2018 Subaru WRX: Is it too loud?
There was a poster in the bedroom of my youth that said if it's too loud, you're too old. The Subaru WRX is too loud, and I'm too old.
At its best, the tamer wingless sibling of the STI with the shameless hood scoop does exactly what it's intended to do: give enthusiasts a tactile visceral ride inspired by Subaru's off-road racing success. It's easy to modify, has all-wheel-drive stability, packs a turbo punch, has four doors, is durable and reliable, and most importantly, it is affordable.
All of these positives make it an ideal entry-level sports car. But it comes at the expense of this thing more appreciated with age: comfort.
After 500 miles on the highway in the refreshed WRX with stiff Recaro race seats and a notchy six-speed manual, I just wanted a La-Z-Boy and my dad's pipe.
To be fair to Rex, I was driving on a construction-riddled, semi-filled torturous stretch of highway. The road noise and ride quality were more bearable on smoother roads, but Rex is by design best suited for people who like to drive hard with the radio up and the windows down as I once did not too long ago. There is a cool club factor to the Rex, fueled by a band of diehard loyalists (the same who will likely light me up on Reddit). The tester in Premium trim came in the coolest shade of blue known to cars, a rich hue Subaru calls Pearl Blue.
Changes include a refreshed grille with a larger lower grille that appears to stretch the front horizontally, so it looks lower and meaner. Premium trim comes standard with 18-inch wheels wrapped in summer performance rubber. Subaru says there is more noise-deadening, and the front and rear suspension has been retuned for a bit more comfort, a nod to my fellow curmudgeons. It's a fine line to keep enthusiasts enthused, however, so Subaru erred on the side of fun. The boxer engine remains the same, churning out 268 horsepower. It has a mean, taunting growl underscored by a supersonic turbo whir, like an aggressive and persistent little dog on speed. It's a pleasing note that demands to be unleashed. Handling is excellent, though the steering is not as direct as I expected.
Improvements were made to smooth out the clutch response, but it's still demanding. If the clutch is the leash on this dog, it's a short one that yanks too easily. The gearbox itself demands the kind of intent reserved for large construction vehicles. It wants to be yanked and thrown hard. The manual is work, and some drivers will love it because of that. By the end of the week, we had a rapport down and there was some charm to getting to know it, if not quite taming it.
Subaru has made improvements to the inside as well, though the updated multimedia system still feels outdated. There are two screens, including a vehicle info monitor recessed deep in the dash above the centre console like a reversed hood scoop.
It's an inch and a half larger, but still goofy. And the touch screen below it felt as old as I did. If there's one knock on Subaru, it's here.
2018 Subaru WRX Premium at a glance
Vehicle type: AWD four-door compact
Base price: US$29,295
As tested: US$31,355 (excluding US$860 delivery)
Mpg: 21 city, 28 highway
Engine: 2-litre turbo four-cylinder Boxer