The road-hugging ability is enhanced for 2011 with a track that's wider by 1.5 inches, stiffer subframe bushings, and wider 17x8 wheels and 235/45 tires. Last year's model had 17x7-inch wheels and 225-width tires.
Even when one road turned into a mile of dirt and gravel, the WRX just leapt at the opportunity. My passenger didn't, however, so it ended up being a rather comfortable and scenic cruise, the WRX's compliant yet still communicative suspension and steering guiding us easily over the washboard surface. The Corvette behind us wasn't having such an easy time of it.
Back out on the asphalt, the WRX continued its charge through the hills, though the brakes were beginning to worry us. The Corvette driver behind said he'd smelled them for several miles before the gravel strip, and though the pedal was staying firm and stopping distances weren't growing, the doubt had entered my mind. Perhaps they just hadn't been bedded in yet, maybe the brakes are the weak point of the performance packge--whatever the cause, it was the only thing to put even a slight ding in the WRX's performance armor.
This is a fast, fun car to drive in any situation, and it's comfortable, too. It's not a 500-horsepower monster, and it won't deliver the pure exhiliration or feel of a mid-engined two-seater, but for a $28,000 car capable of hauling the kids, snagging 26 mpg on the way to work and slinging great gobs of mud on the weekends, it's just about perfect.