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2021 Subaru WRX Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.8/10

The 2021 Subaru WRX wields sharp handling and quick off-the-line acceleration, but it can feel short on power when cruising, and the manual transmission is tricky to operate smoothly. Also, the WRX’s ride quality can be uncomfortable at times.

  • "The versions we’ve driven were somewhat surge-prone and laggy on the turbo boost, making the WRX feel lethargic at times, especially once you’ve accelerated hard and felt the power available at higher engine speeds on a fully opened throttle. The power is there, but you just have to be patient." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "… the WRX is such a brilliant performer, offering the kind of performance that can shame cars that are twice, even three times its price. On the track, the 2.0-liter turbo proves to be a willing partner that's always ready to serve up ample power. The torque-vectoring system helps avoid understeer when exiting corners, and the firmer suspension holds this car in the curves as if the tires were glued to the asphalt." -- Autotrader (2020)
  • "The heavy clutch becomes tiresome in traffic, and the engagement point can be tricky. The throttle causes jerkiness in certain situations. It's not the easiest car to drive smoothly when equipped with the manual transmission." -- Edmunds (2019)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Base engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four with 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque (WRX)
  • Available engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four with 310 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque (WRX STI)
  • Drivetrain: all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard six-speed manual; available continuously variable automatic (CVT)

The WRX’s driving experience is rewarding but also challenging. Its flat-four engine produces a characteristic "boxer rumble" from the exhaust, and it can scoot the WRX up to speed quickly, though that requires careful shifting of the transmission to keep the engine within its power band. Passing power is initially weak as a result of turbo lag, but once boost builds, the WRX shuttles forward with urgency. The clutch engagement point can be difficult to find, resulting in herky-jerky shifts. The available CVT makes it a bit easier to unleash this engine.

  • "With 268 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque, and all-wheel drive to put it to the pavement, the sedan launches like a proverbial rocket whether it's equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). … In daily driving, its laggy on-again-off-again power delivery is often more painful than pleasurable, as the turbocharged sedan expresses an initial hesitancy to get moving, followed by a surge of unexpected acceleration." -- Car and Driver
  • "Though we are no fans of CVT transmissions in general, the CVT system in the WRX is set up to emulate a manual gearbox, with quick, crisp gear shifts." -- Autotrader
  • "The WRX STI is packed with performance but requires finesse in casual use. Pulling away from a stop might feel underwhelming until the turbo boost kicks in, but the STI still covers 0-60 mph in a quick 5.5 seconds. Smoothly braking and accelerating take some time to figure out, even for drivers with plenty of manual-transmission experience. This issue is less pronounced in the standard WRX models, and it further reinforces the STI's reputation as an uncompromising high-performance sedan." -- Edmunds (2020)

MPG Estimates

The Subaru WRX gets poor fuel economy for a compact car, even when compared with performance-oriented models.

  • WRX, manual: 20/27 mpg city/highway
  • WRX, CVT: 18/24 mpg
  • WRX STI: 16/22 mpg

Handling and Braking

The WRX dazzles on racetracks and winding back roads. It slices cleanly around turns with minimal body lean, the steering is quick and talkative, and the brakes slow the vehicle down confidently. The tradeoff is a rather harsh ride over rough road surfaces, especially in WRX STI models.

  • "First and foremost, the Subaru WRX is a driver’s car, meaning it is designed to be engaging and fun to drive. With its small footprint, powerful engines, and smart AWD system, the WRX feels fast, agile and eager to tackle challenging back roads." -- Autotrader
  • "The well-weighted and surprisingly feelsome electric-assist steering works with the standard all-wheel-drive system and sticky summer tires to inspire confidence that the car will go precisely where you point it. While its ride is on the stiff side, it's never punishing. Still, the Subie lacks the polish and refinement found in vehicles such as the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf GTI. Credit the WRX's standard summer tires, as well as the Performance package's upgraded brake pads, for the sedan's impressive and fade-free braking performance." -- Car and Driver
  • "The high-performance compact sedan segment isn't brimming with plush, comfortable choices, and the WRX STI is more punishing than most. Its aggressive suspension tuning works great on the track but delivers a stiff, firm ride in daily driving. Feeling bumps on the road is characteristic of STI trims. But the regular WRX remains sporty and is far more forgiving." -- Edmunds (2020)
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2021 Subaru WRX

MSRP: $27,495 - $41,945

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