New WRX car: everything you need to know

Subaru’s WRX is one of the most famous performance cars in history and now there’s a new wagon version. We find out what it’s about.

Subaru has brought back the WRX Sportswagon. A popular choice for revheads in the 1990s, the sports car combined performance with practicality.

The new WRX is bigger, more powerful and more refined, but also more expensive.

Here are five things you should know about the Sportswagon.

The sedan has a sharper focus

Sportswagon buyers will have to be willing to trade some performance for practicality.

The car is slower to 100 km/h and the suspension is softer, which translates into less fun when the road gets twisty.

The car takes a fraction longer to settle after bumps and leans more on its thinner tires through corners, making it more suited to long sweeping corners than hairpins. It’s stable and predictable, and the brake pedal feel is reassuring, but it lacks the sedan’s grip and balance. For those with young families who need the extra space, the wagon is an acceptable compromise.

The more expensive tS model has multi-mode dampers that allow you to select a softer setting in the city and more control at speed on a country road.

There’s a bigger donk under the hood

The new WRX features a larger turbocharged 2.4-litre boxer engine, compared to the 2.0-litre in the previous generation.

However, the extra size doesn’t translate into a big jump in performance. Power increases by just 5 kW to 202 kW, while torque remains unchanged at 350 Nm. Subaru claims a 0-100 km/h time of about six seconds for the manual sedan, but independent testing suggests the car takes about 6.5 seconds.

Fuel economy of 8.5 l/100 km is slightly better than the previous model – and much better than the manual, which guzzles 9.9 l/100 km – but it is barely frugal and premium is required.

The continuously variable transmission doesn’t help with performance either. It takes a while to wind up and isn’t as responsive as competing dual-clutch cars.

Prices have risen

The new WRX is about 10 percent more expensive than its predecessor, starting at nearly $50,000 down the road for the basic manual. The CVT car costs another $4000 – a big jump, although it comes with an electronic parking brake, high beam assist and automatic reverse braking, which are not available in the manual.

At about $62,600 drive-away, the top-of-the-line tS is more expensive than the previous-generation STI. The premium for a car is reasonable though, only $1000.

Safety is all-encompassing

The WRX has all the bells and whistles from a driver assistance standpoint.

Standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Assist, radar cruise and rear intersecting traffic warning with brakes.

Cameras in the cab scan the driver’s face and eyes for signs of fatigue or distraction and sound a warning if necessary. With speed sign recognition you can avoid fines.

The cabin is old school, but does it radiate quality?

Unlike some rivals, which have configurable digital driver displays, Subaru has continued with analog dials, complemented by a small readout between the tacho and speedometer.

It looks a bit dated, but the large central touchscreen looks more modern and the attention to detail elsewhere in the cabin is top-notch. There are soft surfaces and soft materials throughout, with sporty touches such as red stitching on the seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and alloy pedals.

Rear seat passengers have their own air vents and USB ports, while more expensive models come equipped with an excellent 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio unit.

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