2009 Subaru Impreza WRX

2009 Subaru Impreza WRX 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX
Short Take Road Test

There are few problems that more horsepower can’t fix or at least help you ignore. And as a perfect case study, we bring you the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX. Our first impression of the new-for-2008 WRX left us hot and cold. Interior quality, overall refinement, and noise isolation were vastly improved, but the WRX lacked the thrill of the previous car. The engine was largely unchanged, and weight gain was nonexistent, but the WRX came off as more of an Impreza GT than the street version of a rally car, a trait its predecessors had in spades. And with the Mazdaspeed 3, Chevrolet Cobalt SS, and Dodge Caliber SRT4 all making more than 260 horsepower, the WRX looked anemic by comparison with only 224 ponies on tap.

So Subaru has addressed these issues with a few updates, the most notable being a power boost to 265 horsepower, an increase of 41. These changes only apply to the manual-transmission WRX; the automatic continues unchanged in all but name and is now appropriately known as the Impreza 2.5GT. Subaru’s marketing plan is to align the 2.5GT with the naturally aspirated 2.5i model and liken the WRX to the 305-hp STI. To that effect, the WRX now shares a grille with the STI, and the optional body kit becomes standard. The five-door WRX also gets the rear spoiler from the STI.

Better Driving Through Air/Fuel Chemistry

The power comes primarily from a larger turbocharger, with maximum boost up to 13.3 psi from 11.9. A new catalytic converter and a larger exhaust—it provides 30-percent-better flow—help reduce back pressure from the increased boost. The power peak is 800 rpm higher at 6000 rpm. Torque is up to 244 pound-feet, an increase of 18 that comes at a relatively lofty 4000 revs, but there’s plenty of grunt starting at 2500 rpm.

And when we say "plenty," we mean it: the revised WRX now blasts to 60 mph from a standstill in an electrifying 4.7 seconds. That's 1.1 seconds quicker than the 2008 model—and get this—0.3 second quicker than we've managed in a WRX STI, the supposedly higher-performance version of the WRX. The fact that the WRX is now substantially quicker seems absolutely bonkers, but there are a couple of good explanations. First, the WRX STI weighs a hearty 180 pounds more than the base WRX, according to our scales. Second, the STI and its closer-ratio six-speed manual call for two shifts to 60, while the regular WRX's five speed hits 60 mph in second gear. By the time the pair travel a quarter-mile, the '09 WRX loses some ground, though; both cross the line at 102 mph, with the base Rex edging out the STI by just 0.1 second, 13.5 to 13.6.

It’s unlikely that the suspension upgrades to the 2009 WRX would warrant as much attention, if any, had the engine been left untouched. However, the WRX is now stiffer and sportier. The front upper strut mounts are borrowed from the STI, and the front and rear spring rates have increased 43 percent and 42 percent, respectively. The front and rear anti-roll bars have grown a millimeter in diameter to 21mm front and 16mm rear. Tire size has increased from 205/50R-17 to 225/50R-17, and the rubber (thankfully) changes from all-season Bridgestones to high-performance Dunlop SP Sport 01s. The valves on the steering have been updated to complement the new tires.