2009 Subaru Impreza WRX: Strengthened and Impressive
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Assembled in Ota Gunma, Japan and and made entirely of Japanese parts, the symmetrical all-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza WRX has strengthened its performance, power and appeal through a campaign known in Japanese as “Kyo-Ka” translated from Japanese as “strengthening”.
The Impreza impresses with a larger turbocharger that increases boost to 13.3 psi from 11.4 psi in the 2008 model, and a new larger-diameter exhaust uses a low-density catalyst for reduced backpressure. The new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine picks up a substantial 41hp over last year’s model, for a total of 265, thanks to the turbocharger that's now as large as the Subaru STi's but configured slightly differently. The turbo also creates a steeper torque curve that now peaks 18 lb.-ft. higher than last year’s power curve, at 244 lbs.-ft.
Mated to a five-speed manual gearbox (Subaru says they can't offer a six-speed because it isn’t muscular enough to efficiently withstand the rigors demanded by its tuner-crowd buyers), the system is EPA rated at 18 mpg city / 25 mpg highway on premium fuel, compared to 19/24 for the 2008 WRX model. A full week of testing during the spring rainy season, yielded an average of 23.1mpg through 500 miles of mixed testing in and around central Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The 4-cylinder, horizontally opposed (Boxer), turbocharged/intercooled engine is rated as a Low Emission Vehicle (LEV 2) and is athletic enough to propel the 3229-lb. WRX from zero-to-60mph in a thrusting 5.3 seconds during my track tests. Accelerating smoothly and effortlessly, my Impreza managed a 13.8-second trip down the quarter-mile, and on the highway, high-speed passing was accomplished without hesitation.
Compliant and with good grip, the WRX kicks in it turbo at somewhere between 3000 and 3500 rpm, and the turbo whine and after-burner kick makes for an exhilarating ride.
There is some understeer at higher speeds during tight maneuvering, but at low, city speeds, the vehicle is stable and true. In quick, slalom turns, there is some yaw, but the stiff suspension smoothes out uneven surfaces with aplomb. Placing the engine slightly lower in the chassis than in the previous-generation Impreza models helped lower the center of gravity in the new Impreza platform, enhancing steering response. Once again, there is more resistance at higher speeds and at low speeds and during cramped parking scenarios, the vehicle oozes into spaces with ease.
Rack-and-pinion steering with engine-speed controlled variable power assist, coupled with 4-wheel independent front suspension and double-wishbone-type rear with a stabilizer bar, make for a responsive driving experience and MacPherson-type struts with multiple-phase valving; steel lower L-arms; coil springs; stabilizer bar and negative-scrub geometry create a sport-tuned feel for driver and passengers. 17-inch Summer Performance Tires and alloy wheels add to the car’s solid grip on most surfaces.
With all that’s going on under the hood and within the platform, Subaru packaged the vehicle with hip curb appeal. Standing 173.8 inches long, 68.5 inches wide and 58.1 inches high on a 103.1-inch wheelbase, my Pearl Blue test Impreza unabashedly showed off its sporty, extreme demeanor with an assertive hood scoop, athletic, forward-sloping nose, rear spoiler, square backside and compact sedan profile.
Safety is a Subaru watchword and the WRX scores well as the NHTSA awarded it a perfect five stars in frontal crash tests for driver and passenger, 5 stars in side crash tests for front seat occupants and 4 stars in the rear seats, as rollover tests also garnered 4 stars out of 5. Safety attributes include power-assisted 4-wheel disc brakes with standard 4-channel / 4-sensor ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist. Advanced frontal air bags, front seat side impact and side curtain air bags, tire pressure monitoring system, safety pedal system ring-shape reinforcement frame design make the Impreza a highly rated 2009 on the safety scale.
In the cockpit there is surprisingly more room than one would expect from a sport compact. The cabin provides headroom of 39.3 inches in front and 37.4 in the second row; legroom is 43.5 and 33.5 and shoulder room measures 54.8 and 53.2.
The interior is upscale, though it looks better at first glance than it does after close inspection. Metallic trim turns out to be plastic and inside fit and finish leaves much to be desired. However, the cabin is well appointed and is intuitively designed. Included as standard were the navigation/satellite radio package, touch-screen GPS navigation system, AM/FM radio with single-disc CD player, Bluetooth Hands-Free Wireless capability, 3 years or 36,000 miles of Subaru Roadside Assistance and a full tank of gas
To satisfy the tuner, performance and style audience, a WRX premium package is offered that provides a 10-speaker surround-sound system with a six-disc, in-dash changer and an iPod jack. A pair of heated front seats, moonroof and a satellite radio and navigation package can also be added to that optional upgrade.
With everything included as standard, my test Impreza came with a base price of $29,995, with destination and delivery charges adding $695 for a sticker price of $30,690.
The 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX mainstreams the sports compact genre.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
# # #
Journalist note: Information about the Carlisle Events Group, its event listings, auction offerings and expo center is available to journalists by phone:
Carlisle Event Marketing Dept.
# # #