If you already have a luxury sedan with its silky-smooth ride and posh interior and are craving raw power, this year’s Subaru WRX might be just the ticket for you.

It’s aggressive off the line and beyond offering a firm ride, perhaps too stiff while it gives new meaning to loud. It’s a rough-rider for sure and the sedan’s six-speed manual transmission is the only choice to propel upper trim levels.

Selected trims come standard with performance tuning and are enhanced with an electronically- controlled center differential that works its magic in selectable driving modes.

Five trim levels priced from the high $20s to mid $40s include Base, Premium, Limited, STI and STI Limited. Our test car for the week was the STI featuring a high mounted whale tail that sets it apart. A less conspicuous low profile trunk lid spoiler is optional.

The STI is powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged 310 horsepower flat four cylinder with stiffer suspension and 19-inch paws for a firm grip. Bilstein dampers and high-performance summer tires result in a harsher ride and contribute to turbo lag.

Lower trims are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged Boxer four cylinder producing 268 ponies with a manual or CVT transmission that mimics a traditional automatic while delivering a more composed ride.

Symmetrical all-wheel drive and available vehicle dynamics keep the STI in check while powering into corners and in straight line acceleration.

Our independent tests recorded 5.2 seconds in the dead stop to 60 mile-per-hour sprint. Nearby rivals include the VW Jetta GLI, VW Golf R, Honda Civic Type R and Hyundai Veloster N.

The WRX is a carryover from last year. Subaru is said to be readying its 2022 model with a new look and powerplant nearing 400 horsepower so you may want to hold off since its interior is dated with few changes over the past seven years.

The STI is a blast to drive with little body roll. Steering is precise, not numb and brakes are four-wheel disc with assist. City driving is more challenging however since lower gears tend to gallop instead of smoothly going through the gears.

We felt it was more at home screaming off the line than smoothly going through the gears. Its healthy grunt is punchy and requires precise control of the gearbox to reign in turbo lag.

Rival hatchbacks offer better safety equipment than the Subaru unless you order the CVT automatic transmission. The majority of WRX’s sold are equipped with a manual transmission and they lack basic blind spot monitors, front and rear sensors, emergency braking, lane keeping assist, automatic headlights and adaptive cruise control.

Interior appointments in upper trim levels are available for a price. The STI and STI Limited are fully dressed in leather and simulated suede upholstery, Recaro seats, Brembo brakes, navigations system and Harman Kardon premium audio, quicker ratio steering, STI tuned suspension and sunroof. Our tester stickered near $44,000.

The high $20,000s Base model is a real bargain since it provides all the high-performance equipment with few creature comforts.

What was reviewed

2021 Subaru WRX STI

Engine: 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, 310 horsepower, 290 lb.-ft. torque

EPA mileage per gallon: 16 city, 22 highway, 19 combined

Assembled: The Subaru WRX is assembled in Ota, Gunma, Japan; U. S. / Canadian parts content – 0 percent. Major source of foreign parts, Japan, 90 percent. Country of origin, engine and transmission – Japan

Crash test ratings: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Subaru WRX five stars, its highest rating, for overall and side crash protection and four stars in rollover and frontal crash protection simulating a head-on collision of similar vehicles at 35 miles per hour. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named the WRX a Top Safety Pick and awarded it “Good”, its highest rating, in small and moderate overlap collisions, side protection and roof strength. Also rated the WRX good, acceptable or poor (depending on model) in front crash prevention vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to pedestrian.

Warranty: 3 year/36,000-mile bumper to bumper; 5 year/60,000-mile power train. No scheduled maintenance.

Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

Trending Video

Recommended for you