Let’s start off 2018 …by looking back on 2017, and oh what a year it was. A tumultuous, peaks-and-valleys ridden turning of the calendar. Much like that of the world, ownership of my WRX has been one of varied emotions. I’ve fallen further in and out of love with the blue Subaru, having gone through moments of “I need to get rid of this car ASAP” and contrasting it with “I’m keeping this car forever.”
Some things have not changed though, and the car is an absolute riot on a back-road and when driving through terrible weather conditions. But its limitations have begun to reveal themselves further, with frustrations like understeer and an uncompromising rough ride repeatedly bearing their heads and regularly making me want to use the steering wheel to bash mine.
With that said, let’s take a moment to reflect back on how the turbo sedan has me feeling after the last full calendar year of ownership. Hit the jump to read more.
As of this posting the Subaru’s odometer has just recently crested the 39,000 mile mark, averaging out to around 2200 miles driven each month the car has been mine. That makes for a lot of time to think on my feelings towards the car, and I find myself in a perpetual state of mixed emotions with the WRX. Which is to say, it’s a full-fledged love/hate relationship, certainly reflecting the kind that, were it human, such would unquestionably be unhealthy. So what exactly are those feelings? Since this is the most jam-packed, I mean “wonderful,” time of the year, let’s break it down bullet-point style.
What’s to love:
- Go-anywhere, anytime (within reason) spirit: AWD and the rough-and-tough mojo mean you’re never scared to go somewhere regardless of pretty much anything, absolute worst of weather conditions included. It’s unstoppable in snow short of high-centering and covers ground on a dirt road like it’s paved.
- Practicality: there’s a surprising amount of space for a car this size, both in cabin and in trunk. This packaging makes it incredibly easy to live with and even to carry people and stuff in. Of course, a hatch would have been better.
- Size: it’s just about perfect for day-to-day life. Not too big but still easy to park and maneuver and never insubstantial feeling on the highway, it just works as a daily.
- Turbo push: Even in 6th on the highway a little dab of throttle results in what feels like a big surge forward. In the lower gears the turbo spools quickly enough to have you grabbing the next gear rather quickly, but it’s a blast and the engine is more than powerful enough for daily fun and for mindless overtaking alike.
- Exhaust note and turbo noises: it’s snarly, raspy, and ‘90s-sport-compact all at once. The child in me adores the Borla exhaust, and it’s still mellow enough to not give you a headache.
- Visibility: You can see everything. The visibility is honestly among the best I’ve experienced in a new car, or in any car for that matter.
- The WRX wave: owners are friendly in passing, somewhat surprisingly so in spite of the typical WRX-owner stereotypes that are scribbled across the walls of the internet
- Gas mileage and cruising range: with a to-date average of ~28.4 MPG and the possibility of 400-500 miles between fill-ups, the WRX goes quite a long ways before you have to stop for gas. Which, if you have a ~100 mile/day commute like I do, is quite convenient.
- The feeling that it has your back: regardless of what you’re doing, be it commuting or autocrossing or road-tripping, the WRX can handle it without so much as a hiccup. It’s not without fault, but it does everything and does much of it well.
What’s to hate / what’s not so much to love:
- Seats: who in the hell designed these things? The human spine is not shaped like that. You either have to lean back to the point of awkwardly arching your spine or just sit with the top of your back completely off the seat. They also have a stone-solid makeup, which means short drives are fine but you’d better have a rock hard ass to not be sore and fidgety after a couple hours. With the bolstering they’re good for holding you in place but awful at providing a comfortable place to spend a lot of time. Also, total first-world-problems here, but the seat heaters don’t work great, which is a fundamental flaw for the Northeast (and a surprising one coming from a company known for its all-weather and Northeast-friendly cars).
- Shifter feel: it’s somewhat clunky, somewhat notchy, never perfectly consistent…and that’s even with the factory SPT short-shifter.
- Powerband: there’s *absolutely* nothing up top. It falls flat on its face and doesn’t pick up until you’re into peak power range in the next gear.
- Ride quality: over potholes, undulations, and anything remotely imperfect, the car bounces about like it’s on solid-mounted suspension. Every change in road surface is felt throughout the entire cabin, and even little cracks in the pavement have the WRX shaking about like it’s in an earthquake.
- Road noise: this is largely due to the OEM Dunlop summer performance tires, but more road noise is transmitted at highway speed than in just about any other new car I’ve been in. It’s tiresome, and I’m sure almost entirely due to the factory-installed tires (it was pretty easy to identify being that the winter tires have quieted it down significantly). Luckily this can be changed relatively easily.
- Understeer: push, push, push! You have to set up for corners differently than I consider ideal (which has become a real headache in autocross), and the car always wants to plow through a corner nose-first. I much prefer rear-wheel-drive, so the AWD-understeer has worn me thin.
- Sticky clutch: despite it happening with fairly regular frequency now the dealer “cannot replicate” the issue.
- Unpredictable reliability: the FA20 motors are supposedly better than the EJ-series engines they replace but it’s still somewhat uncharted territory (and some sources are reporting similar issues down the line). Time will tell but the time-bomb nature has me worrying.
- Doesn’t feel like a “forever” car: I’m enjoying it, but the excitement has largely worn off and in 5 years I’m not sure how well it will hold up both physically, mechanically, and in terms of the raw rally car novelty factor.
It may sound like I’m echoing much of what I said in the past about the WRX, and that’s very much the case. It has to be said that while I do love the car…or, at least some things about the car…it’s hard to stay in love with. Easy to fall for, hard to stay in love with. That endearing, puppy-dog quality it once had has long since faded, replaced by the monotony of day-to-day life and the drawbacks of a sports sedan bearing an economy car’s bones.
What makes the WRX great is why I love it but only consumes a small fraction of the time spent behind the wheel; unfortunately, what I hate about it is drastically more prevalent. So now I’m ready for something more…of an event. I can’t help feeling that, as a die-hard “car guy,” I should be more in love with the vehicle I drive day in and day out and that if I’m already dealing with these downsides it might as well be in a car more fun and more focused. I know getting rid of the WRX will be regretted at some point, but it just doesn’t do it for me the way it once did. And, fortunate as I am to look for a replacement, it’s time to make that a reality. As such, 2018 will likely be the end of the road for my WRX ownership, likely to be replaced by either a S550 Mustang GT or an ND Miata.
On its own merits the Subaru WRX is a great car. It’s one I’m happy to own and will always remember as a great automotive achievement in owning one of my dream cars. But I’m ready to move on. Here’s to the new calendar year bringing something new, hopefully something rear-wheel-drive…and starting with “M”…