ON THE ROAD: SUBARU WRX ES PREMIUM

Hot like fire?

Warm like winter soup is more like it. The new Subaru WRX ES Premium is not the crazy WRX of old. Yes, it carries a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine and has AWD as well as four exhaust tailpipes that make a deep, yet non-intrusive sound. But it is not that car with the gold wheels.

How so?

This particular model is aimed at a more grown-up Subaru WRX fan. This is a person who now has a family and therefore does not particularly enjoy the laborious action of changing gears manually, as fun as it can be.

Is this an automatic?

It sure is, and more than that, it’s a CVT automatic. That means it kinda feels like it’s stuck in one gear throughout the drive, although one can flick into whatever gear one desires using the shifting paddles behind the steering wheel. Power delivery is linear and progressive, but never forceful. Even in S# mode the only performance indicator is the form of minor bobbing heads during gear changes. In any language 197kW is nothing to sneeze at, but here it hardly feels like it. Mind you, the 0 – 100km/h time is very respectable. Still, this is a WRX, and so we expect more. I do suspect the CVT is the main culprit though. A new, modern single clutch auto or even double-clutch type would serve this car better. Several Japanese manufacturers seem to favour the lazy CVT lately, and I’m not sure why. Grip is of course highly impressive, thanks mainly to the AWD system working with Active Torque Vectoring, 2-mode Si Drive and ESC. The WRX steering is set up like a sports car’s, which means large turning circles.

Happy with the interior?

Yes, very much so, especially the red stitching around the multifunction, flat-bottomed steering wheel and gear lever. Subaru has installed a new piano-black-surround infotainment system with a touch screen that lets you access information such as radio stations, Android Auto, music (via two USB ports) and satellite navigation. Above this is a smaller display with driving info, like average fuel consumption, tank range, tyre pressure and turbo boost indicators. Buyers looking to perform handbrake turns will find an electronic handbrake instead, another sign of progress.

And the exterior?

Very attractive. The WRX looks like a 4-door sports sedan, from the typically-WRX bonnet scoop and aggressive front end with extra air dams, to the darkened, gun-metal 18-inch wheels, red brake calipers, side skirts, satin chrome folding side mirrors, a boot spoiler, rear air diffuser and four exhaust tailpipes, the car looks mean and ready. Our unit arrived with a power sunroof as well.

 

In closing

The time has come for the WRX to become more accessible to a wider buying audience, to “grow up” in a way. Yes it will always carry many of the typical WRX traits, but over time it has lost what the original WRX stood for. Fans of that car have moved on in life I suppose, and the new car is trying to keep up with their current needs.

 

QUICK STATS

 

SUBARU WRX ES PREMIUM

ENGINE: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, boxer, turbocharged

POWER: 197kW / 264 PS at 5 600rpm

TORQUE: 350Nm between 2 400rpm and 5 200rpm

0 – 100KM/H: 6.2 seconds (Gauteng tested)

GEARBOX: 7-speed CVT automatic

DRIVE: all-wheel-drive

TOP SPEED: 240km/h

TANK SIZE: 60 litres

FUEL AVERAGE:  13.2 l/100km

CO2 e: 199 g/km

 

PRICE STANDARD: R631 400

 

NATURAL RIVALS: Audi S3 sedan, Honda Civic Type R

 

*PRICE PEERS: Audi TT 2.0 TFSI, BMW X1 xDrive20d auto, Jaguar E-PACE D180, Kia Sedona 2.2 EX+,

 

BABE-MAGNETIC FACTOR: High

 

*A price rival falls within R30 000 or so of the subject’s price on either side of its price spectrum for cars over R350 000, R20 000 for cars of between R250 000 and R350 000 and R10 000 for cars below R250 000.

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