2010 Subaru Impreza Sedan WRX Pricing

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2010 Subaru Impreza Sedan WRX
Sam Moses

Introduction
The Subaru Impreza is an easy car to live with no matter the conditions. Getting in and out is easy. Once inside, it's comfortable and easy to drive. The interior is straightforward and simple and everything is easy to operate. Cargo capacity after the 60/40 rear seats are dropped is excellent.

Yet these cars are highly capable. All-wheel drive comes standard, and the Impreza is our first choice in foul weather or on unpaved roads, assuming, of course, an Impreza WRX isn't available. Indeed, the Subaru Impreza packs in a lot, for its size and price.

The Impreza is an ideal size for running around town while still being comfortable on the freeway with trucks and big SUVs. It's solid, safe, and simple, with the added attraction of all-wheel drive, so it's ready for any road driving condition.

Fuel economy for the Impreza is EPA-rated at 20/27 mpg with manual, 20/26 mpg with automatic.

The Impreza comes in 4-Door sedan and 5-Door hatchback versions. The styling of the five-door is edgier, while the four-door sedan looks more traditional. The hatch is a bit sportier, shorter in overall length, with a shorter rear overhang. Short overhangs suggest better handling and the shorter overall length is useful in tight parking confines. The hatch is also much more practical with its large cargo capacity.

The Impreza Outback Sport comes strictly as a hatch and is set up well for extensive unpaved road travel and carrying wet or muddy gear.

The Impreza has a smooth highway ride and responsive cornering, thanks in some part to its relatively long wheelbase (103.1 inches), and the low engine placement, possible because of the horizontally opposed position of the four cylinders. This lowers the center of gravity and improves the balance, contributing to agile cornering. What's more, the Impreza shares the quick WRX steering rack, with 2.8 turns lock-to-lock, and a tight 34.8-foot turning circle. You can definitely feel it, and it's good. It's sporty.

Out on the highway, there's plenty of speed from the 170-horsepower engine, with 170 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm, to put the oomph behind the acceleration. We found no flat spots in the power or places where it was lacking.

The standard five-speed manual gearbox works well. The optional four-speed automatic works with the engine just fine, including when you have to hammer the throttle to pass trucks on a fast two-lane.

For 2010, Impreza gets subtle styling changes and a new grille, along with some packaging changes and Bluetooth wireless capability. This generation of Impreza models was introduced for 2008. Model Lineup
The 2010 Subaru Impreza lineup includes the Impreza 2.5i, Impreza Outback Sport, and Impreza 2.5GT. The 2.5i and Outback Sport use the 2.5-liter SOHC horizontally opposed four-cylinder making 170 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The 2.5GT uses a turbocharged 2.5-liter DOHC engine rated 224 horsepower. Every Subaru is equipped with all-wheel drive.

Impreza 2.5i 4-Door sedan ($17,495) and 5-Door hatchback ($17,995) come with cloth upholstery, 60/40 split folding rear seat, four-speaker AM/FM/CD, power doors, locks and mirrors, 16-inch steel wheels with all-season tires, incline start assist. Premium Package ($1000) adds 12-spoke alloy wheels, and the steering wheel, shift knob and sound system of the Outback Sport. A five-speed manual transmission with Incline Start Assist is standard; the 2.5i 4-Door is available with a four-speed automatic with Sportshift ($18,495).

Impreza Outback Sport ($19,995) upgrades with a heavy duty suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, front and rear bumper underguards, projector beam foglights, crossbars for the roofrails, 10-speaker 6CD iPod MP3 SRS Circle Surround Sound system, heated front seats and sideview mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer, and a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with audio and cruise controls. Visually, there's a two-tone paint scheme, different body trim, and more chrome in the grille. Choose between a five-speed manual transmission with Incline Start Assist or a four-speed automatic with Sportshift ($20,995).

Impreza 2.5GT 4-Door ($26,995) and 5-Door ($27,495) feature bigger front brakes, a sport tuned suspension, rear antiroll bar, 10-spoke alloy wheels, a hood scoop for the turbocharger intercooler, moonroof, more gauges on a luminescent instrument panel, and other features. The four-speed automatic with Sportshift is standard.

Options include a navigation system ($2000) with Bluetooth wireless and a microphone in the overhead console for hands-free phoning.

Safety equipment on all Impreza models includes the Subaru Advanced Frontal Airbag System featuring side-impact air bags, as well as full-length airbag curtains. Active safety features include ABS with Electronic Brake-Force Distribution and Brake Assist, electronic stability control with traction control, all-wheel drive. The Impreza earned Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) with the highest rating in frontal offset, side and rear impact tests. Walkaround
We like the smooth shape of the Impreza front end, hood and nose. For 2010, there's a new grille with a big chrome vee flying over the dark opening, like a shiny silver bat bursting from a cave. It's nicely done but the v-front isn't original (see especially the overdone Acura).

Impreza models come in four-door sedan and five-door hatch versions. The 4-Door looks like a traditional compact sedan, while the 5-Door gets special styling cues that give it an edgy look.

This is most noticeable in the Outback Sport, which comes exclusively as a 5-Door. Outback Sport's two-tone paint job is designed to suggest a rugged off-road vehicle. One color rims the car, riding like a roller coaster from the level rocker panels up and down over the flared fenders, and wiping itself over the car's blocky rear with its short overhang. A second color reaches up to grab the mostly clear silvery taillamps in a composite shape for which geometry has no word. There's a ding strip on the doors in that other color that according to our notes doesn't add much. Outback has a nice big roof rack, but there's no attempt at elegance in the crossbars. The wheels are boring. The Outback Sport has more ground clearance and slightly taller tires than the 2.5i, but it only amounts to two-tenths of an inch.

The sedan looks less edgy than the hatch. There's still a crease in the side, but the sedan has old-fashioned red taillamps, an understated black valance under the grille, and a dual exhaust: two pipes versus the 5-Door's one.

Curiously, the roofline of the 5-Door is only 0.2 inches higher than the sedan, although the coefficient of drag is 0.34 vs. 0.32 (the Outback Sport is 0.35 thanks to the roofrack).

The sedan is sleeker and better looking, but the 5-Door offers more cargo space (44.4 cubic feet with seats down) even with its overall length (on the same wheelbase) being 6.5 inches less. Interior
Effort and style have gone into the sweeping twin-cockpit design of the cabin in front. The quality of the interior materials is high relative to other compact sedans, though they don't convey high quality or low quality. You can tell for sure that the high-grade plastic is plastic, not always the case on some high-grade cars. The titanium color for the dashboard trim looks nice enough, though.

The tilt-telescoping steering wheel doesn't tilt high enough. At its top position, we couldn't climb into the car feet-first without rubbing our knees against the steering wheel, and our knees are decidedly not that high. Granted, this might be solved by lowering the seat.

On the dashboard above the center stack there's a horizontal window with digital readout for temperature, time, and average mpg (we got 22.2). But it's not readable in the sun, and distance to empty is conspicuously unavailable. The stack itself contains the usual vents with a six-disc CD changer above big easy climate control knobs. There's a nice shift lever behind a cubby and coinholder, and ahead of two cupholders and a 12-volt outlet; between the seatbacks there's a small deep console. The door pockets hold 32-ounce cups. All automatic transmission models are pre-wired for dealer-installed remote starting.

We would have preferred the double-stitched cloth seats in the Outback Sport to be more form-fitting. Mostly the seats should clean up better. The material on the edges is rugged and fine, and it would be nice if the whole seat were made of it. But the wider center part is made of a different material, looking sort of like a pinstripe suit. It might as well be made of Velcro for the way it attracts and refuses to let go of things that commonly float around cabins. Dog owner's beware: On this material dog hair armies occupy and take over like Rommel's Afrika Korps in the desert, despite weaponry against them including high-suction vacuums and duct tape. Try tweezers like we did. Better yet, order leather upholstery.

There's good headroom, front and rear and hip and shoulder room are decent. Rear-seat legroom at 33.5 inches is a pretty slim stat. The rear seatback angles are reclined, and the rear doors open wide, 75 degrees, so ingress and egress is easy. Rearview vision is adequate for a hatchback but by no means great.

Cargo capacity after the 60/40 rear seats are dropped is excellent for a car of the Impreza's size, although not nearly as spacious as a longer Subaru Legacy wagon. With the rear seats dropped, we filled a 5-Door Impreza with a small kitchen table (legs removed), big shop vacuum, a weed whacker, and some boxes. Because the sedan is 6.5 inches longer than the 5-Door, it has a large and deep trunk, big enough for three large golf bags. These cars are small for big dogs, however. Big dogs will like the midsize Subaru Outback more than the compact Impreza Outback Sport. Driving Impressions
Our main driving impression of the Subaru Impreza car is that it's the perfect size for running around town while still being comfortable on the freeway out there against the trucks and big SUVs. As a runabout that's not too big and not too small, it's solid, safe, simple, and provides standard all-wheel drive so it's ready for any highway driving condition.

There are two different all-wheel-drive systems on the standard models. Those with the five-speed manual transmission use locking center differential with viscous coupling, that distributes power evenly between the front and rear wheels on dry pavement, and shifts the torque around only when a tire slips. The models with automatic transmission use what Subaru calls Active Torque Split that transfers power based on acceleration and deceleration, as well as slippage. It's more sophisticated than the five-speed system, but if what you're mostly after is traction in snow, either does the job.

The four-speed automatic has four speeds with a Sportshift semi-manual mode that works well. The driver can upshift and downshift using the shift lever. The fact that were a mere four speeds lifted our eyebrows, considering that many transmissions are now five speeds, but we didn't encounter any situations where it felt like the ratios were too far apart, as we have with others.

We ran our Outback Sport hard, city and highway, very little cruising at a mellow and steady 65, and we averaged 22.2 miles per gallon.

Out on the highway, we found plenty of speed from the standard 170-horsepower engine, with 170 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. We found no flat spots or places where it was lacking. And, as we said, the transmission kept up just fine, when we had to hammer the throttle to pass trucks on a fast two-lane.

The Impreza has a smooth highway ride with responsive cornering, thanks in small part to its long wheelbase (103.1 inches), and now, an engine placement that's even lower than before; it was already lower than the competition, thanks to its being horizontally opposed. The best-in-class engine placement lowers the center of gravity and improves the balance, solid and agile cornering. What's more, every Impreza now uses the quick WRX steering rack, with 2.8 turns lock-to-lock, and a tight 34.8-foot turning circle. You can definitely feel it, and it's good.

Although the suspension on the Outback Sport is described as heavy duty, with 17-inch wheels, it didn't translate into a beefy ride. Nor did we find the sedan's ride to be too soft. The rear suspension is double wishbone, like what's found on many sports cars. Its compact layout allows more room above, in the cargo area. Summary
It's hard to go wrong with any Subaru. They are superb cars, though high-quality engineering means they cost a bit more than competing compacts. Still, the Impreza offers good value, considering its all-wheel-drive. The sedan and the hatch each have their merits. The 170-horsepower engine can handle all the needs of a car like this. The 2.5GT model is easy to drive and very entertaining.

Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Impreza Outback Sport in the Columbia River Valley.

Model as tested
Subaru Impreza Outback Sport ($19,995)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Japan
Destination charge
695
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
17495
Price as tested
22117
Options as tested
satellite radio ($427)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Subaru Impreza 2.5i ($17,495), 2.5GT ($26,995), Outback Sport ($19,995), WRX ($24,995), WRX STI ($34,995)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage airbags, side-impact airbags, full-length airbag curtains, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, electronic stability control with traction control, all-wheel drive, tire pressure monitor
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.5-liter sohc H4
Transmissions
4-speed automatic w Sportshift

Specifications as Tested
air conditioning, cloth upholstery, 60/40 split folding rear seat, power doors, power locks, power mirrors, Incline Start Assist; Outback includes 17-inch alloy wheels, cargo area removable tray, AM/FM/6CD

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.5-liter sohc H4
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
170 @ 6000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
20/26
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/solid disc w ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, VDC
Suspension, front
independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs
Tires
205/50R17 all-season
Suspension, rear
independent, double wishbone

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
37.6/53.3/33.5
Head/hip/leg room, front
40.3/53.4/43.5
Head/hip/leg room, rear
N/A

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
44.4
Wheelbase
103.1
Length/width/height
180.3/68.5/58.3
Turning circle
34.8
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
58.7/58.9
Ground clearance
6.3
Curb weight
3174

2010 Subaru Impreza Sedan WRX
J.P. Vettraino

Introduction
The Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STI are engaging, appealing cars, and almost unique in the marketplace. They are fast and fun to drive yet practical. Based on the Impreza compact, they are economical to operate (given their performance) and, more than ever, they make excellent cars for commuters who like a little spice in their daily drive.

The WRX models are superb and seem to get better every year. Subaru completely redesigned the WRX for 2008. The power was increased and the suspension was retuned for 2009, and more aggressive body cladding returned. For 2010, WRX gets more aggressive side sills between its wheel wells, while the STI gets black Alcantara upholstery with bright red stitching.

A new 2010 STI Special Edition is aimed at those willing to trade a few amenities for more handling performance. The suspension is adopted from the Japanese market STI spec C, which adds a 1-millimeter thicker rear stabilizer bar, stiffer rear sub-frame bushings plus upgraded springs. The front springs are 16-percent stiffer, while the rear springs have been stiffened by 29 percent.

Despite their racy appearance and serious performance, the WRX is quite refined. The current WRX models are smoother and more comfortable than pre-2008 versions, and easy to live with during the typical commute. Their cabins are roomier than previous versions, with an overall improvement in appointments and finish quality. They're offered with high-grade audio and an optional navigation system.

The WRX and STI have achieved cult status among driving enthusiasts and boy racers, but more than ever that image is too narrow and confining. These cars have decent room in the back seat and good cargo capacity. Their all-wheel-drive system can legitimately be considered a safety and foul-weather advantage, even if, with the powerful, turbocharged engines in the WRX, it's marketed as a performance enhancement, a role it also fills.

These are drivers cars. They aren't available with automatics and leather upholstery is not an option. Yet buyers seeking a smaller car with lots of safety features should like the WRX. All-wheel drive comes standard. All models come with Vehicle Dynamics Control and a sophisticated anti-lock brake system with electronic brake-force distribution. The WRX gets excellent ratings in crash tests.

The WRX is available as a four-door sedan with a conventional trunk, or as a five-door hatchback. The hatch adds nearly 70 percent more cargo capacity.

At about $25,000, the WRX models come well equipped, with nice seats in carbon black checkered accented by red stitching, automatic climate control, a good stereo and more horsepower than all but a couple cars in this size/price class. Both are powered by a 2.5-liter, 265-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder, arranged in Subaru's familiar horizontally opposed, or flat-four, configuration. The WRX offers a bang for the buck that surpasses many more expensive sports sedans.

The STI version is essentially its own car, and available only as a hatchback. STi stands for Subaru Technica International, the high-performance division that made the WRX famous through considerable success in the World Rally Championship. Nearly every major mechanical system is unique to the STI: six-speed manual transmission, special suspension and brakes, unique interior appointments and a high-tech, manually adjustable all-wheel-drive system. Yet the STi's centerpiece is a higher-tech, higher-boost version of the 2.5-liter four, generating 305 horsepower. Its acceleration times match those delivered by exotic sports cars such as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

The STi is faster than ever, but it's also quieter, more understated, and easier to drive quickly. On a closed course on Vancouver Island, we found we could overdrive corners in a big way and easily maintain control. The current model reeks refinement when compared to the STi that first went on sale in the United States in 2004. It's grown from an in-your-face, sport-compact icon to something more like a true, brand-building performance flagship. It also starts $10,000 higher than the base WRX. Many buyers will be just as happy with the standard version. We can attest that while driving the WRX we never felt like we were short-changed or missing something by not having the STi.

To be sure, the WRX costs more than your typical front-wheel-drive compact, and the performance and all-wheel-drive come with a mileage penalty. Still, we think the WRX models are a great deal, offering lots of performance for the dollar in a car that's easy to live with every day. Model Lineup
The 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX comes as a sedan ($24,995) and a five-door hatchback ($25,495), powered by a 265-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with five-speed manual transmission. WRX comes with fabric upholstery (carbon black checkered accented by red stitching), automatic climate control, 80-watt audio with an auxiliary input jack, cruise control, interior air filter, 17-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires. The hatchback comes with a rear-window wiper and a split/folding rear seat.

The WRX Premium sedan ($27,495) and Premium five-door ($27,995) have more standard equipment, including a more powerful stereo with 10 speakers and CD-changer, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, a wiper de-icer, power moonroof and fog lights. The Navigation Package ($2,000) includes a GPS system with seven-inch screen, satellite radio, digital sound processing, Bluetooth connectivity and an auxiliary video jack.

The WRX STI ($34,995) is available only as a hatchback, with a six-speed manual transmission. The STi is equipped comparably to the standard WRX Premium, though the extra money mainly adds performance, starting with the 305-hp 2.5-liter engine. Options include forged, 18-inch BBS wheels ($2,000) in gold or silver, and the navigation system. The WRX STI Special Edition ($32,995) features a sport-tuned suspension.

Dealer-installed accessories are numerous, ranging from wild spoilers or footwell illumination ($86) to short-throw shifters ($295) and Subaru Performance exhaust systems ($800). Dealer-installed parts feature full factory warranty coverage.

Safety features include dual-stage front airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and curtain-style head airbags. The WRX has achieved some of the best ratings in its class in National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests, with five stars for front impacts, five stars for front passengers in side impacts, and four stars in rollover tests. Active safety features include Vehicle Dynamics Control anti-skid electronics and four-channel, four-sensor anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). EBD keeps stopping power balanced between wheels regardless of the traction underneath. Walkaround
Racy styling full of wings, vents and add-ons has always been part of the WRX appeal, and Subaru seems to once again have accepted this inevitably.

When the current-generation Impreza WRX cars were introduced for 2008, they were more subtle, perhaps more holistic, than their predecessors. The aggressive look flowed less from accoutrements on their bodies and more from their basic shapes. That changed quickly. A year later, Subaru made the optional Aero Package standard equipment. That added front and rear under-bumper spoilers and aerodynamic-looking side-sill grounds effects. For 2010, the side sills are even more pronounced.

The current-generation are the largest WRX models ever, which translates to more room inside the car. The four-door sedan, developed specifically for the United States, is more than six inches longer than the five-door hatchback.

In side view, the most prominent bit of WRX design is a sharp crease that extends from the front wheel arch and runs just above the door handles all the way to the rear. It helps create the impression of a wedge, and emphasizes the aggressive flare of the side sills between the wheels.

From the rear, the WRX sedan and hatchback are distinguished by more than the obvious trunk lid, or lack thereof. The sedan has conventional red taillight lenses, while those on the hatchback are clear. The four-door has a low-profile rear trunk spoiler, while the five-door shares an even more aggressive rear spoiler and diffuser with the STI. The four-door features dual tailpipe outlets, and the five-door has a single, larger exhaust outlet.

American buyers overwhelmingly prefer sedans to hatchbacks. In the case of the WRX, we will take the hatch, however, and not just for its practical benefits. We'd say it's the more handsome car. Its roofline runs in a single, elegant curve from the base of the windshield to that spoiler at the top of the rear glass. Also, its rear overhang is considerably shorter than the sedan's. Shorter overhangs are generally better for handling, in addition to other benefits.

WRX and STI have an aluminum hood, which reduces weight in front and helps distribute the car's mass more evenly over the front and rear wheels. Both cars feature the latest evolution of what Subaru calls its Ring Frame Reinforced body design. Think of RFR as a safety cell in roughly a cube shape around the passenger compartment, made of stronger, hydro-formed steel sections. The idea is more strength and rigidity without an undue increase in weight, and it may help explain the excellent ratings in NHTSA crash tests. The first objective of RFR is better occupant protection, but the structural improvements pay dividends in many respects, from more responsive handling to improved smoothness in just about every aspect of the car's operation.

The STI is available only as a hatchback, and it's the raciest looking WRX of all, particularly with the optional forged, thin-spoke BBS wheels. The STi was first created as a homologation car, or a required street-legal copy of Subaru's winning World Rally Championship competitors. Its fenders bulge more prominently than those on the other WRX models to stretch over extra-wide tires, and all its various vents and air deflectors are functional. The STI unitbody also has some significant enhancements compared to other WRX models, starting with extra high-strength steel at suspension mounting points and key structural joints. Interior
When the WRX and STI were redesigned for 2008, their interiors were more understated, or subdued, than they'd been in years. Since then, however, Subaru has re-introduced details such as aluminum alloy covers for the foot pedals, red stitching on the seats and steering wheel for 2009, and embroidered WRX logos to remind occupants of what they're sitting in, in case the howl of the free-revving turbocharged engine isn't enough. For 2010, the line-topping STI model gets new black Alcantara upholstery with red stitching, instead of gray Alcantara with silver stitching, for a bolder presentation.

In general, this WRX line feels less confining, perhaps more airy, than its predecessor, the pre-2008 models. The glass seems more expansive, even though the side windows are now framed in the doors, rather than pressed against weather-stripping on the roof and roof columns, as they were on the previous generation. Features, too, are more upscale. Niceties such as a sophisticated anti-theft system, cabin air filtration and an outside temperature gauge come standard, while a navigation system is optional.

The front bucket seats in the WRX are upholstered with a soft, black-checkered fabric, double stitched in the fashion of a luxury car, and they provide a good compromise between support and comfort. There's enough side bolstering top and bottom to keep occupants snug during fairly aggressive driving, but there's also plenty of give in the cushions.

The seats in the STi are more like aftermarket performance seats, which means harder and more heavily bolstered. They're even better for hard driving, but the snugger fit leaves less squirm room during longer, more relaxed travel, and they demand more energy to climb in and out of. The seats come in black Alcantara with red stitching.

Overall, the WRX driving position is excellent. In front, a feeling of roominess is noticeable in shoulder room. Seat adjustments are simple, but they allow people of various sizes to get properly situated. Most drivers will be able to reach all controls, including those for adjusting side mirrors, without lifting head or shoulders from the seatback. One minor gripe regarding the armrests: They're positioned such that each elbow rests at a slightly different height. Then again, serious driving doesn't involve armrests.

Gauges are easy to read and illuminated in orange. The trim is a metallic silver plastic. You'll find more attractively grained plastics and maybe richer looking trim materials in this price range, but nothing in the WRX looks cheap enough to kill the deal. That's at least partly because the dashboard layout is so straightforward and effective.

The size and shape of the dash is roughly symmetrical on both the driver and passenger sides, with a big, outreaching center stack of controls and displays in the middle. All gauges are clustered directly in front of the driver. The four dash vents are fully adjustable and large enough to move plenty of air.

An LCD sits under its own hood at the top of the center stack, with temperature indicator, time and other information. At the bottom sit three big climate-control knobs: one each for temperature, airflow direction and fan speed, easy to grab with barely a peripheral glance, operating with a nice tactile sensation that conveys the amount of adjustment. In between are the standard audio controls or the optional navigation screen. Both are good sized and easy to manipulate. While the audio knobs aren't as big as those for the air conditioning, volume, source and tuning can also be adjusted with buttons on the steering wheel spokes.

In back there's decent hip room and headroom. The rear door openings are large, and shaped in a way that eliminates a big head duck required to get in. Sliding in and out is easy, and the rear seatback is reclined at a comfortable angle. There's room enough in the back for two six-footers to stay comfortable for a reasonable period of time. There's not enough space for three, however, the middle spot is best left to a youngster.

Cargo capacity in the WRX is pretty good. With 11.3 cubic feet of trunk space, the WRX sedan falls toward the lower end of its size class, a bit less than what's found in the less-expensive Honda Civic Si sedan or the more expensive BMW 328i. Still, the WRX's rear seatback splits and folds forward. With the 60-percent portion laid flat, there's enough room to slide two golf bags in through the trunk, and still leave room for a third passenger.

Cargo space in the five-door hatch is much better. With 19 cubic feet, rear seat up, there's a lot more space than what's available in the typical small sedan's truck. The hatchback also allows taller objects to be contained within the car. When the rear seat is folded cargo capacity expands to 44.4 cubic feet, with easy access from the rear side doors to help push things in and out.

Cubby storage is average. The glove box is deep, holding more stuff than most, and there's a lined bin in front of the gearshift for phones, openers or glasses. There's a pair of cupholders in the center console, just right of the handbrake and hidden with a sliding cover in the STi. Another cupholder in each front door pocket is large enough for a 24-ounce bottle. The box in the center console has jacks for MP3 players and a power point. WRXs with the navigation system come with a video jack. This allows video games or DVD players to project on the navi screen, but only when the car is parked. Driving Impressions
The all-around performance of the WRX is amazing, and all aspects of it: acceleration, handling, braking. Yet the WRX is a complete package. Even the STI is fairly easy to live with for daily driving.

The refinement is apparent from the first turn of the key. Where the old STi had the hollow, reverberating sound one expects inside a stripped-out race car, the current WRX sounds more like the typical family sedan inside, except for the more aggressively tuned exhaust tone. And it's not just a reduction in engine noise. The WRX is fitted with a full undertray that smoothes airflow beneath the car, and we suspect there is more sound insulating material than ever. Road and wind noise have been reduced considerably at all speeds.

Subaru's engines use a horizontally opposed design, meaning the cylinders are laid flat with the pistons on each side moving in opposite directions, similar to the engines in Porsche's sports cars. Like all engine designs, this one has advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is compact size, and the prospect of installing the engine low in the car. This gives the WRX excellent handling. Flat-four engines have a distinctive, loping vibration pattern that can quickly be distinguished by motorheads, though like all the vibrations in the current WRX, it's more muted than ever.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder in the WRX is rated at 265 horsepower and 244 pound-feet of torque. The STi bumps engine output to 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet. In both cases, it's a lot of power for the engine's size. As significantly, the power curve is broad.

Step on the gas and the WRX just goes, noticeably more quickly than the vast majority of cars in its size or price range, with a swoosh from the turbocharged engine that makes a viscerally satisfying experience. Yet power delivery is more linear than ever, so you don't have to get the engine screaming at 6000 rpm to feel the pull. The WRX will jump as readily if the engine is humming at 2500 rpm when the driver steps on it.

The weak link in this gas-and-go process might be the gear-change for the five-speed manual transmission. The shifter has nice weight and resistance, with reasonably short transfer between gears slots, but the movement is more stretchy than we might like in true high-performance car. Nonetheless, the driver adjusts quickly, and working the gears in the WRX is a very pleasant experience. Starts are aided by Subaru's Hill-Holder feature, which keeps the car from rolling backward as the operator releases the clutch pedal on an incline.

Moreover, the shifter action is something that can be addressed with some of the many port-installed performance options offered by Subaru. One of our test cars had several, including a short-throw shift linkage for the standard WRX five-speed. It gave the car shift feel like a true sports car. In general, the performance upgrades will be appreciated most by sport-compact enthusiasts who consider the WRX the stuff of legend.

The STI is really quick: Ford Mustang GT and Aston Martin V8 Vantage quick, or 0-60 mph in about five seconds flat, with an engine about half the size. Yet even more than in the standard WRX, the STi's refinement is apparent. The power comes smoothly and more evenly than ever before.

The STI's relative civility is apparent in all its dynamic characteristics. Its suspension tuning, or the mix of overall ride comfort, sharp handling and pavement-sticking grip, is one of the highlights. Steering in both the standard WRX and STI is lighter than we'd expect in most performance-tuned cars. But it's also fairly quick, so the car turns a lot with small movements on the wheel, and it's accurate. With a little familiarity, the typical driver will have no trouble directing these cars in very precise fashion.

With introduction of its Impreza 2.5GT model, Subaru has made the suspension on the standard WRX stiffer. Still, even the ultra-performance STI is softer than that of the previous-generation (pre-2008) version, missing the cruder, teeth-chattering shocks of the original. We'll call the suspension movement controlled compliance, with enough give to be comfortable on all but the Midwest's worst roads, much like the typical European sports sedan. The STI suspension dampens body lean and fore-aft bobbing firmly, yet it allows the car to settle smoothly after big bumps, protecting those inside from big jolts or repeating, annoying up-down motions. And it still offers everything the driver needs to evaluate what's happening under the seat or to build confidence in the car's behavior.

At its handling limits, the STI has a slight inclination to understeer, or to generate the feeling that its front wheels are pushing off the road. Yet that tendency is less than in the typical front-drive car, and the all-wheel-drive system allows the driver to get the front end to tuck into a curve by adding a little more gas. The STI stays planted under rough, abrupt or heavy-handed inputs on its controls. Whether braking hard into a curve, or panic-braking with a sudden twist of the steering to avoid an accident, the anti-skid electronics work to keep the car's weight balanced and the tires on that fine line between maximum grip and skid. The STI helps take care of the beginner at a WRX club track day without strangling the joy out for skilled drivers, and it allows exceptionally skilled drivers to turn all the electronic aids off. It's a great setup.

Full-time all-wheel drive in the WRX is pitched primarily as a performance feature, and it's exactly that. Yet it can also be considered a safety feature, helping keep the car balanced steady and true in a driving rain, for example. The standard performance tires aren't much good for cold, slushy conditions, but with winter tires the WRX is hard to beat in winter's worst. Enthusiasts living in the Snow Belt might want two sets of wheels and tires.

Overall, the mechanical and electronic systems are refined, and more than ever. A single management program controls the electronic throttle, the all-wheel-drive, and the Vehicle Dynamics Control. Even the antilock brakes are integrated. That allows a host of possibilities that can enhance safety and improve handling and overall performance. The standard WRX takes care of just about everything for the driver, leaving the choices to the computer chip. The STI, on the other hand, lets the driver sort through a bunch of options using a series of buttons on the center console.

One STi feature, called SI-Drive, allows a choice of three maps for the electronic throttle, ranging from commute grade to extra aggressive. This allows the driver to control how much the engine accelerates with a given movement of the gas pedal: smooth, mild response to big dips on the pedal, or major acceleration with small dips. The VDC also offers choices: Standard, Off, and Performance, which allows enough wheel slip to slide the car but still tries to gather things up if it gets too sloppy. A manual adjustment for the center differential controls how much of the power is sent to the front or rear wheels, as it is in a real World Rally Championship car. Between the various throttle maps, stability and differential settings, there are almost enough permutations to confuse a racecar engineer.

The leave-it-to-the-computer settings in the WRX will be fine for the majority of drivers, but we suppose those paying an extra $10,000 for the STi might expect some tangible features to impress their friends. In the right conditions, driving enthusiasts will have fun playing with the various settings, and those stressed out or confused by the adjustments can go with the default, automatic settings in the STI.

The brakes on these cars are outstanding. On both the WRX and STI, the rotors are larger than those on the typical small car, but especially so on the STI. Its brake hardware is supplied by Brembo, which also makes the brakes for Ferrari and other ultra-high performance car builders. The ABS on these cars is among the most sophisticated available. It uses various sensors to control the braking force at each rear wheel independently, which in turn can help keep the car's rear end from sliding around while braking aggressively in a curve. Summary
The Subaru Impreza WRX and WRX STi are fun, fast and well built, with standard all-wheel drive and overall performance that's rare in their class. They're also practical, with decent room in the back seat and good cargo capacity, and they've achieve excellent scores in NHTSA crash tests. Recent refinements haven't significantly diluted the character and enthusiasm that have made the WRX so appealing over the years, but they have raised the bar on comfort and quality. The WRXs cost more than many cars of comparable size, and they give up some fuel economy for the performance, but those who appreciate this car's strengths probably won't mind.

J.P. Vettraino filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Detroit; with Mitch McCullough reporting from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Model as tested
Subaru WRX Premium five-door ($27,995)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Ota Gunma, Japan
Destination charge
695
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
24350
Price as tested
33234
Options as tested
Navigation Package ($2,000) includes Sirius satellite radio hardware and GPS navigation with single CD player, auxiliary video input jack and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity; port-installed SPT Performance Exhaust System ($800); STI Lip Spoiler ($370); Chrome Sport Grille ($368); STI Short Throw shifter ($295); Strut Tower Brace ($230); Chassis Brace ($200); STI Shift Knob ($170); Footwell Illumination ($86); STI Shifter Bushing ($25)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Subaru WRX four-door sedan ($24,995), five-door hatchback ($25,495); WRX Premium sedan ($27,495), Premium five-door ($27,995); STi ($34,995)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual-stage front-impact airbags with position sensors for driver and front passenger, seat-mounted front-passenger side airbags, curtain-style head protection airbags for all outboard seats, antilock brakes (ABS), Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), tire pressure monitor, all-wheel drive
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
2.5-liter dohc 16v turbocharged intercooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder
Transmissions
5-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
cloth-upholstered heated front seats with six-way manual adjustment for driver and four-way adjustment for front passenger, automatic climate control with cabin air filter, 100-watt audio with ten speakers, digital processing, six-CD changer and auxiliary input jack, power tilt/slide glass sunroof, power windows and door locks with remote entry, power heated mirrors, tilt/telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, split/folding rear bench seat, aluminum pedal covers, two 12-volt power points, cargo-area cover, light and tie-downs, variable-intermittent wipers with de-icer, rear-window wiper, auto-off halogen headlights, fog lights, clear taillight lenses, 17-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires

Engine & Transmission
Engine
2.5-liter dohc 16v turbocharged intercooled horizontally opposed four-cylinder
Drivetrain type
all-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
265 @ 6000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
18/25
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A

Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
vented disc/disc with four-channel, four-sensor ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Suspension, front
independent, lower L arms with inverted struts and stabilizer bar
Tires
P225/45R17 performance
Suspension, rear
independent, double-wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer bar

Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.3/53.4/43.5
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.4/53.3/33.5

Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
44.4
Wheelbase
103.1
Length/width/height
173.8/68.5/58.1
Turning circle
35.4
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
58.9/59.1
Ground clearance
6.1
Curb weight
3229


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