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2019 Subaru WRX Review

The 2019 Subaru WRX and WRX STI trade eye-catching design for breathtaking performance on a variety of road surfaces.

The 2019 Subaru WRX doesn’t brag about its rally lineage, at least until its turbos spool up and all four wheels scrabble for traction on a winding dirt road. Try doing that in a BMW M2.

What the 2019 WRX does well is go fast regardless of terrain while carrying four passengers in reasonable comfort. Luxury and style are not its fortes, which is why we rate the WRX and its racier WRX STI sibling at 6.2 out of 10. 

For 2019, the WRX sees some worthwhile changes: standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a limited edition trim package with suspension and brake upgrades, automatic emergency braking on WRXs with the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), and a revised powertrain with more power and a free-flow exhaust for the WRX STI. On the WRX, base, Premium, and Limited trims are available. The WRX STI comes only in base and Limited flavors.

The changes don’t thoroughly modernize the WRX, which shares its interior and some styling with the last-generation Subaru Impreza. It’s starting to feel more than a little dated inside and out, but the WRX remains a hoot to put through its paces.

Base WRXs use a 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-4 rated at 268 horsepower paired to either a 6-speed manual or a CVT. All-wheel drive is standard, although manual and CVT WRXs use unique systems that put the power to the ground in a slightly different way.

The WRX STI features more than just a big wing (which can be deleted in favor of a lip spoiler). It has a 2.5-liter turbo-4 rated at 310 hp mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, a modified suspension, Brembo brakes, and all-wheel-drive system that features a driver-adjustable center differential.

Both cars excell on a curvy road, especially one that’s crumbling away. Razor-sharp steering and quick reflexes make them a hoot to put through their paces. The WRX’s suspension is docile enough to make it a comfortable highway cruiser or urban slogger, too.

The WRXs feature spacious interiors with good fit and finish that are comfortable especially with the optional Recaro seats, but the design is hardly imaginative.

Styling
The 2019 Subaru WRX doesn’t attract a lot of attention—at least as long as the WRX STI’s huge rear wing isn’t attached to its trunk lid.
The 2019 Subaru WRX doesn’t look like much, which may be part of its appeal. Eschewing the aggressive fenders, strakes, and wings found on rivals, the 2019 WRX line is an exercise in restraint. Well, mostly.

We rate it at 6 out of 10, almost dialing a point back for a design-by-committee interior dressed up with some sporty hints. Instead, we toss the WRX a point for its subtle exterior—as long as the WRX STI’s available wing spoiler isn’t selected, at least.

The WRX features crisp, toned lines that border on dull. Its basic bones are related to Subaru’s last-generation Impreza, although design tweaks since the current generation’s 2015 introduction have kept its appearance somewhat fresh. Big fender flares bulge around 17-inch alloy wheels, managing to make them look fashionably large even though they’re sensibly sized.

In addition to its enormous rear wing—which can be deleted—the WRX STI follows the same basic look with 19-inch wheels instead. With the big wing attached, the WRX STI borders on iconic, perhaps too much so for some buyers.

A new Series.Gray package for both WRX and WRX STI adds an exclusive paint color (gray, duh) plus different wheel designs and some performance upgrades.

Inside, both Subarus share their symmetrical dash design with last year’s Forester. The look doesn’t offend, though the carbon fiber-like trim and available two-tone Recaro seats wrapped in leather and synthetic suede trim add some much-needed raciness.

Performance
The 2019 Subaru WRX and WRX STI prioritize performance over all else, and that’s just fine.
Listening to the wail of the 2019 Subaru WRX’s turbo flat-4 screaming toward redline while whipping its thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel along a winding road is enough to make anyone a believer.

We’re sold on its performance, which rates a solid 9 out of 10 on our scale. 

We arrive there by awarding it points for the strong turbo power in both WRX and WRX STI guise, its razor-sharp handling, its supreme grip, and its uncanny ability to tackle everything from the daily grind to track days to impromptu rally stages on a dirt road.

The standard WRX makes use of a zippy flat-4 that puts out 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Those figures might not impress at first glance, but the WRX’s torque curve plateaus between 2,000 and 5,200 rpm and provides effortless acceleration and passing power. The standard 6-speed manual transmission features fairly short throws and a predictable clutch take-up, making it a wise choice. We can’t fault buyers who opt for the WRX’s available CVT. Iit’s tuned to be docile in traffic or to keep the engine right in the center of its power curve when needed in Sport and Sport Sharp modes. Eight paddle shift-selectable ratios give it dual-clutch-esque performance, too.

Depending on transmission, the WRX has one of two different all-wheel-drive systems. Those with the 6-speed have a 50/50 split mechanical system with a viscous coupling center differential, while the CVT swaps in an electronically controlled setup that defaults to a 45/55  split. Either way, grip is prodigious and feedback from the electric power steering helps make the most of any road.

The WRX’s spring tuning is on the softer side for a performance car, which helps it absorb rutted terrain with aplomb. Only brakes prone to a hint of fade in especially brisk driving hold back the WRX, but we haven’t tried the newly optional performance brakes. It’ll also need some skid plates, rally tires, and a competition license to be driven like Travis Pastrana, but those are nice items to add to your Amazon wish list.

For the more committed, the WRX STI features a 2.5-liter flat-4 unrelated to the standard car’s engine. This year, the engine breathes a little better thanks to a free-flow exhaust system and now cranks out 310 hp and and 290 pound-feet, a 5 hp boost over last year.
The STI is about more than just power, though. Its focus is on handling, with a driver-controlled center differential that lets its pilot dial in more or less torque between the axles. Hefty Brembo 6-piston front and 4-piston rear brakes with cross-drilled rotors address our biggest concern with the standard car’s performance.

An available Bilstein suspension setup for the WRX STI provides even sharper handling, but the standard inverted struts and performance tires on the base model are hardly lacking. Worth special note is the WRX STI’s hydraulic steering, which translates the road in an almost retro-strong way. Experience one while you still can.

Comfort & Quality
The 2019 Subaru WRX is roomy, if not awash in luxury.
Good news: The 2019 Subaru WRX is easy to justify as a family car. Comfortable front seats with exceptional vision pair well with its surprisingly roomy back seat. Its finishings are far from luxurious and we’d leave a deposit today for a WRX hatchback, but this Subaru wants for little in terms of comfort.

We rate it at 7 out of 10. 

Up front, the WRX comes standard with sports seats wrapped in a grippy fabric that comfortably accommodate a wide range of passengers. Optional on the WRX Premium trim and included on the WRX STI are track-ready Recaro bucket seats. They’re tighter and their bolsters aren’t adjustable, so try before buying. The leather upholstery on WRX and WRX STI Limiteds has a classy feel that feels a price point above the otherwise so-so trim finishes, though not all of us are sold on the black and red color scheme.  

Rear-seat riders have surprisingly good space and also benefit from the low beltline, thin pillars that provide an airy feel to the cabin. Even three abreast will work for a pinch.

Cargo hauling isn’t the WRX’s strongest point. At just 12 cubic feet, its trunk is on the small size—although the rear seatbacks fold for larger items. Or, you know, Subaru could just make a WRX hatchback. We’ve been asking since 2015.

Safety
The 2019 Subaru WRX has performed well in crash tests.
Though we don’t have enough data to rate the 2019 Subaru WRX for its safety, what we do know is promising. 

All WRXs include seven airbags, stability control, and a rearview camera.

The IIHS rated the 2018 WRX as a Top Safety Pick+ when fitted with LED headlights and the automaker’s suite of collision-avoidance tech such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. The good news is that all that gear is standard on the 2019 WRX with the optional CVT. The bad news is that it’s not available with the 6-speed manual transmission.

The federal government hasn’t crashed the WRX. The 2017 Subaru Impreza, with which the WRX shares its platform and most of its structure, earned five stars overall, however.

Features
The 2019 Subaru WRX focuses on performance, but some nice options are available.
Though the 2019 Subaru WRX lacks little, its spec sheet definitely prioritizes go-fast, handle-well goodies over creature comforts. We rate it at 5 out of 10 accordingly. 

The base WRX includes 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in summer tires, automatic climate control, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a 5.9-inch display for its trip computer. All base WRXs are 6-speed manuals.

Our pick, for about $30,300—$2,000 more than the base WRX—is the WRX Premium. It adds a 7.0-inch touchscreen with a crisper display, heated front seats, fog lights, and a power moonroof. For about $2,000, the Performance package deletes the moonroof and subs in Recaro front seats with upgraded brakes.

The WRX Limited adds leather upholstery, LED headlights, and a power driver’s seat. Navigation and a Harman Kardon audio system are optional.

The available CVT on Premium and Limited trims includes automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control.

In addition to their more powerful engines, unique 6-speed manual transmission, and high-performance suspension, the WRX STIs feature 19-inch alloy wheels and a rear wing so large it doubles as a standing desk.

For the most part, the WRX STI base trim mirrors the WRX Premium minus the power moonroof. Its Series.Gray option package adds Bilstein shocks and Recaro seats.

Topping the lineup for about $43,000 is the WRX STI Limited with its leather upholstery, navigation, power moonroof, and Harman Kardon audio. A wing delete is no-cost option on WRX STIs for those who value subtlety.
Fuel Economy
Driven sanely, the 2019 Subaru WRX can be miserly. But you probably won’t do that.
The 2019 Subaru WRX might put you on a first-name basis with local gas stations, at least if driven as its maker intended.

We rate it at 4 out of 10 for the way the EPA rates the most popular model: the WRX with the standard 6-speed manual. 

The EPA provides a 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined rating for the 2019 WRX. The optional CVT is much thirstier at 18/24/21 mpg.

Not surprisingly, the hot rod WRX STI checks in at just 17/22/19 mpg, figures more akin to an SUV than a sedan.

All versions of the WRX are designed to run on premium fuel.

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