Subaru Impreza WRX.
Subaru Impreza WRX. Contributed

Impreza WRX hardens up

THE Rex is back, baby.

After being given the marshmallow treatment by Subaru a few years back to widen the driving appeal, it's now been given a cup of concrete.

Available in both sedan and hatch with standard or souped-up STI guise, this model is a resurrection.

The Impreza WRX put Subaru on the map in performance terms and helped the Japanese brand build an impressive profile in Australia.

Turbocharged and hard-edged, the Rex developed a cult following among the boy-racers who loved the neck-snapping acceleration and an unforgiving ride.

But the 2008 model forgot those who loved the turbocharged fire-breather.

Now there is a new metal jacket for the Impreza flagship, including an STI sedan, and it looks mean – with performance to match.

Muscular from every angle, it looks like the Rex has been pumping iron.

The trademark all-wheel drive road-holding is back, and at $39,990 for the base model, it's difficult to find another offering delivering similar bang for your buck.

STI versions cost an extra 20 grand, and for the first time you have an automatic option.

Comfort

Familiar materials are used throughout the cabin, including some hard plastics which cheapen the interior look.

The STI model we first tested made some creaks and groans through the dash.

Another bugbear is the seats which would benefit from additional support, an issue only exposed due to the WRX's on-road brilliance.

However, there are no complaints about the layout and interior space.

The dials are well positioned, easy to reach and simple to operate.

Even the satellite navigation and computer is simple to use.

Head and legroom is good up front and back, while the boot in the sedan is expansive.

The ride is firm but doesn't cross the line to uncomfortable.

On the road

From the first time you climb above 3800rpm it leaves you in no doubt that the Rex has been resurrected.

There's a wonderful whoosh as the turbocharger unleashes the power within.

The same 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder boxer engine is used in both the WRX and STI models, but the latter gains additional sports tuning which results in more kilowatts and torque.

But the new five-speed automatic is a disappointment.

The base-model WRX is quicker and slicker with its manual transmission.

The only issue was the five speeds, it really needs an extra gear on the highway as you hum along above 3000rpm at 100kmh.

The WRX STI auto has Subaru's intelligence shifter which enables you to change between sport and sport sharp settings, yet it makes little difference.

It is not a bad drive, it's responsive and easy to handle – it just fails to deliver the punch you lust for when behind the wheel of a Rex.

Both models love the bends courtesy of a new suspension setup, and once you attack the first corner the nightmares of the 2008 model are quickly forgotten.

The WRX STI is five millimetres lower and sits on bigger alloys (front and rear track are widened by 35mm and 40mm respectively), yet both are remarkable in changing direction and hang on to the bitumen with ease under pressure.

All WRX models now gain the STI quad exhaust pipes and they deliver a throaty burble at idle and sing proud once you punch above 4000rpm.

Save 20 grand, opt for the WRX.

The STI versions gain plenty of extras and a boost in performance, but the base model Rex has similar looks and more than enough bang for your bucks.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Details: Four-door mid-size all-wheel drive performance sedan or hatch.

Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power 221kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 3000-6000rpm (manual 407Nm @ 4000rpm).

Transmission: Five-speed automatic (as tested) or six-speed manual.

Consumption: 10.5 litres/100km.

CO2: 243g/km.

Bottom line: $59,990.

Model: Subaru Impreza WRX

Details: Four-door mid-size all-wheel drive performance sedan or hatch.

Engine: 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder generating maximum power of 195kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 343Nm @ 4000rpm.

Transmission: Five-speed manual.

Consumption: 10.4 litres/100km

CO2: 247g/km.

Bottom line: $39,990, with SatNav, leather trim and sunroof $43,990 (as tested).


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