Automatic Dose of Adrenaline:
The 2016 WRX
Fast, powerful, a blast to drive – the WRX with Sport Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is every inch a purebred, showing off the same fabled race-ready pedigree that has made its more familiar manual-transmission WRX sibling the rally enthusiast’s favorite. If I could sum up my driving impressions of the 2016 Subaru WRX Limited in one word – a crazy idea for such a multitalented car, but here goes – it would be control. This thing is quick, extremely surefooted, and, as equipped in Limited trim, offers a surprisingly premium interior. But it was the extraordinary control I was able to exert over the drivetrain that was truly eye-opening.
The Real Deal
First of all, forget all the gnashing of teeth about CVTs you hear from the hard-core enthusiast press; this Sport CVT is easily the equal of those dual-clutch automatics favored by some European manufacturers. It’s silky-smooth when you want it to be and direct and muscular when you ask for it – nail the throttle on this beast and you’ll feel all the g-force your performance spirit craves. More importantly, the Sport CVT is perfectly suited to the character of the vehicle. This is still every inch a WRX. Believe it.
Life with “Rex”
I logged over 1,400 miles, including everything from taking my 91-year-old mother out to dinner, to touring the mostly empty roads of mid-state Pennsylvania, to seeing how well the WRX could handle my favorite twisty two-lanes in northern New Jersey.
I eventually got used to the stares from other drivers – curious stares from more mature folks, envious stares from younger people, and appraising stares from the “hot hatch” crowd. (Of course, the Pure Red exterior might have had something to do with it.)
Powerful yet Thrifty
The biggest surprise from the WRX? Really good gas mileage. I certainly didn’t baby it, but I easily beat the EPA’s 18/24 mpg estimates, averaging 27.3 mpg over my two-week drive. On highway trips, I regularly topped 30 mpg. That combination of performance and efficiency is pretty hard to beat.
Power to Spare
Equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control, part of the EyeSight Driver Assist Technology,1 the WRX was able to maintain consistent average speeds better than most vehicles, even in the ups and downs of central Pennsylvania mountains. Having plenty of easy power in reserve made the WRX a joy to drive.
The Three Faces of Rex
Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) is standard on WRX and, with the Sport CVT, gives you three distinctly different driving experiences:
Trundling along in traffic? Put it in “I” (Intelligent Mode). On a steady interstate cruise, Intelligent Mode drops engine speed more than 500 rpm – it’s like having an additional overdrive gear.
The Sporting Life
For everyday driving, “S” (Sport Mode) is ideal. You always have the option of using the paddle shifters for manual control when you want it, and the system will hold the selected gear until it senses a change in the car’s attitude. For instance, if you downshift for downhill engine braking, the transmission will stay in manual mode in the selected gear until you apply the throttle. It doesn’t second-guess your wishes.
Want to feel those tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you hit the gas? S# (Sport Sharp) is for you. It basically turns the CVT into a manual transmission without a clutch. Seriously, be ready – response is dramatic and instant. It was exhilarating to be able to unleash that ferocious level of turbocharged performance whenever I wanted.
An Everyday Performance Car
The WRX with CVT makes a great daily driver. While it’s a very accommodating four-door sedan with ample trunk space, somehow the WRX never lets you forget that it’s a sports sedan. And that’s a good thing.
Behind the Wheel
The standard performance-designed seats hold you nicely in place with well-positioned bolsters. The D shape steering wheel, trimmed in black leather with red stitching, was both a visual and tactile reminder of the car’s performance capabilities. The “weighting” and feedback from the electronic power-assisted steering were among the best I’ve ever experienced in an electronic system. And the driver’s point of view, especially with the central display set to the performance screen, is pure sports sedan.
Ready to Roar
Then there’s the sound of the exhaust. Picture a cool morning, maybe with a few wisps of fog floating on the lawn. You settle in behind the wheel, buckle up, and start the engine. Instantly a deep-throated rumble from the quad tailpipes welcomes you, and you hear – and feel – an echoing counterpoint from the walls of your garage as they tremble slightly in response. Man, if that doesn’t speak to your performance-enthusiast soul, nothing will.
Ready to Roll
The suspension is tuned for responsive handling without being too hard for daily use. Drive down anything but a smooth road, and you will notice the tautness of the springing. Go over a pothole and you’ll feel it, but it’s never harsh or jolting. The reward from this buttoned-down suspension tuning is the feeling of being planted to the road. Even when taking simple 90-degree turns in my neighborhood, I felt like I was driving, not simply guiding the vehicle.
Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
I fell in love with the WRX while evaluating it and, frankly, it was hard to give it back. Yes, I was besotted with this car. How will I miss it? Let me count the ways:
- Seeing a “hole” in traffic and being there to fill it in an instant
- Feeling what the road was telling me while driving a vehicle that allowed me to make the most of that feedback
- Hearing the song of the exhaust pipe – a perfect, deep, bass note that never felt intrusive
- Listening to my favorite road-ready tunes through the crystal-clear Harman Kardon speakers
- Carving through the curves on deserted stretches of back roads, especially the easy transitions from left to right and back again; the WRX is the ideal dance partner
The Perfect Partner
Sure, I’ll always hold a place in my heart for a 6-speed manual. But having danced with it, I also would heartily recommend the WRX with the Sport CVT. It makes this Subaru sports sedan a very livable, day-to-day performance vehicle, even in urban traffic, while still giving you all the control you could ask for.
1 EyeSight is a Driver Assist Technology which may not operate optimally under all driving conditions. The driver is always responsible for safe and attentive driving. Technology effectiveness depends on many factors such as vehicle maintenance, weather and road conditions. See Owner’s Manual for complete details on system operation and limitations. Please remember to turn off EyeSight when going through a car wash.