Subaru's much awaited next-generation WRX made its world premiere at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, this week.
Enthusiasts have been anticipating the new WRX ever since the current Impreza, the core architecture of which it shares, was introduced as a 2013 model.
The new WRX will go on sale in 2014 as a 2015 model and it gives every indication of being well worth the wait.
While not quite as sleek in appearance as the concept version shown earlier this year at the New York International Auto Show, the new WRX is arguably more fluid in appearance than the model it replaces.
LED lighting is used for headlamps, tail and brake lamps. At the rear a diffuser-integrated bumper and twin dual mufflers emphasize the low centre of gravity, thin rear combination lamps highlight the vehicle's width and the deck-lid is topped by a small rear spoiler.
New 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, finished in gunmetal grey, are said to be both lighter and more rigid. They're shod with 235/45 R17 tires.
To the next level
Functionally, the new WRX takes almost every attribute of the brand to the next level or beyond.
With a lighter but thoroughly stiffened body and chassis and its trademark symmetrical full-time all-wheel drive system and low-CG (Centre of Gravity) boxer engine, it is said to offer drivers a precise and perfected driving experience.
Both response to driver steering input and ultimate cornering limits have been improved, Subaru says. In addition, a multi-mode Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) system and Active Torque Vectoring have been added.
The result is said to be both improved performance and improved ride quality,
A new electric power steering system has been adopted, along with more rigid steering gearbox mounts, both to improve fuel economy and to provide more direct steering feel.
New DIT engine
At the car's core is what's described as a brand-new 2.0-litre, horizontally opposed, direct-injection and turbocharged (DIT) engine that mates to either a new six-speed manual transmission or – are you ready for this – an optional CVT that Subaru euphemistically calls Sport Lineartronic.
The concept of a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) in a WRX may seem like heresy to aficianados of the brand, whose numbers have become legion since it was introduced in 1992.
The new CVT is said to provide greatly improved shift response compared to the high-torque Lineartronic CVT found in the 2014 Subaru Forester XT. Selecting Sport Sharp (S#) mode on the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-DRIVE) selector activates an eight-speed shift algorithm that emulates traditional shift points.
Given that Subaru has been one of the few automakers to make CVTs feel like acceptable alternatives in lesser-performance models, I'll accept his advice to wait and see before passing judgement.
There's little else in the new car's specs to suggest anything less than pure delight.
The new high-performance 2.0-litre horizontally opposed DIT engine is rated at 268 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm.
The standard six-speed manual transmission offers optimized gear and shifter ratios, relative to the outgoing five-speed model, to keep engine speeds lower, enabling better fuel economy and quieter driving at high speeds.
More room inside
Both visibility and useable space are said to be improved in the new model – with rear legroom benefitting from a 25-mm increase in wheelbase. Rear elbow- and shoulder-room are also greater, within the same overall body width.
The front and rear door openings have been enlarged, improving ingress and egress, and new 60/40-split folding rear seats, along with a larger opening, have expanded trunk space.
Inside, there's a cockpit-like environment. A D-shaped steering wheel with a dedicated grip shape offers a smaller diameter for improved operability and tactile feedback. Body-hugging seats, decorative carbon trim panels and metal trim accents pay homage to the WRX competition image, as does a boost pressure display screen.
The interior is solid black from roof to floor, save for red meter lighting and contrasting stitching, but soft-touch materials abound. A new Harman/Kardon audio system and Aha radio is available on select models.