$22,956 - $33,094

2017 Subaru WRX Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Subaru WRX was new.


Performance: 9.1

Thrilling performance is the 2017 Subaru WRX's calling card, and it does not disappoint. Its base turbocharged engine delivers generous midrange power, while the STI's additional muscle is intoxicating. The standard suspension, along with standard all-wheel drive, make for sharp handling. Base models are very comfortable, so you can commute with the WRX, though STI models have a stiffer suspension that doesn't cushion rough pavement as well.

  • "When you take a spin in a 2017 Subaru WRX, you can tell right away that it has the right stuff. It's a blast to drive thanks to its turbocharged power and sharp handling, and the standard all-wheel drive is a definite bonus if you live in a place with a lot of wet weather." -- Edmunds
  • "… unlike many high-powered performance cars, the WRX makes an excellent year-round companion because it's as comfortable being a daily driver as it is an animal on an enclosed track." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "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)

Acceleration and Power

A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 268 horsepower comes standard in the WRX, along with a six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission (CVT), which functions like an automatic, is optional. If you stick with the manual transmission, you can expect to get up to 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the freeway. Opting for the CVT will decrease your fuel economy to 18 mpg around town and 24 mpg in highway driving. Both estimates are much lower than you'll get with other subcompact cars, but that's because the WRX has the most powerful base engine in the class.

The turbo-four delivers plenty of muscle when you push the accelerator, especially in the middle of its power range. Still, you may notice a bit of turbo lag (a momentary delay in movement as the turbocharger generates power) if you try to accelerate quickly from a stop. The manual transmission is fun to shift, though the clutch is tricky to engage. The CVT is also a good option, despite some people's preconceived notions. It has steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to let you shift it manually into simulated gears.

Performance-oriented WRX STI models come with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 305 horsepower. It's only available with the six-speed manual transmission. You can have plenty of right-foot-down fun thanks to the STI's generous grunt. The WRX STI burns through more gas than some other sporty compact cars, including the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS.

  • "The standard WRX's turbocharged 2.0-liter engine bogs down a bit if you try to pull away quickly at low rpm, but it's strong throughout the rest of its operating range. There's a big surge of turbocharged power in the midrange that becomes quite addicting." -- Edmunds
  • "While a manual transmission is usually preferable in a performance car, we might actually trade the WRX's notchy 6-speed transmission for the new CVT automatic. With SI-DRIVE, the system simulates manual gearshifts (six in normal mode, eight in Sport Sharp) via a set of steering wheel paddle shifters." -- Autotrader (2015)
  • "Automatic transmissions are a legitimate option on a performance car these days, but there's just something satisfying about rowing your own gears. That goes double for the standard 6-speed manual on the WRX and STI, with its precise action, positive-engaging clutch and short throws." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)

Handling and Braking

Unlike nearly every other compact car, the Subaru WRX comes standard with all-wheel drive. That helps it deliver its power to the road better without losing its grip around corners. The precise steering and strong brakes add to the WRX's fun factor. You don't have to sacrifice ride comfort in the name of handling, either, because the suspension absorbs most bumps in the road. The same can't be said for the WRX STI models, however, which have stiffer sports-tuned suspension that transmits even the smallest rough patch.

  • "It steers nimbly and sharply, and you can utilize the all-wheel-drive system to put the power down a lot more quickly coming out of a turn than you can in a front-drive rival like the Focus ST. The WRX does exactly what Subaru meant it to be: it's a thrill machine that grips and rips with enthusiasm." -- Edmunds
  • "A sport-tuned suspension, an electric power steering system and upsized brakes let drivers confidently make the most of the turbo four's output." -- Left Lane News
  • "No matter how hard we pushed the WRX, traction under power was beyond reproach, and understeer (a trait where the front wheels lose traction first) went unnoticed. That's impressive considering the electrically assisted steering, and that most cars, even sporty all-wheel-drive ones, succumb to understeer. Yet the good handling doesn't come at the expense of a good ride, as the WRX handles rough pavement with unexpected compliance." -- Kelley Blue Book (2016)

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