Listening to the wail of the 2019 Subaru WRX’s turbo flat-4 screaming toward redline while whipping its thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel along a winding road is enough to make anyone a believer.
We’re sold on its performance, which rates a solid 9 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
We arrive there by awarding it points for the strong turbo power in both WRX and WRX STI guise, its razor-sharp handling, its supreme grip, and its uncanny ability to tackle everything from the daily grind to track days to impromptu rally stages on a dirt road.
The standard WRX makes use of a zippy flat-4 that puts out 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Those figures might not impress at first glance, but the WRX’s torque curve plateaus between 2,000 and 5,200 rpm and provides effortless acceleration and passing power. The standard 6-speed manual transmission features fairly short throws and a predictable clutch take-up, making it a wise choice. We can’t fault buyers who opt for the WRX’s available CVT. Iit’s tuned to be docile in traffic or to keep the engine right in the center of its power curve when needed in Sport and Sport Sharp modes. Eight paddle shift-selectable ratios give it dual-clutch-esque performance, too.
Depending on transmission, the WRX has one of two different all-wheel-drive systems. Those with the 6-speed have a 50/50 split mechanical system with a viscous coupling center differential, while the CVT swaps in an electronically controlled setup that defaults to a 45/55 split. Either way, grip is prodigious and feedback from the electric power steering helps make the most of any road.
The WRX’s spring tuning is on the softer side for a performance car, which helps it absorb rutted terrain with aplomb. Only brakes prone to a hint of fade in especially brisk driving hold back the WRX, but we haven’t tried the newly optional performance brakes. It’ll also need some skid plates, rally tires, and a competition license to be driven like Travis Pastrana, but those are nice items to add to your Amazon wish list.
For the more committed, the WRX STI features a 2.5-liter flat-4 unrelated to the standard car’s engine. This year, the engine breathes a little better thanks to a free-flow exhaust system and now cranks out 310 hp and and 290 pound-feet, a 5 hp boost over last year.
The STI is about more than just power, though. Its focus is on handling, with a driver-controlled center differential that lets its pilot dial in more or less torque between the axles. Hefty Brembo 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brakes with cross-drilled rotors address our biggest concern with the standard car’s performance.
An available Bilstein suspension setup for the WRX STI provides even sharper handling, but the standard inverted struts and performance tires on the base model are hardly lacking. Worth special note is the WRX STI’s hydraulic steering, which translates the road in an almost retro-strong way. Experience one while you still can.
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