Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2015 Subaru WRX STI Limited: The Brand’s Pocket Rocket Gets A Makeover

Highlights:  According to the Automotive Leasing Guide, in the sports car segment, the 2015 WRX is predicted to retain the highest percentage of its original price after three years. This is also the first time the WRX offers both a 6-speed manual transmission and an automatic transmission.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $39,290 (WRX base model $27,090)

Seating Capacity: 5

Standard Safety Features: airbags; Daytime Running Lights; a rear spoiler with LED stop lamp; ABS; stability control; electronic brake distribution; a brake assist system; incline start assist; side impact beams; a rear view camera; and an all-wheel drive system

Standard Equipment (base model): 17-inch wheels; a 6-speed manual transmission; manually operated front seats; cloth seats with red stitching; automatic headlights; a front hood scoop; remote keyless entry; an automated climate control system; and a manual operated tilt/telescopic steering wheel

Upgraded Standard Features On WRX STI Limited Test Model: 18-inch wheels; a 2.5-liter turbo charged engine; a 6-speed close-ratio manual high-performance clutch; a 305-horsepower engine which requires premium fuel; a new flat-bottom, sports-oriented steering wheel; a carbon fiber-like interior trim; Subaru’s SI Drive system offering three driving modes (intelligent, sport, sport sharp); active torque vectoring; fog lights; a power moonroof; a power driver’s seat; leather trimmed seats; heated front seats;  LED headlights; and an aggressive looking rear spoiler

Optional Features On Test Vehicle: none

Other Trim Level:

WRX Premium
WRX Limited
WRX STI Launch

Suspension System: sport-tuned

Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD with XM Satellite

Bluetooth Connectivity: Available

iPod connectivity: Available
Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder/268-hp

Recommended Fuel: Unleaded

Standard Fuel Mileage: 21-city/28-hwy

What’s New: The 2015 Subaru WRX has been reworked for the model year, making a number of interior and exterior enhancements. With the wheelbase of the vehicle growing about an inch, occupants can expect more rear legroom along with a slightly larger trunk, too.

The engineers have also made a number of modifications to improve the driving dynamics and the stability of this four door sports sedan.

Pros: The Subaru WRX STI, which is based off of the Impreza, is the brand’s answer to a high-performance, entry-level sports car. Chevy’s Camaro, Ford’s Mustang and Hyundai’s Genesis Coupe all play in the two-door segment. Both the Ford Focus ST and the VW GTI play in the compact four-door, performance-oriented segment. However, unlike the aforementioned vehicles, the Subaru is being driven, no pun intended, by an all-wheel drive system. Added to that, the WRX STI offers more horsepower than its four-door competitors. This makes this all-weather, four-door, performance compact a segment standout.

In addition to the vehicle literally being in a class by itself, this is the first time the WRX can be outfitted with either a brand-new 6-speed manual transmission or an optional automatic transmission. Models so equipped with the brand’s signature SI-Drive system, as was the case with the limited model we reviewed, will have the ability to manage the driving characteristics of the WRX, selecting three distinctive driving modes: intelligent, sport and sport sharp. The flat-bottom sport steering wheel enhances the driving experience, too!

And to match the vehicle’s more aggressive styling design, the 2015 compact handling characteristics have been improved. This is due to a much stiffer chassis, larger brakes and an Active Torque Vectoring system. The Active Torque Vectoring system helps to control the vehicle, while reducing understeer through the use of a new multi-mode vehicle dynamics control stability system.

Moreover, the interior cabin and the cargo area provide more space due to the wheelbase of the vehicle being stretched by one inch. In fact, the interior has been upgraded to offer more soft touch points, less hard plastic and brand-new carbon fiber-like interior trim.

And while our test vehicle lacked the noted features, the WRX, depending on the trim, can be outfitted with such upgrades as a keyless access system, a push-button keyless ignition starter system, a navigation system and a premium 9-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, pumping out 440 watts from the strategically placed sound system.

Lastly, for those buyers seeking to jump on an exclusive model, Subaru will produce 1,000 WRX STI Launch models for 2015. The vehicles will be available in a Blue Pearl paint job that is flanked by 18-inch gold-painted BBS alloy wheels.

Cons: Because of the sport-tuned suspension system on the WRX STI and the lack of a rear center armrest, this muscle car is not designed for cross country trips due to its lack of comfort. Added to that, the tiny infotainment screen means the driver has to strain to view the rear view camera, when backing up. This tiny screen will also house the optional navigation system. Surprisingly, the navigation system isn’t standard on the higher trim levels.
Moreover, the Subaru WRX STI we reviewed required premium fuel, because it was powered by a turbo-boosted 305-horsepower engine, as opposed to the smaller 268-horsepower engine, which runs off of unleaded fuel.
Furthermore, the Subaru lacks some of the latest safety driving aids, which are available on a number of competitors in the segment: blind spot mirrors, a forward-collision assist system and electronic parking sensors.
Lastly, some buyers may not be ready to dole out close to $40,000 for Subaru’s four-door, performance-oriented vehicle. Consumers might opt to look at a new or pre-owned BMW 3-series, which offers both the performance and the “it factor.” The “it factor” or the snob factor of owning a BMW is lacking with the Subaru.

Verdict: The Subaru WRX STI we reviewed is truly a street hot rod. It offers the excitement and thrill factor racing car enthusiasts and those with a need for speed long for. It’s powerful, bold, loud and fast. It’s basically in a class all by itself, especially when one opts for the racing-inspired WRX STI trim. For the first time, buyers who prefer an automatic transmission can also experience the thrill of owning the WRX. So, whether one is yearning to drive a stick or an automatic, the vehicle is just hungry to be driven like it’s been stolen. Yes, we mean that in the literal sense, especially with the price tag of the high-end WRX STI Limited reaching the $40,000 mark, bumping-up against the likes of well-established premium German performance brands like Audi and BMW! Ironically, based on the 2014 CYTD sales numbers, it seems as though many driving enthusiasts are raising their hands to own one.

Competition: 2015 Ford Focus ST and 2015 VW GTI

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