2015 Subaru WRX. Click image to enlarge
Review by Paul Williams, photos by Paul Williams and courtesy Subaru Canada
Subaru made quite an impression at the LA Auto Show this year with two choice reveals. The 2015 Subaru WRX and a Subaru Legacy Concept wowed the crowd and even generated some applause from the usually dispassionate journalists.
As the wraps came off the Los Angeles WRX, resplendent in red with contrasting black wheels, it was immediately apparent that nothing radical was done to change the recipe. That said, 80 percent of the new WRX’s body panels are unique to the car and not shared by the Impreza upon whose platform the WRX is based.
In a nutshell, the 2015 Subaru WRX has a stiffer chassis, a new engine and transmission, a longer wheelbase, interior and exterior enhancements and is more practically packaged. It arrives late in 2014 as a 2015 model, but there is one thing that’s controversial about it, which we’ll get to shortly.
According to Subaru, a stiffer body and suspension for the 2015 WRX has quickened the vehicle response to driver steering input and raised performance limits for cornering. In addition, a multi-mode Vehicle Dynamics Control system (VDC) and Active Torque Vectoring will provide an improved driving experience. New electric power steering is also employed for better fuel economy and a “more direct steering feel.”
A stiffer chassis is great, but chassis seem to get stiffer and stiffer to the point that you wonder why they apparently built them so flimsy in the first place. In other words, what’s going on with the drivetrain?
For 2015, the Subaru WRX gets a tuned version of the 2.0L engine from the Forester XT, itself using a turbocharged version of the 2.0L engine in the BRZ. Likewise direct injected and turbocharged, in the WRX, this engine makes 268 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 2,000–5,200 rpm. This is only a 3 hp and 14 lb-ft torque bump over the outgoing model, but power will be delivered more consistently from low to high engine speeds, according to Subaru.
The 2015 gets a six-speed manual transmission (the outgoing model’s was a 5MT) and an optional “Sport Lineartronic CVT” transmission (that’s the controversial feature) for those who may desire automatic shifting. The CVT transmission, according to Subaru, “draws out the full potential of the 2.0L DIT Subaru Boxer engine in terms of power, torque and environmental friendliness, allowing for a rewarding driving experience.”
2015 Subaru WRX. Click image to enlarge
I’d say the jury’s out on this until we’ve had a chance to compare the 6MT version with the CVT, but it’s fair to say that automobile journalists haven’t been friends of CVT gearboxes ever since they were introduced. Subaru points out that by selecting Sport (S) or Sport Sharp (S#) from the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) system, the CVT transmission will simulate six-speed or eight-speed shifting, respectively, and emulate traditional shift points associated with a manual transmission. Independent reports, however, counter that the Sport Lineartronic transmission gets poorer fuel economy and is slower from 0–100 km/h than the 6MT. It is, however, already fitted to the Forester XT engine, so that economy may explain pressing it into service in the WRX.
Another wrinkle regarding the transmission is that the torque-vectoring feature referred to earlier is only available on cars fitted with the CVT. Like all Subarus, the manual transmission version uses an AWD setup producing a fixed 50:50 torque split, while the CVT gets Subaru’s Variable Torque Distribution system, a centre differential and an electronically controlled transfer clutch, with a rear-biased 45:55 split. The system manages torque distribution based on information from sensors that detect lateral g-forces and yaw, among other forces that affect the stability of the car. In short, it’s a more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system than that fitted to Subarus with a manual transmission.
I mentioned that the 2015 WRX is now packaged more practically than the outgoing model. The wheelbase is lengthened by 25 mm, for instance, providing more legroom for rear seat passengers. Interior shoulder room and elbow room is also increased without increasing total body width. The bottom end of the A-pillar has been extended 200 mm towards the front, producing a more appealing profile and enhancing outward visibility, while mounting the side mirrors on the front door panels adds a new quarter window, also for better visibility. The front and rear door openings have been enlarged, improving ingress and egress, and new 60/40 split-folding rear seats, along with a larger opening, have expanded trunk space. So, a more versatile WRX for 2015 is the result, although the really versatile five-door hatch is no longer offered.