With a storied lineage of WRC wins and boy-racer adaptations, the new Subaru WRX has a lot of expectations riding on its sculpted shoulders. Many critiques have been levelled at the new model bearing this iconic nameplate.
Chiefly, it’s been chastised in the gearbox department with Subaru launching its new ‘Rex’ with a CVT… In the same vein, some have complained that it’s too grown-up for their liking, citing all the on-board computing power and ‘soft touches’. Well, on the flip side, and considering its predecessor was often called too archaic relative to the segment it competes in, it pretty much proves that no one will ever be satisfied.
So, to see if that WRXness is still present, we opted for the new WRX with the manual shifter for the ultimate laboratory condition testing, up and around Slaaihoek.
As one of the more subtly-styled contenders of the group, it brought to the speed fest 202 kW and 350 Nm of torque from its newly-developed 2.4-litre turbocharged engine. And yes, if you were wondering, that all-wheel-drive rally expertise is still present, albeit in a more refined form. It uses Scooby’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system, which delivers consistent traction as the 6-speed manual gearbox works through the usable rev range. This divided several testers in their opinions: some praised the Scooby for its daily usability factor with power delivery that isn’t overwhelming. Some felt it needed 20 kW more, living on the higher end of the rev spectrum. Others, well, said that the WRX has too much common sense since it’s not encouraging the same hooliganism for which the nameplate is so revered. Ultimately, though, we reckon that if a WRX appealed to everyone on the board, Subaru has botched it. On that front, it gets a tick in the correct box.
The driving feel is still there especially in this manual version - that rawness, that sense of finessing all facets of driving to extract maximum potential is still there too. Put it all together and the WRX was impressive as a daily runner with the ability to shift when necessary. The whole team was wishing the WRX well as it tackled Slaaihoek, thanks to its rallied pedigree and all-wheel drive system. Alas, it didn’t quite perform as we thought and it’s not only because it was the second least powerful car here, but moreso because of its propensity to understeer more than any of us, Mandla included, expected. Its front end just didn’t stick and to all of our surprise, the WRX just didn’t trounce the timing sheets as we thought it might.