2006 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan
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Review and photos by Laurance Yap

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Snow, freezing rain, sleet – or completely dry and clear roads. You never know quite what you’re going to get when you drive down to Detroit at the beginning of January, but you know you need to get there to see the auto show and check out all the cars that you might be driving down next January.

When getting somewhere no matter what the conditions is a priority, I often turn to Subarus. They’re equipped to deal with poor weather, thanks to their excellent all-wheel-drive, as well as effective HVAC systems and windshield wipers. They’re quick and responsive, making most journeys pass by a bit faster. They’re good on gas, at least when you’re not driving aggressively. And if the roads happen to be dry and clear, they’re also entertaining vehicles to drive.

The drive down to Detroit this year pretty much ran the gamut of all the weather possibilities, and as expected, the WRX I drove down dealt with it all in its stride. It was stable and composed in the snow that had lightly dusted my neighbourhood in Toronto; it shrugged off the freezing rain and sleet that had slowed most traffic down to a crawl through Brantford, and remained comfortable even for long stints behind the wheel.

Long-distance comfort was not initially one of the WRX’s strong points, but a couple of recent changes have made the 2006 car a much more liveable long-distance tourer. Its engine, for one, has been enlarged from 2.0 to 2.5 litres, so you don’t need to wind it up or downshift as much for decent passing power.

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan
Click image to enlarge

It’s smoother, quieter, and generally more refined than the old motor, and seems to get similar gas mileage, at least on the highway. Second, new seats have been fitted, with one-piece backrests similar to the STi model’s, which are terrifically supportive during cornering but with enough plushness to coddle you during long highway stints.

All this in addition to the WRX’s traditional high points: surging turbocharged thrust, handling that remains balanced, confident, and composed no matter how hard you’re pushing, and major controls (steering, brakes, shifter) that are faithful to your every command.

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan
Click image to enlarge

The WRX is delightful on a tight, winding road: its precise steering isn’t particularly fast, but is full of feel, and very accurate, while the extra torque of the new engine punches you out of corners a lot harder and faster than before. Along with the upgrade in engine power is a similar upgrade to the car’s braking system: the front discs are now clamped by four-piston red-painted calipers, with two-piston units at the rear. They’ve not only shortened stopping distances, but improved the old WRX’s slightly spongy pedal feel. The pedal’s travel is still long, but the braking is right there when you need it too, with no slop.

Still, this is the WRX’s second facelift, and the car is starting to show its age in some areas.

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan
Click image to enlarge

While the interior has been upgraded beyond the new seats – there’s new trim on the centre console and redesigned gauges, as well as an easier-to-use stereo – the quality of the materials isn’t the best, and the design’s beginning to feel a bit old. More importantly, the small size that gives the WRX its nimbleness also means that its back seat is claustrophobic, with very little legroom if whoever’s up front is over 6 feet. Insulation from wind and road noise isn’t the best, either, and the whole car has kind of a thin feel, lacking the substance that you would expect for over $35,000.

A couple of years ago, that might have been more forgivable, but the game’s moved on quite a bit since its introduction. The Mazdaspeed6 offers more power, an interior that wouldn’t be out of place in an Audi, and better highway refinement (not to mention an extra gear in its gearbox) for just a few dollars more.

2006 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan
Click image to enlarge

Even Subaru’s own Legacy GT, which is only slightly pricier than the WRX, offers the same drivetrain but with a luxurious interior, excellent sound system (the WRX’s is tinny), and styling that doesn’t scream boy-racer the way the Impreza’s does. On an early-January drive down to Detroit, either of these cars work just as well as the WRX in poor conditions, but with even more comfort and refinement.

And if neither of those vehicles has the little Subaru’s raw-like-sushi edge, they also are easier to drive during the rush-hour grind, and offer more amenities for similar money. If you’re looking for a rawer, more aggressive experience than that, though, the WRX may well be your car.

Technical Data: 2006 Subaru WRX sedan

Base price $35,495
Freight $435
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $36,130 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan
Layout longitudinal front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 2.5-litre boxer 4 cylinder, SOHC, 16 valves, turbocharger
Horsepower 230 @ 5600 rpm
Torque 235 @ 3600 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (4-speed auto opt)
Tires P215/45R17 Bridgestone Potenza A/S
Curb weight 1452 kg (3201 lbs)
Wheelbase 2525 mm (99.4 in.)
Length 4465 mm (175.7 in.)
Width 2082 mm (81.9 in.)
Height 1440 mm (56.6 in)
Ground clearance 160 mm (6.2 in.)
Cargo capacity 311 litres (10.9 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 12.0 L/100 km (24 mpg Imp)
  Hwy: 8.3 L/100 km (34 mpg Imp)
Fuel type Premium
Warranty 3 yrs/ 60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Assembly location Yajima, Japan

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