As information on the 2015 Subaru WRX has been surfacing before its debut at the upcoming 2013 LA Auto Show, I find myself split between two opposing reactions. On the one hand we have the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, and on the other hand we have the “WTF? It’s exactly the same as the old one!” point of view.
In essence it would seem that Subaru knows they have a great thing going with the WRX, and they don’t see a reason to change much about it. As an STi owner of seven years now, I can attest that the overall package of a WRX makes it one of the best all-round cars that money can buy. It is fast, it handles great, it is practical, it will drive through any weather, it is reasonably priced, and the fuel economy, while not fantastic, is generally tolerable. The 2015 WRX seems to change none of this, and that seems like a sure bet for sales.
The problem I see, though, is that the car is getting a bit stale at this point. There’s nothing really fresh about it, and even with the new body style, it looks the same as the old one. Subaru has changed the engine to a 2.0L flat-4 from the current 2.5L flat-4, but horsepower only increases by a measly 3 ponies for a total of 268hp. Obviously, in real terms, the new WRX still offers a massively fun package, but am I the only one who wanted to see the WRX with at least 300hp by now?…. and the STi with like 400hp?
My STi is an 04, the first year they were brought here to the States. Here in 2013, the current STi still has the same 300hp, but is also 200lbs heavier than my car. The WRX got a much needed power hike in 2009, but overall there really hasn’t been much notable progress over the years. When my car came out, it was a legitimate BMW M3 Porsche 911 slayer, but today those cars have progressed to a much higher level, and the STI still sits where it was. The WRX lineup just seems stuck in its ways, and frankly, I find that quite boring at this point.
One major change Subaru has made for the 2015 WRX is the transmission. Gone is the notoriously flimsy 5 speed manual, in favor of what is presumably the same 6 speed manual that will be found in the new STI. For people that cannot be bothered to change their own gears, there is now a CVT transmission. My opinion is generally that a WRX should always come with a clutch pedal, but putting that aside, I have been considering what a CVT will mean in the context of a WRX.
CVTs are generally seen in Hybrids and economy cars. It should certainly improve the fuel economy of the WRX, and even the rolling acceleration of the car. This is because a CVT never needs to shift, and it is able to keep the car constantly in its optimal power band when asked to accelerate with vigor. The CVT WRX may even be quicker than the manual WRX in straight-line acceleration from a roll.
I first saw what a CVT could do on a turbocharged car when my friend showed me a dyno video of a Nissan Altima Coupe with a turbo kit. It was interesting to see because the turbo was constantly spooling and blowing off at the same time.
The problem with a CVT in a WRX is that CVTs, generally, have been pretty limited in terms of the amount of torque they can handle, and Subaru boxer motors see torque increase substantially with just light modifications. We will see how the car fairs when it hits the streets, but it is possible that the CVT might severely limit the amount of modifications the car can handle. Hopefully it can at least handle a Cobb Stage 2 setup without a serious risk of failure.
So the 2015 Subaru WRX is effectively the same package as the current WRX in all the ways that matter. I find it a bit boring at this point, but I recognize that it has also been a consistently fun experience over the years. Many good things in the world only last a precious short while (Mercedes SLS AMG), but it appears the Subaru WRX is a good thing that unwaveringly endures, for better or worse. I look forward to reviewing the new WRX when it comes out, and I will probably make it a point to try one with the CVT, if only to ease my own curiosity. Until then, I look forward to seeing how this car is received over the next few months.
PS: A possible leak of information on the 2015 WRX STI has surfaced. I plan to address the new STI when the information becomes a bit more official, but here is the link so you can have a look for yourself.