$24,113 - $35,922

2018 Subaru WRX Performance Review


Performance: 8.9

The 2018 Subaru WRX is one of the best performers in the compact car class. It's available with one of two powerful engines that deliver great acceleration, and its adept handling will have you relishing winding roads. Standard all-wheel drive provides excellent road grip, and ride quality is generally good in the base model, though it gets worse in the WRX STI.

  • "Absent a track to roll my loaned WRX onto, I took to the next best thing at my disposal: the vacant but well-maintained state park roads in New York's lower Hudson River Valley. Cruising down the sweeping curves and straightaways, I couldn't help but smile at the rush of acceleration and the purr of the engine, even without driving excessively fast." -- New York Daily News
  • "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 (2017)
  • "… 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)

Acceleration and Power

The WRX comes standard with a 268-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional. This is the strongest base engine in the class, and it has plenty of power and provides quick acceleration. The manual transmission has a stiff clutch and requires a lot of shifting, so the CVT might be a better choice for some drivers.

The performance-oriented WRX STI features a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that puts out 305 horsepower. It only offers a six-speed manual transmission. The STI’s extra power is immediately noticeable when you hit the gas pedal, and it delivers a nice engine note as well.

Many compact cars are more fuel-efficient than the WRX. With the base engine and the manual transmission – the most efficient setup – this Subaru gets an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. That drops to 18/24 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission and 17/22 mpg city/highway in the WRX STI.

  • "No other engine sounds like Subaru's turbocharged 4-cylinder and you can hear the WRX's signature thrum from a few blocks away. The 2.0-liter version in the WRX makes plenty of power and likes to rev to its 6,700-rpm redline. With the standard 6-speed manual transmission, which features tightly spaced gears and a short-throw shifter, it can accelerate to 60 mph in less than 6.0 seconds. The additional power from the STI's 2.5-liter is obvious from the driver's seat. It'll squirt to 60 mph in about 4.7 seconds." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The heavy clutch becomes tiresome in traffic, and the engagement point can be tricky. The throttle causes jerkiness in certain situations. Not the easiest car to drive smoothly when equipped the manual transmission." -- Edmunds
  • The manual transmission's gearing combined with significant turbo lag presented some challenges on the road, as well. The engine isn't awake until about 2,500 rpm. Before then you're just waiting for the turbo to spool up. I found myself downshifting often to get on boost quicker. And if you're slowing for a turn while in third gear, you'll almost always want to perform a rev-matched downshift to avoid lugging the engine. I happen to like that the drivetrain keeps you busy, but the constant shifting might be too much work for some." -- Motor Trend

Handling and Braking

The WRX comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is rare for a compact car. It has excellent road grip, even in inclement weather. This Subaru also has more adept handling than many class rivals do, and it delivers driving enjoyment while still providing a composed ride. WRX STI models have a sport-tuned suspension that creates a rougher ride but also lets you tackle corners with even more aplomb. The standard brakes are strong, but Brembo brakes are available.

  • "Both cars are comfortable enough for the daily commute, but they're quite visceral. You hear that horizontally opposed engine and feel the road's surface. If that's your thing, few cars are this fun to drive. Steering effort is high, but there's plenty of feel, and the all-wheel-drive system provides astonishing grip for driving around guys in their more expensive German super sedans." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Highway ride has improved, going from unforgivingly stiff to bumpy but tolerable. There's still quite a bit of tire noise from the Dunlop Sport Maxx RT summer tires, but their low-profile sidewalls don't seem to detract from how the car rides. They do, along with the standard Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, provide herculean grip in the turns. You feel invincible tossing the WRX into a corner as the wheels remain planted and the car keeps turning in. The brake-based Active Torque Vectoring system is partially to thank for this; it modulates the brake of the inner front wheel to help prevent understeer. You'll still run wide if you go in too hot, but the current WRX doesn't suffer from the frustrating understeer some earlier Subies were prone to." -- Motor Trend
  • "Drivers unaccustomed to sporty cars will find the WRX stiff, but it's actually well-damped and comfortable for its class, and good enough to mask the incessant bobbing of choppy L.A. highways." -- Edmunds

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