“It’s gone soft”. It was the one point that motoring journos the world over agreed upon when the new generation Subaru Impreza WRX broke cover last year. All grown up and on the hunt for a new type of buyer, the five-door hatch lacked the raw attitude of its predecessors, widening the gap between it and its balls-to-the-wall Subaru Tecnica International (STI) fettled sibling in the process. I can kind of understand the logic of such a move. The WRX STI has always been measured against its arch nemesis, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, so why not change tack?
It seems, however, that Subaru has listened, acted and now delivered. The company’s ’09-spec car, available in hatch and now four-door sedan guises, has been re-evaluated and tweaked in the all the right places, making it faster and harder edged, all the while maintaining its newfound sophistication.
There are a few external upgrades, namely a new mesh grille, new WRX badges, red brake callipers and a sunroof that’s now factory fare on both the hatch and sedan models. Likewise inside, dark leather trim with red stitching has become standard issue.
But the real beauty of the new models is more than skin deep. The ’09 WRX shares the same EJ25T long block as its predecessor, but some factory tuning of the turbocharger, intercooler and exhaust have given the car a serious performance injection to leave it nipping at the heals of its big STI brother ” and all for no more cash than the ’08 car.
Bringing the engine up to task is the STI-spec turbo sucking on 15psi of boost ” 30 per cent more of the compressed stuff than the 11psi seen in the same car this time last year. The top-mount intercooler setup benefits from increased chilling capabilities and the exhaust system has seen a reduction in gas flow restriction to match the new turbo arrangement. It all adds up to an impressive 195kW and 343Nm ” more than enough poke to slingshot the WRX from zero to the legal limit in a manufacturer-recorded 5.3 seconds and feeling every bit that fast. Better still, combined fuel usage has been reduced in the process.
Improvements have also been made to the shift mechanism of the WRX’s 5-speed gearbox. A 6-speed would be nice here, but some things just have to be reserved for the STI. Significant upgrades have been achieved in the suspension department, and according to Subaru the new car provides, “sharper, sportier, more aggressive handling”.
Testing was conducted in Japan and Australia to tune the setup for local driving conditions and it seems to have paid off. The sedan we drove was noticeably firmer and less susceptible to wallow than the hatch we tested last year. This is all thanks to re-tuned dampers and stiffened coil springs, stabiliser bars and top mounts ” just what the doctor ordered. There’s also a bigger footprint on the road, with 225/45R17 tyres replacing the narrow 205/50s that were previously fitted.
All said and done, there’s a lot of car here for the $50,990 price tag. In fact, we’re pretty adamant there’s nothing else out there that comes close in terms of performance and styling for the same money. The new car best buy of ’09? This could well be it.
Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications
Price: from $50,990
What we like:
- More grunt
- Tighter ride and fatter bite on road than 2008 car
- Rear Styling on sedan
What we don’t like:
- Truck-sized side mirrors
Subaru Impreza WRX (2009) – Specifications
Engine: Subaru EJ25T 2.5-litre DOHC 16V boxer, AVCS, multi-point sequential fuel injector, ETC, STI turbocharger, revised intercooler, revised exhaust
Driveline: 5-speed manual gearbox, viscous limited slip diff, symmetrical all-wheel drive, VDC
Suspension/Brakes: Front — MacPherson struts, coil springs, Rear — Double wishbone, coil springs, ventilated disc front, solid disc rear, ABS, EBD
Exterior: WRX sports body kit, Bi-Xenon headlights, front fog lights
Interior: Leather sports bucket seats, leather-bound steering wheel, alloy pedals, titanium trim
Wheels/Tyres: 17×7-inch alloy wheels, Dunlop SP Sport 225/45R17 tyres
Performance: 195kW @ 6000rpm, 343Nm @ 4000rpm, 0-100kph — 5.3 seconds approx
Price As Tested: $50,990
Words Brad Lord, Photos Dan Wakelin