I had an opportunity to drive the manual and automatic versions of the 2015 model at a recent regional press preview, and came away with an appreciation for the results of this comprehensive redesign.
The new car, expected in the showrooms in March or April, is quite a departure from the Impreza. The grille, fenders, doors, hood and fascias are unique to the WRX. The only sheet metal that carries over from the Impreza is the roof and deck lid.
The body design is not on a par with the myriad structural and mechanical upgrades that have made this affordable sports sedan (it will probably start around $28,000) such a delightful athlete. It's sporty and aggressive, but not lovely.
What is lovely is the way this guy handles, steers and brakes, the way it sticks in the curves and virtually banishes body roll.
The new WRX isn't any faster than its predecessor, according to Subaru. (MotorTrend says it's actually slower than the 2013 WRX Special Edition.)
Where it shows its superiority over the current WRX is with its driving dynamics. Let's look at how Subaru improved them.
Using more high-strength steel and lots of reinforcements, the engineers were able to dramatically increase structural strength. Stiffer structure means better handling.
Much stiffer springs mean a very firm ride - and much less body roll in fast turns. The roll is down 20 percent, Subaru says.
Active torque vectoring (ATV) applies the inner front brake during a turn and sends all the power to the outside wheel. This helps the car "rotate" into the turn, and makes the steering more neutral.
Wide, sticky performance tires give the WRX excellent adhesion in the corners. The car has a lateral acceleration rating of 0.93, which means it takes almost the force of gravity to make the tread lose its adhesion to the road.
The new electric power steering system has excellent feel for an electric, and its quicker steering ratio contributes to precise turn-in.
Bigger disc brakes shut down the new WRX is a real hurry.
Motivation for the WRX is courtesy of a 2-liter four that uses direction injection and turbo charging to develop 268 horsepower. That gives it about a half-second zero-to-sedge on its chief competitor, the Ford Focus ST.
The turbo engine is buttoned to either a nifty new 6-speed manual or a sporty, continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The CVT is the first automatic gearbox that Subaru has offered on the WRX since 2008. The argument for it is that 60 percent to 80 percent of sporty car buyers choose automatics.
But then again, the WRX is an exception to that rule. Subaru expects automatics to account for only 20 percent of its sales.
I think the manual is more fun on a windy back road, and it gets better gas mileage.