Follow-Up Test: 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX Wagon.

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jul 24, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Weekday Wagon, Weekend Sports Car

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    By Erin Riches
    Date posted: 07-22-2003

    With all the attention surrounding the release of the higher-performance WRX STi and its rival, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, you might think a plain old WRX wagon would have lost some of its charm for our editors.

    Now entering its third year on the market, the regular WRX makes a mere 227 horsepower — the STi makes a cool 300, the Evo makes a conservatively estimated 272, and 240-horse Accords and Altimas are all over the road. Drive an STi on two-lane blacktop and then hop into a WRX a few days later, as we did, and the original seems almost too easygoing. So why bother with anything less than an STi or Evo? Simple. There's a lot to be said for a $25,000 car with a lively turbocharged engine that you can drive to work everyday and run hard on evenings and weekends. And in the case of our wagon test car, there's plenty more to be said for a sports car that can haul more than its fair share of groceries.

    We've tested both a WRX sedan and a wagon before, but Subaru has made a handful of changes for the 2004 model year. The most obvious of these is surely the restyled front end common to all '04 Imprezas. Gone are the oddball circular headlamps liked by so few on our staff in favor of a more mainstream wedge-shaped set that incorporate four-beam halogen headlights — the better to see the road at night, says Subaru. In the back, the taillights have been reshaped to coordinate with the new lamps in front. Scrutinizing our test wagon, our author deemed it slightly less distinctive than before (she was one of the weirdos who liked the round headlights), but we expect that most people will find the new design more handsome.

    Peer inside an '04 WRX, and you'll see a few more changes, namely a new set of sport seats and a revised set of gauges with red needles and the tachometer properly located in the center. With their hefty lateral bolstering and integrated, non-adjustable head supports, the high-backed seats should please most any enthusiast. There's no sliding around in the seat while cornering, and this is accomplished without the bolsters holding you in a vise grip. And over several hundred miles of driving, we never once got sore, even when we were slogging through heavy L.A. traffic. The one improvement Subaru could stand to make in this area would be the addition of a two-way tilt feature for the driver seat bottom. Currently, there's only one lever that adjusts the seat height, and it moves the seat bottom up and forward at the same time.

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    Otherwise, little has changed in the WRX cockpit. Subaru has used a darker shade of faux metal trim on the center stack and on the stereo buttons and knobs themselves to give the WRX a slightly more upscale ambience than lesser Imprezas, but it still feels like an economy car in here — albeit one with solid low-gloss plastics, good-looking black upholstery and tight construction. Side airbags have always been a safety feature exclusive to the WRX; you can't get them on other Imprezas. This year, the company has fitted its small car line with a collapsible pedal system to reduce the risk of leg injury during frontal impacts — even though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had already found a low risk of leg and foot injury during 40-mph frontal offset crash testing (in which the Impreza earned the top score of "Good").

    But there are more interesting things to talk about when you've got a WRX to drive. Performance upgrades for 2004 are minimal: On all Imprezas, the antilock brake system now includes Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. And the MacPherson struts mounted at all four corners now have multiple-phase shock valves, which allow for more precise damping control, according to Subaru, resulting in better ride quality and steering response. Out on the road, we didn't detect a difference in ride and handling characteristics compared to previous years, but this has never been a problem area for the WRX.

    Indeed this is still one of the most entertaining cars you can take home for about $25,000. And if you speak only of the wagon, there's really no competition at all. One thing that became apparent to us during this particular week of adventures is the forgiving nature of the regular WRX. Throw it into a turn haphazardly, and it's easy to guide, and if necessary, correct. Try this with the more tightly wound Evo or STi and there's definitely less margin for error.

    Moreover, even with its somewhat slower reflexes (compared to the full-on rally cars), the WRX is still a great communicator — there's plenty of road information transmitted through the driver seat, steering wheel and pedals so that the driver always knows what the tires are doing. As in the past, we found the brake pedal incredibly easy to modulate, allowing us to scrub off just the right amount of speed in any given situation. There's plenty of power behind the calipers as well — our test wagon stopped from 60 mph in 121 feet during instrumented testing.

    Additionally, our test wagon exhibited a very high level of grip around said turns by virtue of its all-wheel-drive system and a sticky set of 215/45R17 Bridgestone Potenza RE011 tires. Seventeen-inch wheels and tires are a dealer-installed option on all WRXs; 205/55R16 all-season tires come standard. Although Subaru charges the going rate for the upgraded tires ($168 apiece), buyers are gouged a little on the wheels ($1,350 for a set of the five-spoke cast alloys) — together this stuff added over $2,000 to our test wagon's sticker. You could save a little money by ordering wheels and tires on your own from a place like Tire Rack.

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    Of course, the high-intensity, turbocharged 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder under the hood has a lot to do with the level of fun behind the wheel. This engine is rated for 227 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 217 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The last WRX wagon we tested had the four-speed automatic transmission, which really doesn't allow you to get the most out of this turbo. But this wagon had the requisite five-speed manual. Starts in traffic can still be a little tricky, because there's significant turbo lag below 3,000 rpm. If you shift around 3,000 or 4,000 rpm in city traffic, acceleration will be perfectly adequate, but you'll scarcely realize the engine's potential. Given an open two-lane highway where there's room to rev, you can acquaint yourself with the drivetrain's deep reserves, and as we've noted in the past, they're quite sweet — especially above 5,000 rpm. Best of all, unlike some other high-revving engines, this one is quite tractable at high rpm, never making you feel like you really should shift before the 7,000-rpm redline. The shifter could stand improvement, though, as there is some friction when moving it between the gates. During instrumented testing, our test vehicle recorded a 6.7-second 0-to-60-mph time and went through the quarter-mile in 15.2 seconds.

    One other important thing we noticed this time around was how easy it can be to live with a WRX wagon on a day-to-day basis. Obviously, it's no Camry substitute, but compared to rigidly suspended cars like the Evo, Mini Cooper S or Nissan 350Z Track, it has a smooth ride that really does suffice for commuting. And for a sports car, it has a surprisingly quiet ride with minimal wind and road noise. If you've got a wagon, fitting in a week's worth of grocery or luggage requires no special planning, as there are 27.9 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seats. If you're dying to drive a bona fide sports car but still need a fair amount of practicality, we can think of few better choices than a WRX wagon.

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    Ups: Communicative suspension, steering and brakes; superb turbocharged engine; comfortable seats; wagon utility.

    Downs: Turbo lag below 3,000 rpm, shifter feel could be better, pricey options.

    The Bottom Line: A delight to drive hard on the open road, this WRX is a sports car dressed as a wagon.

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    MSRP of Test Vehicle: $27,354

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  2. RedVVing19

    RedVVing19 Steve Yzerman > Hockey

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    i want a sedan out of college, here's for hoping
     
  3. :ugh:

    It looks more like an outback then the 03's
     
  4. Why does the wagon get better wheels then the sedan?
     
  5. 27k?

    You can get a sedan for like 23k
     
  6. dave steel

    dave steel My Kung Fu is the best.

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    Why would someone pay 28,000 for a Subaru when you could be driving this...

    [​IMG]
     
  7. pharmokan

    pharmokan OT Supporter

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    i seen one yesterday :cool:
     
  8. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    Why would someone pay 33k for a slow honda when they could be driving this?

    [​IMG]
     
  9. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Those wheels make the brakes look tiny.
     
  10. azrael

    azrael New Member

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    why would anyone get that when they could be driving a used Z06?

    the Cobra is massively overrated.
     
  11. daNattyFatty

    daNattyFatty New Member

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    only 15.2 seconds?!?!??!


    there's only 80lbs difference between the sedan and wagon, and the sedan has been recorded at low 14s stock :wtf:
     
  12. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    Why would anyone take my post seriously :wtcslap:
     
  13. daNattyFatty

    daNattyFatty New Member

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    i like the new design and will hopefully be getting one within the next year :p
     
  14. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    That sounds about right for a stock WRX to me. :dunno:
     
  15. GH0ST

    GH0ST Active Member

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    Yeah...that is pretty shitty.
     
  16. Sina

    Sina New Member

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    didnt the new forester xt get a 13.8 quarter and 0-60 in 5.3 with the same engine??
    what gives
     
  17. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    not the same engine
     
  18. daNattyFatty

    daNattyFatty New Member

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    no, the forester has a 2.5l turbo
     
  19. why would anyone pay 32k for a cobra when you can get an STi.


    Oh yeah Dave steel 28k is a big difference from 33k
     
  20. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Why pay $27k for the WRX wagon when you can get this wagon for less?

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    It's faster, and is styled better too IMO. :o
     
  21. RedVVing19

    RedVVing19 Steve Yzerman > Hockey

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    handling??
     
  22. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    I would choose the big wagon also. But there's NO way the styling is better IMO. :o
     
  23. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    It couldn't hurt to ask? :dunno:
     
  24. Girth

    Girth ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ OT Supporter

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    Because unlike you... others like torque.
     
  25. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    You don't think so?

    I think the Forester XT looks a lot cleaner, especially the front facia and the overall profile. The more I look at it, the more I really like it in that AMC Eagle sort of way.
     

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