Subaru WRX Premium CVT review: A wolf in sheep’s clothing

As refined as it is fun to drive

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Subaru Australia WRX Premium CVT
  • Subaru Australia WRX Premium CVT
  • Subaru Australia WRX Premium CVT
  • Subaru Australia WRX Premium CVT
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Engine balances speed with economy
  • Aggressive styling
  • All-wheel drive
  • Well equipped and designed interior

Cons

  • Automatic CVT gearbox
  • Lack of engine noise

Would you buy this?

The walk towards a WRX is marked by caution and jubilation because it doesn’t look like any other dreary five seater. It looks aggressive. A bonnet scoop harvests air for cooling at the front, four exhausts punctuate a rear diffuser and in between are 18-inch alloys coloured in the shade of night.

Styling has been negotiated with performance in mind. Vents behind the front wheels channel air along the sports side-skirts and above the rear wheels for additional down force. Even the mirrors lend themselves to improved aerodynamics. And did we mention the gaping bonnet scoop, which eagerly gleans air onto a top-mounted radiator to keep things cool?

The exterior’s showmanship is a lot louder than the rest of this car because inside is a civilised sedan that has straps for baby seats and a generous boot. Take away the red stitching and the faux carbon fibre accents and what remains is a wonderfully simplistic console, leather-clad sports seats and an option list comparable to its European rivals.

There isn't a myriad of dials littering the dashboard. Instead the turbo gauge is displayed on a 4.3-inch LCD screen. It alternates with other graphics, like petrol consumption, the grip of each tyre, or an analogue clock.

More graphics can be found on the 6.1-inch touchscreen used to manage the infotainment system. The GPS is detailed and intuitive and the voice control, although understanding of commands, lacks contextual awareness. It needs to be told “handsfree” ahead of making a phone call, rather than just saying “Call Belinda”.

Bluetooth can be used for handsfree calls or to stream music. Don’t go plugging in 256GB sticks into the USB port like yours truly because it will cause the system to randomly reboot. Stick to thumb drives sized a responsible 64GB or less.

Turn off the power and the console looks simple. It has plenty of tech but Subaru hasn’t congested and overwhelmed drivers by laying it all bare. Rather they’ve made sophisticated features easy to access, and that is a feat.

Matching the comfort of the interior is an exceptionally comfortable ride. Driving off tarmac and onto loose gravel in New South Wales’ Picton did little to phase the WRX. At one point we glanced down at the speedometer to see it read a comfortable 60km/h, which isn’t the best of ideas when the car’s tyres are kicking about pellets of stone.

Many varied elements go into making this car formidable against potholes and bumps: the weight is a modest 1537kg; the chassis is well built; the quality of the suspension; and the all-wheel drivetrain.

The WRX averaged 9.1L of fuel for every 100kms travelled.
The WRX averaged 9.1L of fuel for every 100kms travelled.

Under the hood is a 2L turbocharged boxer engine that produces 197kW, revs out 6500rpm and will get the WRX from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Power is one continuous surge, and because it is delivered to all four wheels, the WRX feels composed at speeds north of 100km/h.

Raw engine noise plays second to the spooling turbo, which loudly hisses and whines at partial throttle. Only when the accelerator is fully engaged does the sound of the engine grow, and although its track is more duet than solo, the guttural growl can still be savoured.

Handling is the WRX’s showpiece. Full-sized sedans are not meant to handle corners so brazenly and with such poise. Subaru’s revered all-wheel-drive system inspires confidence in the bends so that the car’s performance engine can be pushed right up to the apex.

Throttle response with the WRX is sharp. Low revs lend themselves to some turbo lag, but the sensation is promptly overthrown by brute acceleration.
Throttle response with the WRX is sharp. Low revs lend themselves to some turbo lag, but the sensation is promptly overthrown by brute acceleration.

Final word

Subaru’s slogan “All for the driver” only surmises some of this car’s appeal because there’s no reason why it couldn't be used for the family. The brand is more mature with a lower price-tag, has plenty of features and a civilised interior. Even the engine will quietly hum along at low speeds, ticking over all eight gears to keep both the noise and the fuel consumption to a low.

And when duties and obligations are put to bed, and the road is clear, the WRX will remind why you ever enjoyed driving.

Subaru WRX STi Premium CVT gallery (23 Photos)

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Read more on these topics: boxer engine, All wheel drive, Premium, WRX, Subaru, CVT
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