Although the standard Subaru Impreza got a major update for 2017, switching to the new Subaru Global Platform and gaining a revised engine, the WRX performance model sticks with the less high-strength-steel-intensive bones of the old platform and soldiers on with a mild refresh for 2018. A next-gen WRX is still a ways off, but luckily for those in the market for a sport compact today, the current WRX is still a solid, if charmingly flawed, pick.
If you’re having trouble seeing what’s changed for 2018, you’re not alone. I thought our WR Pearl Blue WRX Premium tester was a 2017 model, not the refreshed car, during my first night in it. There aren’t many visual cues on the outside to tell the new car from the prerefresh models. Up front, the lower grille opening has been widened, and the foglight surrounds have been changed. There are plenty of changes beneath the skin, however. The suspension has been revised for improved handling and ride comfort, and the EyeSight suite of advanced safety features has been updated with new features.
The interior uses new materials, and there’s a new Performance package option, which gets you some nice Recaro seats along with red-painted brake calipers with Jurid performance front brake pads and a moonroof delete to save weight. But the drivetrain hasn’t changed. The 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four still pumps out a healthy 268 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque, and it comes mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. (Our car had the manual.)
The Subaru WRX isn’t perfect, but it’s still a performance bargain at its $27,855 starting price. Our Premium model with the Performance package rang up at $32,205, which still undercuts the starting price of the Volkswagen Golf R, a car the WRX can hang with in handling and acceleration, by nearly $8,000. One thing that’s included with every WRX and STI is a free membership to a tight-knit Subaru community. In the week that I drove the WRX, I came across a dozen or so other Subies on the road. About 80 percent of drivers acknowledged me in some way, either with a nod or a thumbs up. You get this feeling of camaraderie that’s hard to put a price on—and that’s just a bonus to getting a car that’s genuinely quick out of the box and has room for improvement if you plan on modifying.
The 2018 WRX continues to offer good, old-fashioned turbo all-wheel-drive fun and has some improvements thrown in to tide us over until the next-gen car arrives. We can’t wait to see what a switch to the new Impreza’s platform can do for this sport compact classic.