Edmunds.com Inside Line Full Test: 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX
Edmunds.com Inside Line Full Test: 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX
Thanks to God, Inside Line Executive Editor, Michael Jordan, and Inside Line Editor-in-Chief, Scott Oldham, for giving me the privilege and opportunity to write the Second Opinion piece for this review.
Below is what I actually wrote for the Second Opinion piece before the editing process worked its magic. Please let me know what you think. Any and all questions are welcome.
Regarding the Second Opinion, below is what I wrote before it got edited. I was trying to compare the stock 2008 WRX to a stock 2002-2007 WRX and had a 300 word cap.
With the incoming 2008 Impreza WRX, Subaru has decided to explore the “x” in WRX—the unknown—with its latest sporting icon.
That unknown is the mainstream market. The 2008 Impreza is Subaru’s first concerted effort to enter what it believes is the promised land. Can the new WRX win over both the general public and enthusiasts desiring to slide it like (world rally champion Petter) Solberg?
Being a current WRX owner, I had high hopes for the new ‘Rex. I can easily say the new WRX does everything better than its predecessor—but not by much.
The new car drives much like the old car. That has never been a bad thing. The WRX has always had a way of making its driver feel connected. Rowing through the gears and carving corners remain a delight. The problem is the new WRX’s “improvements” were never felt. And for those wondering, a cheap suit still sticks to the road better than its all-season tires.
To satisfy the general consumer, Subaru knew it had to make the car a better daily driver. Improved areas include interior fit and finish, the radio and available navigation, ergonomics, cabin noise, and usable space. It’s what Subaru didn’t do that hurts its cause. Options that would make life with the WRX grand are still absent. Options such as HID headlights (long offered on WRXs around the world except North America) and keyless start are unavailable on a car Subaru hopes will court most people.
However, like its predecessors, the new WRX will grow on its drivers over time. It may not be the best at anything, but it does everything well. Subaru’s first foray into the unknown—reaching the masses—is an experiment to say the least. But it’s not one gone totally wrong.
Notes (were used for writing the Second Opinion above)
1. Exterior – Neither bland nor boring. Not exciting either. The front fender gap is not as tall as the outgoing model’s. Taller tire sidewalls make vehicle less appealing. Obviously resembles Mazda3 and BMW 1-Series in style and form. Personally, I am fine with the front grille, even with its “egg crate” look. In my opinion, the rear tail lights aren’t that bad; the chrome strip is. A heavily modded Miata owner behind me on Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) had no idea what the car was—he thought it was a Civic of some sort (note: the time was well into the night). Current owners say the exterior is more exciting than the 04-05. Others say it is the most boring Impreza to date. Some absolutely love it. Impreza owners and Subaru enthusiasts are an “interesting” breed to say the least. I actually enjoyed the fact that nobody seemed to really be looking at the car as I sat in stop-and-go traffic for roughly 90 minutes to travel 30 miles on Thursday evening. Why aren’t HID headlights an option on North American market vehicles? One would think there would be a healthy profit margin on it. How difficult would it be to offer the headlamps that will be standard on the STI as an option for the WRX (like they already have been for years throughout the rest of the world)?
2. Interior – Visibility all around is fantastic except for the A-pillar and larger driver side mirror, which affects looking ahead on tight corners. Tilt/telescope steering wheel is a long overdue addition. Driver side front window switch still has no express up functionality. Passenger side front window switch still has no express down (or up) functionality. There is more front legroom width-wise. The interior feels more spacious due to the scalloped door panels. The armrests on the door panels are softer/more plush. The miniaturized Tribeca dash works well for the car. Fit and finish are excellent. Radio and HVAC controls are easy to use. Steering wheel controls could benefit from a little more thought. A slight rattle was heard from the passenger side area of the dash near the windshield when traveling over certain stretches of road (particular frequency of the road undulations is probably the cause of this). The dim blue light and rubber tray on the center console in front of the shifter makes for an ideal location to place a mobile phone and/or a portable digital music player. The electroluminescent instrument cluster is bright and easy to read at all times. Redline on the tachometer would have been better at a 2 to 4 o’clock position compared to the approximate 1 o’clock position it actually is displayed. There is a lot more headroom in the cabin—Subaru shouldn’t have any problems adding a sunroof mid-way through the car’s lifecycle. The front seatback side bolsters appear smaller than 04-06 WRX (excluding the 06-07 WRX TR seats) but hold just as well. The thigh supports on the front seat bottoms seem shorter on the 08 WRX seats than their 04-07 WRX counterparts. Their reduced heights didn’t seem to affect how well the seat held me and may actually facilitate ingress and egress. Rear seat legroom is definitely improved. However, if any of the front seats are placed all the way aft on the seat rail, legroom can be very tight. The rear doors open at a greater angle than the outgoing models thus facilitating the loading of large boxes or other bulky items. The rear hatch opens easily with a press of its latch button. It has a convenient inner grab handle. North American Imprezas finally have a navigation system as an option, but Bluetooth and push button start (actually available on some of Subaru’s other JDM models) options are still not offered. The addition of window frames on the new Impreza definitely help reduce road and wind noise.
3. Engine & Transmission – The 2.5L flat-4 feels fantastic! Bear in mind my vehicle has the 2.0L used in ‘02-‘05 vehicles. I imagine the engine’s performance isn’t much different than the 06-07 2.5L though. Usable torque can be had throughout the entire powerband and turbo lag is non-existent as long as the driver has selected an appropriate gear. The engine pulls strongly to redline—never feeling like it’s running out of breath. Gearing is similar to 02-05 WRX (e.g., 75 mph @ 3,000 rpm in 5th, shift points for other gears seem similar). The “punch” of the turbo (confirmed that it is indeed a Mitsubishi TD04 unit and not the Legacy GT’s IHI VF40 despite the fact that the engine is an LGT motor) providing full boost is no longer felt and may make acceleration less thrilling to the driver. The clutch take-up is progressive and does not require as much effort as the one in my 2004 WRX (pedal travel is slightly shorter than 04 WRX, but still fairly long). No hanging rpm issues (think 2006 Honda Civic Si) were apparent with the drive-by-wire throttle. Shift lever action is fairly smooth and throws are long, but not “cross-country” long (easily cured by the installation of a short-shifter). Downshifting into 1st gear is easier than 02-05 thanks to the double-cone synchros for 1st. Reverse gear can be engaged infinitely easier than the previous 5MTs. The transmission coupled with the engine never left me wanting for an additional cog. I was initially disappointed in April when Subaru announced a 5MT was going to be used with the new WRX, but after driving it, five is fine. The exhaust note is more subtle from both inside and outside the cabin, which like hitting full boost, may detract from the fun factor of the vehicle.
4. Brakes – Brake pedal feel is not as good in terms of the brake system’s initial response as that of the 06-07 WRX with the Subaru 4-pot/2-pot calipers (these were also used on the Z32 Nissan 300ZX). The stopping ability of the brakes (front rotors are believed to have the same part number as the Outback XT’s) is excellent, but still is hampered by the grip of the Bridgestone Potenza RE92A tires. Rear brake disc size appears to be the same as the 02-05 WRX rear discs (unconfirmed). No fade was felt going up or down GMR.
5. Suspension – The new suspension (Legacy front or similar and Tribeca-derived in the rear) seems to be a slight improvement over the outgoing model’s. Healthy body roll still exists, but seems to be less than the 02-07 WRX. The steering rack seems to be quicker. The car is capable of executing quick changes in direction well. Understeer still exists (tires?), but is manageable nearly all the time. The rear stays composed unless the car is tossed hard into a corner or the car is greatly upset in mid-corner. High-speed stability is lacking as the car feels jittery when being driven at high speeds (tires a factor here?). The deletion of the rear limited-slip differential (to make way for the Vehicle Dynamics Control, or VDC, stability control system (can be easily turned off) and an open rear diff) did not seem to affect the vehicle’s handling characteristics adversely.
6. Tires – The Bridgestone Potenza RE92A all-season tires don’t seem to be any better than their RE92 predecessors. They howl in protest in turns stickier tires quietly manage. The change in size to skinnier and taller 205/50R17 from 215/45R17 still does not make any sense.
On Wednesday night, thanks to a kind volunteer on NASIOC (member: theheckwithyou), I drove a stock 2006 WRX to verify (or disprove) some of the things I wrote. In first gear, the 2008 WRX doesn’t feel more powerful than a stock 2006/2007 WRX (compared to the 2.0-liter flat-4 in my car). It’s in the low RPM range in higher gears that the increased “usable torque” is much more noticeable, especially in 5th. Discernible differences couldn’t really be felt in the suspension or brakes. Please note I didn’t open up his car like I did our evaluation vehicle. The brake pedal response and feel I wrote in my “Notes” section were probably an effect of having stainless steel brake lines on my car. The brake calipers on my 2004 WRX are the same as the 2006-2007 WRX ones (I paid an arm and a leg to retrofit them because the WRXs in the rest of the world had them at the time…then Subaru stuck it to me by announcing the brakes would be standard on 2006 North American WRXs). Cabin noise is definitely less in the 2008 model (thank you, window frames).
My 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX Sedan
COBB AccessPORT Stage 1
OEM STI 5-speed short throw shifter
Prodrive round tip muffler (axle back only)
Prodrive silicone intercooler hose
Wheels & Tires
Prodrive P1 Gold 17″ x 7″
Bridgestone Potenza RE-01R P225/45R17
Prodrive WRX springs (2004-on)
STI Group N strut tops (2004-on)
Whiteline steering rack bushings
Subaru 4-pot front/2-pot rear brakes (red, same as USDM ‘06-’07 WRX)
Ferodo DS2500 front brake pads
Goodridge stainless steel brake lines
Motul RBF 600 brake fluid
OEM painted sideskirts
2006 STI rear diffuser
OEM turbo boost gauge
MOMO shift knob
STI 5-speed shift pattern emblem
Rear dual cupholder from a Subaru Forester