2009 Subaru WRX265
2009 Subaru WRX265. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Subaru Impreza/WRX

Ottawa, Ontario – There’s basic transportation, and there’s basic, high-performance, world rally champion transportation. Which would you like?

Subaru knows the choice is a matter of degree, which is why they offer their Impreza compact car in a range of flavours that should satisfy the most discerning palate. The $33,995 Impreza WRX265 sedan, introduced in August, 2008 and the subject of our test drive, fits comfortably between the “base” WRX (that’s really a contradiction in terms…) and the full-bore WRX STI. And don’t think it doesn’t anticipate the new 237-horsepower, all-wheel
drive Mitsubishi Ralliart, now entering showrooms.

Like the WRX, the WRX265 is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatch. The “265” refers to the number of horses crammed under its generously scooped hood, up from 224-hp in the WRX. Torque is also increased, from 226 lb.ft at 2,800 rpm, to 244 lb.ft at 4,000 rpm.

All Imprezas are powered with a 2.5-litre, dual-overhead camshaft, four-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine (a “flat-four”), and in the WRX265 this engine receives a high-power turbocharger and intercooler. Transmission is five-speed manual, with no automatic option available for 2009. The drivetrain also features Subaru’s well-regarded “Symmetrical all-wheel drive,” which splits power 50/50 between front and rear wheels.

2009 Subaru WRX265
2009 Subaru WRX265. Click image to enlarge

Subaru’s WRX models include a generous array of standard equipment, including automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering column, heated, “rally-type” seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, power/heated mirrors, and electronic stability control with traction control. Brakes, as you would expect, are four-wheel disc with anti-lock.

Additonal WRX265 features include special 17-inch wheels with Dunlop SP Sport summer performance tires (although our test car wore winter tires), upgraded suspension and exhaust, premium audio with Sirius satellite radio (three-month trial subscription) and aluminum alloy sport pedals. Plus the increased power…

It’s in the latter department that the WRX265 really shines. Even though maximum torque isn’t available until the engine reaches 4,000 rpm, it gets there pretty quickly and acceleration can be ferocious from a standing start. Cornering, the WRX265 feels athletic and nimble. Steering inputs are greeted with instant response, and you know you could have great fun on a slalom course with this vehicle, or induce a few daily smiles simply negotiating a highway on-ramp.

I like the look of the WRX265. Our test vehicle came in World Rally Blue Pearl, which is fitting for a Subaru, and nicely highlights the Impreza sedan’s angular and purposeful profile. The 10-spoke wheels have a fashionable and practical gun-metal coating (practical because it hides brake dust), and appear larger than their 17-inch diameter would suggest.

2009 Subaru WRX265
2009 Subaru WRX265
2009 Subaru WRX265
2009 Subaru WRX265. Click image to enlarge

Body cladding and rear spoiler don’t shout too loud, and would suit a buyer who wants a high-performance look, but requires some visual restraint. It’s tastefully executed, is what I’m saying!

The grey/black interior is rather Spartan in tone, however, and the latest Impreza dashboard doesn’t really suit any WRX, in my opinion — it’s a bit too artistic and flowing, when what you’d prefer is something more technical and bespoke. Interior plastics are hard to the touch, and unfortunately look cheap. The standard sunroof does brighten things up, though.

The small audio display panel at the top of the center stack is limited to 10 characters, so it typically truncates artist names and song titles available through the Sirius satellite radio. And the audio system itself, billed as premium, doesn’t deliver impressive sound from its six speakers.

Seats are cloth, but nice, with red stitching and a red WRX logo embroidered on the front seat backs, and they provide good lateral support with sufficient comfort. The red stitching extends to the interior of the leather-clad steering wheel, which has a thick, chunky feel to it.

Rear seat room is generous for a compact car, and the rear doors open almost 90-degrees which helps when entering and exiting, and will also simplify the use of a baby seat, if that’s a concern. Trunk size is sufficient (320 litres; a little smaller than a Honda Civic), but the trunk lid is attached with large hinges that reduce usable space. To be fair, the Civic uses the same type of hinges, but many vehicles now use gas-filled struts, like those found under the WRX265’s hood, in fact. That was a pleasant surprise: no “prop rod” to fiddle with when admiring the fine hardware in the engine bay.

Finding a good position behind the wheel in a WRX265 is easy, as it tilts and telescopes and the seat-height is adjustable. The mirrors are quite large, and give good rearward vision from both sides of the car. The instruments are clear, and illuminated red.

The sound of this high-performance flat-four when you turn the key is, shall we say, distinctive. It growls and clatters to life, then settles at idle, emitting a willing whine under acceleration. It sounds like it means business. The gearshift is a little tall, but that’s the way they are in some rally cars (and NASCAR, too…).

2009 Subaru WRX265
2009 Subaru WRX265
2009 Subaru WRX265. Click image to enlarge

There’s not too much torque available in fourth gear at low engine speeds, and there’s virtually nothing in fifth on the highway (it’s an overdrive gear, designed for fuel economy). But first, second and third can produce some raucous excitement whenever you want, and it is great fun to when this car shoots forward, dead straight, no torque-steer, no wheel-slip, just maximum traction for maximum action. Very satisfying, indeed.

Or you can just cruise around like you’re driving a base Impreza — the WRX265 is not a handful to drive at all. Docile, in fact, when you want it to be. The ride is smooth and certainly firm, but not harsh. The standard Hill Holder feature is welcome when starting on an incline, as is prevents the car from rolling backwards for a few seconds while you disengage the clutch and apply the throttle.

Our car has a few rattles, though. Under the dashboard, beside the steering column. It only happens when temperatures dip below zero, but it’s annoying. Of course, it’s intermittent, which means when you take it to the dealer, it will behave.

Fuel economy in the WRX265 is very good. Yes, it requires premium fuel, but I averaged 11.4 L/100km in the city and 7.8 on the highway. This is what you’d expect from a midsize V6 sedan, so for the level of performance experienced in the WRX265, it’s commendable.

Younger buyers will be attracted to this car; mostly men, I should think. But it’s got the goods to be great all-round vehicle for a young family. It’s roomy, has a useful trunk, all-wheel drive, is economical to run, and it’s got real personality. Then again, even with the impressive performance, the WRX265’s down-market interior may make you ask whether you’re getting enough for your $34,000.

Competitors are the Mazdaspeed3, Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, Honda Civic Si,
Acura TSX, although there isn’t a comparable all-wheel drive competitor
other than the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart.

Pricing: 2009 Subaru WRX265 sedan

Base price: Price: $33,995
Options: None
A/C tax: $100

Freight: Freight: $1,495
Price as tested: $35,590
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: TBA

    Related articles on Autos

    First Drives

  • 2009 Subaru WRX265, by James Bergeron
  • 2008 Subaru Impreza, by Paul Williams
  • 2008 Subaru Impreza, by Jil McIntosh
    Test Drives

  • 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5i Sport, by Jil McIntosh
  • 2008 Subaru WRX hatchback
  • 2008 Subaru WRX STi, by Laurance Yap
  • 2008 Subaru WRX automatic
    Day-by-Day Reviews

  • 2008 Subaru WRX STi, by James Bergeron
  • 2008 Subaru Impreza sedan, by James Bergeron

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Acura TSX
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Honda Civic Si
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Volkswagen GTI
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 MazdaSpeed3

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