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2016 Subaru WRX Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Subaru WRX was new.


Performance: 8.8

Critics say the base 2016 Subaru WRX has a powerful turbocharged engine and impressive cornering grip. Its standard all-wheel drive gives it more traction than its front-wheel drive competitors, test drivers report, and it rides well over rough pavement. The stronger STI increases performance, though it also delivers an uncomfortable ride, reviewers note.

  • "The WRX is a lot of fun when the road gets twisty, too, thanks to its precise steering, nimble handling and standard all-wheel drive. The upgrade STI version simply ups the ante." -- Edmunds
  • "With all-wheel drive, this Subie has an easy balance and neutrality that's missing in front-drive cars like the Ford Focus ST, and unlike its front-drive competitors, the WRX has no problem putting down the power and firing itself out of corners." -- Car and Driver (2015)
  • "The car has just the right amount of power to make tortuously twisty back roads a blast. Yet the soft edge on the ride quality lends to a comfortable ride on the weekly commute. The WRX has no problem serving both duties." -- CNET (2015)
  • "But there are very few cars that are more fun at road speeds than this new rex." -- Jalopnik (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Subaru WRX comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The WRX comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. An automatic (CVT) with six- and eight-speed manual modes is optional. The base WRX gets an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg city/highway, which is lower than the fuel economy of most performance-oriented compact rivals. The 2016 Subaru WRX STI has a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 305 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is the only available transmission available in the STI.

The base WRX's engine feels strong across most of its rev range, reviewers report, and the manual transmission is precise and fun to shift. Though critics usually dislike the performance of CVT automatics, they say the optional CVT in the WRX performs well.

  • "The 2016 Subaru WRX's turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is muscular throughout its operating range and delivers a particularly addictive flood of midrange power." -- Edmunds
  • "Yes, a CVT isn't an intuitive first choice for performance drivers, but it works extremely well in the WRX." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "As expected, the six-speed manual adds a whole new dimension of fun. Shifts are notchy, aggressive, and immensely satisfying to perform, and clutch take-up feels sharp and grabby." -- Automobile Magazine (2015)
  • "The WRX has never been slow, and this new direct injected 2.0 liter mill is delightful. It has a ton of mid range thrust which peters out around 6,000 RPM. There's some lag, but it falls more in the category of 'mild inconvenience' rather than 'terrifyingly infuriating.'" -- Jalopnik (2015)

Handling and Braking

The all-wheel drive 2016 Subaru WRX has sharp handling around corners, test drivers say, with strong grip, very little body lean and precise, communicative steering. They also note that the base WRX rides well on rough roads, though they report that the sportier STI model’s stiffer suspension diminishes ride comfort. Some reviewers complain that the WRX's brakes don't feel as strong as those in the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen GTI. The WRX STI comes with more powerful Brembo brakes and an upgraded all-wheel drive system that gives you more control over how power is distributed to the front and rear wheels.

  • Yet the good handling doesn't come at the expense of a good ride, as the WRX handles rough pavement with unexpected compliance. … However, the extreme-sport STI is a different story, as every road imperfection - big or small - transmits directly into the cabin." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "A larger master cylinder and a more responsive booster are intended to improve brake feel, and although the brakes do feel better than before, the WRX's brakes don't have the bite or provide the security and arresting grab of a Ford Focus ST or 2015 Volkswagen GTI." -- Car and Driver (2015)
  • "With the power available, the WRX showed off its cornering, and OMG it is excellent. Although the suspension had a soft edge, it kept the car very flat, holding all four tires to the road." -- CNET (2015)
  • "It's true - this thing goes exactly where you point it, immediately. There's plenty of steering feel from the new electronic power assisted rack, with linear build-up while turning and solid driver feedback." -- Autoblog (2015)

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