at 90k. My wife’s 06 outback is a different story. One half shaft, two O2 sensors and a head gasket at 75k. Her next car is a rx350 i’m afraid.


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