Why I Chose the WRX |
When you need practicality and affordability, but you also want to have fun, the WRX is the way to go
I love my FR-S, it would pain me deeply to sell it. For the past 5 years, I've been modifying the FR-S to be faster, more agile, and more aggressive. As anyone who modifies cars knows, the further down that path you go, the less daily driveable it becomes. My FR-S now handles like a champion, is significantly faster than it was from the factory, and looks great. However, it's also low, stiff, and loud - too loud and low to drive every day without getting headaches and too low to drive around without dodging road imperfections and creeping up every entrance with a slight gradient. I also have a family, so the backseat of the FR-S is an issue.
It became clear that I needed an every day car, and I didn't want to sell my FR-S. That presented a problem: I needed something that I can drive every day regardless of weather, where I don't need to worry about constant scraping and bottoming out, that's practical enough to use in a way that normal people use their cars, but since I'm also a car enthusiast, needed to be fun to drive. Since I would be keeping my FR-S instead of selling it, it would also need to be reasonably priced.
There are a few options on the market that checked all of these boxes, but they all came with some significant drawback -
- Ford Focus ST - FWD and looks just "ok"
- Ford Focus RS - extremely stiff ride and would have to be used (not a deal breaker, but I really prefer new)
- Honda Civic Type R - FWD and looks like it was styled by putting a picture of a normal Civic in front a focus group of 10 year olds and then asking "what would you do different?"
- VW Golf R - nothing technically wrong with it, but it's just never really done it for me. Since it's also one of the most expensive options on this list, it would need more than "nothing technically wrong with it" for me to consider buying one
- Hyundai Veloster N - really not crazy about how it looks. It's also a Hyundai... I know every journalist has gone on and on about the brand's transformation and how good this car is, but I'm sorry. I still can't do it.
There was really only one remaining option - the Subaru WRX. It has all-wheel drive, so it's great in the winter. It's got 4 doors, a big back seat, and a large trunk, so that's family duty taken care of. It's not the most beautiful or most dynamic looking car in the world, but it looks aggressive and can play the part of "respectable 30-something man" or a car enthusiast with a very capable car. The turbo boxer 4 isn't the most powerful engine out there, but it's plenty for a daily driver, it's easily tuned, and I'm very familiar with the FA20 by now. It can also be had brand new for $29,600 out the door. That's tough to beat.
*EDIT: There is one downside to the WRX - I don't vape. I was pretty sure it was required for ownership, but so far it hasn't caused any issues.
2020 WRX PREMIUM SPECS |
ENGINE | 2.0 Liter DOHC Turbocharged Flat-Four
POWER | 268 hp @ 5,600 rpm
TORQUE | 258 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,200 rpm
MAX BOOST PRESSURE | 15.9 psi
TRANSMISSION | 6-speed manual
OPTIONS | STI short throw shifter
CURB WEIGHT | 3,340 lbs
DRIVELINE | Symmetrical all-wheel drive
STABILITY/TRACTION | Active torque vectoring, VDC, TCS
STEERING | Quick-ratio electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion
SUSPENSION | 4-wheel independent suspension
WHEELS | 18x8.5 Aluminum
TIRES | 245/40/18
2020 WRX INTERIOR |
Nothing fancy, but a nice place to be
The WRX interior is nothing special, but it's a nice place to be. In a way, it's similar to the FR-S in that money was spent on performance above all else. In order to keep the price of the car low, concessions had to be made somewhere - that somewhere is the interior. That's not to say that the interior is bad by any means. There's just nothing overly special about it.
Ergonomically, everything is great. There aren't any "why would they put that there?" situations except for possibly the inclinometer display that you can select for the display on the top of the dash. That makes sense in a Jeep, but I can't imagine a scenario in a WRX when the grade of the incline that I'm on would be important. The seats are comfortable and supportive as well.
There aren't many "toys" in the interior, but that's fine because I personally don't care about most of the options that are available from Subaru or other manufacturers. One thing that is very nice is the standard Apple Carplay and Android Auto. I've never owned a car that has it, but now I don't think I could buy a car that doesn't.
I think my favorite toy/feature of the interior is the boost display. It's a large red, black, and white display that shows your current boost, peak boost, and throttle percentage - which is fun to look at.
2020 WRX EXTERIOR |
The WRX exterior is a nice blend of understated and aggressive
The exterior of the WRX Premium is kind of strange in that it is very understated overall, but also aggressive when you stop to look at some of the details. I wouldn't call it a beautiful car, but it is a good looking car. The design is 5 years old at this point, but I think it's aged well. Sometimes when a car is nearing the end of its' production run, it looks dated, but I don't feel that that's the case here.
The classic WRX hood scoop certainly isn't understated but always welcome. I really like the vents behind the front wheels as well. It's the kind of detail that you might not notice at first, but it does a really good job of indicating what the nature of the car is without shouting about it. Other aggressive details are the quad exhaust and rear diffuser at the back. Again, understated, but signals the car's intentions.
One notable item to mention is that I actually like the wheels that come on the Premium. I wouldn't buy them if I was looking at aftermarket wheels, but I have no problem with them being on the car, which is a first for me. I've never owned a car where I didn't absolutely hate the factory wheels (looking at you, FR-S).
The only gripe that I have with the exterior is the halogen high-beams, low-beams, c-lights, and fog lights. I hate the yellow look of halogen bulbs, especially in 2020. Upgrading to the WRX Limited gets you LED lights, but I didn't feel it was worth spending an additional couple thousand dollars just for LEDs, especially when I don't care at all about any of the other options that come in the Limited package. I do plan on replacing the halogen bulbs with LEDs, but the annoying thing is that swapping them all to LED requires buying 8 different LED bulbs (compared to 4 in the FR-S), which costs $200 or more depending on which ones you get.
THOUGHTS AFTER THE FIRST 2000 MILES |
The 2020 WRX Premium can do everything. It's fun, practical, comfortable, and capable
All in all the 2020 WRX Premium is everything it's supposed to be - it's a lot of fun to drive. The handling is particularly impressive. Being a 4-door sedan, it's expected there would be a sacrifice in agility compared to a 2-door coupe, but there really isn't. When you turn the wheel, it responds quickly and holds the line through the corner extremely well.
There is turbo lag, but it makes it more fun to drive rather than hinders the experience. Driving a car with an FA20 turbo engine makes one wonder even more why Subaru and Toyota didn't just turbo the BRZ and FR-S/86. Clearly a majority of the R&D had already been done, and it totally makes up for all of the criticisms most people have about the Toyoburu twins. Interestingly though, I honestly believe that my FR-S is just as quick as the stock WRX. Granted the WRX is stock and the FR-S has a stage 2 tune and basically all of the power-making bolt on parts that you can do. I just find it interesting that everyone complains about the lack of power in the FR-S/BRZ/86 and no one complains about the stock power of the WRX. But if you bolt on a full exhaust and stage 2 tune, the FR-S is right there with the WRX.
Something that is strange comparing the two is that the motors feel very different in the two cars - in the FR-S/BRZ, it's completely gutless below 4,000 rpm and then it comes alive. In the WRX, there's plenty of power and torque up to around 5,000 rpm, but then it noticeably runs out of steam. You find yourself shifting at 5,000-5,500 rpm rather than running it up to redline because it doesn't feel like it has any more to give by revving it out further. If I have one complaint about the WRX, that's it. If it's simply a compromise between spooling up quicker and giving more grunt down low vs turbo lag down low and building all the way to redline, Subaru probably made the right call for a street car, but it would be nice to make it scream.
The other obvious comparison to make between the FR-S and the WRX is which one is more fun? I've always been curious, especially because I considered a WRX instead of the FR-S 5 years ago and always wondered if I'd made the right choice. The truth is, the FR-S feels a lot sportier, it's more engaging, and ultimately, more fun to drive. That level of fun does come with a price though. If I had to choose just 1 of the cars to pull family duty, drive every day, and in all weather, I would pick the WRX. It's a totally normal carpool car and grocery getter when it needs to be, and it's a corner carving, super quick sports car when that's what you want. I love it.
- Handles amazingly well, 4-door sedan or otherwise
- Rides firm and feels sporty, but is never uncomfortable
- Steering is weighted nicely and communicates well
- Lots of low end torque
- You can hear the turbo spool more than most other stock turbo cars that I've driven
- STI short throw shifter feels tight and nice (especially when paired with a Raceseng shift knob. In the pictures above, that's not the factory shift knob)
- Value for money is fantastic
- Motor feels like it's out of puff after 5,500 rpm
- Idles rough. From what I've read, that's normal
- Clutch pedal is very numb and takes a lot of getting used to
- Stock exhaust is way too quiet. You really can't hear an exhaust note at all in any situation. It could definitely be louder without causing any issues with daily driving for the average consumer
- The Premium should come with LED headlights like the Limited does. The halogens look terrible and will be replaced shortly... Just can't deal with yellow headlights