2009 Subaru Impreza WRX — Test drive and new car review — 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX

13 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX — Test drive and new car review — 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX

Good dog!

Subaru has made major improvements to the performance-oriented Impreza WRX — an unusual move, considering that an all-new WRX was launched just last year. Nevertheless, the Impreza WRX storms into 2009 with a more powerful engine, improved styling and dynamics, and without an automatic transmission, all for just $645 more than last year’s car. Frankly, I thought the 2008 WRX was pretty good — so have the changes made it any better?

Read on. $25,660 base, $30,660 as tested, EPA fuel economy estimates 18 MPG city, 25 MPG highway.

First glance: What a dog

Among car fans, the term dog has a negative connotation. If someone says a car is a real dog, they usually mean that it’s slow, sluggish, unresponsive, or otherwise unwilling to do whatever it is that would please its human masters.

How this use of the word dog came about is beyond me. Most dogs are anything but slow, sluggish, unresponsive and unwilling. A well-trained, well-treated dog is a model of happiness.

They even have a part of the body which serves no purpose other than to express satisfaction. Sure, all dogs have some bad habits. Some drool on the furniture. Others bark at the neighbor’s kids.

My own dog will occasionally poop on the living room floor to express her dissatisfaction with my absence. But for the most part, dogs are fur-covered vessels of positive energy. Their primary goal in life is to please their owners, and their secondary goals, if they have any — like barking when things seem even slightly amiss — can be incredibly utilitarian.

And that’s why I say the Subaru Impreza WRX is a dog: It’s well behaved, well trained, and seems to have been engineered for no other purpose than to please its owner. The WRX isn’t the fastest car on the road. It isn’t even the fastest Impreza — that would be the 305 horsepower STI. an evil cat of a car if there ever was one.

But the WRX is the real dog of the lineup — man’s (and woman’s) best friend, wrought in metal, plastic and glass.

In the Driver’s Seat: Changes, changes, changes

Interior is standard Impreza fare; center-mounted techometer and red stitching on steering wheel and seats are among the subtle touches that denote the WRX

Photo #169; Aaron Gold

Though the WRX was all-new for 2008, it was criticized by the automotive press for not being as hard-core as the previous-generation WRX. so Subaru has instituted a number of significant changes for 2009. The racy-looking body kit, optional on last year’s WRX, is now standard, as is an STI-style grille (link goes to photo) and bigger rear spoiler for the hatchback. The engine is more powerful — 265 hp and 244 lb-ft of torque, a significant bump from last year’s 224 hp and 226 lb-ft.

The suspension has been upgraded with STI upper strut mounts, stiffer springs, larger anti-roll bars, and wider summer performance tires in place of the ’08 WRX’s all-season tires. And the automatic transmission is gone — all WRXs now come with a 5-speed manual. (For those who can’t drive a stick, Subaru offers the new Impreza 2.5GT. which has last year’s 224 hp engine, a 4-speed automatic, a softer suspension and a higher price tag. Short review: Yawn. Long review here .)

Inside, changes are limited to red stitching on the steering wheel and seats ; other than that it’s the same WRX interior, for better (roomy back seat ) or worse (cheap-looking hard-plastic door panels). The WRX is available as both a sedan and a hatchback. I drove the latter, which costs $500 more, and I’m not sure why anyone would opt for the former — that 19.8 cubic feet of cargo space sure comes in handy.

The WRX offers two option packages, a $2,500 Premium Package (sunroof, 10-speaker stereo, heated front seats and mirrors, and wiper de-icer grid) and a $2,000 navigation /satellite radio bundle.

On the Road: Run, Spot, run!

Dogs love to run, and so does the WRX. Like most turbocharged engines, the WRX’s horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine does its best work above 3,000 RPM, but its big 2.5 liter displacement ensures decent low-end pull. And once you do hit the powerband, it doesn’t just rush for the redline like most turbo engines — it seems to savor the power, riding a long, lusty wave of torque that stretches right up until it hits the rev limiter.

The ’09 WRX is plenty fast in a straight line, but it’s in the curves that the extra hp and lb-ft really come in handy.

I liked the way the 2008 WRX drove on the twisty roads, but with the 2009 model, like has evolved into love. With its revised suspension tuning, the WRX bites into the turns firmly, but not too aggressively, and fires back out of them with lots of grip, lots of thrust, and a satisfying jet-like whine. You can really feel the extra power, but it doesn’t overwhelm the car.

Carry too much speed into the corner and the WRX understeers as a warning, with the standard electronic stability control system (Subaru calls it VDC, for Vehicle Dynamic Control) sitting back and waiting to see what develops. Unlike its big brother, the STI, I never felt like the WRX was secretly trying to kill me.

I even tried jumping on the brakes mid-corner — the automotive equivalent of saying I think I’ll throw myself down the stairs, just to see what happens — and that evoked a little oversteer, but only a little. The WRX rewards good technique, but doesn’t punish bad technique (or, in my case, lack of technique). Good dog!

Journey’s End: A new rival

2009 Subaru Impreza WRX

Photo #169; Aaron Gold

The WRX is as dog-like as a car can get: It’s all about happiness and joy, with a fair bit of usefulness thrown in. And the 2009 model has undergone some much-needed training, making it a better-behaved car than last year’s WRX.

2009 will be the first year that the WRX faces a serious competitor: Mitsubishi’s Lancer Ralliart. a junior version of the Lancer Evolution. which has been challenging (and, in my opinion, beating) Subaru’s STI for a few years now. The Ralliart has less power but an extra gear in its high-tech twin-clutch automatic transmission.

I drove the Ralliart and the WRX back to back, and while the Ralliart’s sharper handling makes it better going into a curve, the WRX’s extra power feels better on the way out. The WRX is about $1,500 cheaper than the Lancer Ralliart; spending that money on upgraded springs and shocks would narrow the handling gap. Frankly, both cars are pretty fantastic.

I’d probably opt for the WRX, mostly because I prefer having a clutch pedal.

And what about the STI. No way would I pay the extra $10,000 for one — not when the WRX is so good, and especially not now that it only trails the STI by 40 hp and 46 lb-ft of torque. Understand, however, that I don’t care much about going fast in a straight line — I’m all about the curves.

Bottom line: With all the improvements, the WRX has gone from a car I like a lot to one of my favorites. The 2009 WRX is fast, affordable, and lots of fun. I’ve come to think of it as the driver’s best friend. — Aaron Gold

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