2015 Subaru WRX First Drive Page 2

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2015 Subaru WRX handling

If the WRX powertrain didn't sway you, maybe the big-diameter anti-sway bars will. In concert with the WRX's very good electric power steering, and its defeatable traction systems, the WRX's drum-tight suspension setup gives it awesome transient responses and the elusive road-glue formula so, so lacking from anything with "Si" in its name these days.

From electronica to hardware, the WRX goes overboard to deliver godly grip. Both WRX AWD systems have electronic torque vectoring--not active side-to-side torque distribution, but a light application of brake to the inside front wheel to tighten up the WRX's cornering line, to a point. And the WRX's stability and AWD systems get their own control: Normal, Off, and a Traction mode that lets you flip off the stability nanny aids but leave on torque vectoring.

Aside from the obvious props given to the WRX's all-wheel drive and low center of gravity, there are higher-rate springs and stiffer shocks; beefier crossmembers and subframe bushings; stouter strut tubes; and more front-end body structure that tightens up the basic Impreza body for small-overlap crash tests but also pays dividends in handling. All of those make it easier for its electric steering to do more with a motor and a rack than most compacts: it feeds in natural amounts of weight and reaction from the road from a tighter ratio than the one in the basic Impreza. It follows kinky roads with admirable precision, though like a lot of electric systems coupled to summer tires, the WRX finds every groove in textured concrete roads and wants to follow most of them.

That might not be as frustrating as it sounds, because the WRX is set up so stiffly, you'd do well to debate its use as a daily driver.

Frigid temps are no friend of first drives, but we had no choice but to flog our WRXs through some sub-freezing numbers, to work it out of a funk and back into one. They took a while to warm up, but the 17-inch, Dunlop SP Sport Maxx RT tires weren't the limiting factor in our hairpin- and pothole-filled path across Napa County. The brakes were. Oppressively numb, with poor pedal stroke and feedback, they discouraged any nuanced footwork. It could have been the ambient temperatures, at least for a little while, but until we learned to stomp on them remorselessly, we couldn't carry WRX-grade speed into the tastiest corners.

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