REVIEW: 2016 Subaru WRX Blends Rally Car With Everyday Driver

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On a sunny, October morning, the 2016 Subaru WRX sits dissatisfied on a Western Nebraska dirt road. It is eager for action. I buckle in, insert the key and the 2.0L twin-scroll turbo-charged BOXER engine hums to life. The anticipation grows.

Slamming it into first gear and smashing the gas, the rear barely keeps up with the 258 lb-ft of torque. First gear goes by in a blur.


Clutch engaged, second gear engaged and rear once again busts free. The WRX now feels like it is sliding across the dirt searching for traction as the all-wheel drive system with active torque vectoring is furiously trying to keep up. Speeds of 20, 30, 40 MPH fly by as the 268 HP four-cylinder engine shows its moxie.

Third gear and I nearly lose the car completely.  Adrenaline is flowing. The speedometer is nearly a blur. 50, 60, 70 MPH fly by.

Fourth gear and I’m looking for a helmet, roll cage and a 6-spoint racing harness. The spooling noise of the turbo is sweet music to my ears, the rear is more stabilized and the countryside is flying by. Electric power assisted steering reacts to the slightest input. Triple-digit speeds are approaching as a dust cloud several feet tall is chasing behind me. The WRX yearns for me to really punch it. I still have two more gears in the six-speed manual transmission.

Brake engaged, speeds temper, the WRX is bummed. Concerns over safety beat out the desire to really crank up the WRX. The car is dissatisfied I didn’t push harder and the turbo whines as it unspools. But, I am good, really good. This smile will last all day.


On the outsides, the 2016 Subaru WRX could be mistaken for a normal, four-door sedan by an average Joe. Yet, several significant styling cues signal this isn’t just an Impreza. Styling cues like the wide-body and functional hood.  The wide-body molding effects, 18 x 8.5” alloy wheel with dark finish (available in the Premium trim), rear spoiler and four-port exhaust also tell you this isn’t your typical Subaru.

By far, the most significant styling cue is the chromed nameplate positioned on the front quarter panel after the front wheels. This nameplate sits on top of a vented opening aimed at helping to dissipate heat away from the brakes.

Our week-long test model came with the optional fog lights, heated exterior mirrors and was painted in sharp, blue color unsurprisingly called WR Blue.


Climbing behind the wheel, the WRX gives the impression of a fun to drive sedan. It has a separate 4.3-inch driver-configurable display located on the dash which provides boost, tire slippage and other car specific informational menus. Below that is a large 7.0” touch-screen with radio, apps and navigation information which responds quickly when flipping through various items. For the driver, the WRX has an easy-to-read dash highlighted by a 3.5-inch LCD center screen in-between a large tachometer and speedometer. All of these informational screens can quickly be scanned without losing sight of the road thanks to a well-positioned driver’s seat and mirrors.

Behind the wheel, all the gauges and knobs are well within reach as well as the gear shifter. It almost has a cockpit like feel enhancing your ability to handle higher speeds while still being roomy enough to handle a passenger.

The seats are of the “sporty” variety in our Premium WRX which means they hold you in your seat better while giving up some comfort. For example, I had a long road-trip of 160 miles in the WRX and the seat comfort left something to be desired.

IMG_7554_TSWhat makes it really extraordinary is it can double as a family sedan with plenty of room for two car seats and a well-designed trunk cargo space wide enough for golf clubs.

Finally, our model came equipped with an optional Harmon/Kardon 9-speaker, 440-watt speaker system. This system was just OK and it wasn’t as great as I would have hoped compared to other units I have tested like the Beats system in the Dodge Charger. This is probably an area you could skip out on and add your own aftermarket system.

IMG_7630_TSDriving Impressions

The sharp exterior styling and roomy interior are only superseded by the performance. With the twin-turbo scroll engine providing the 258 lb-ft of torque spread across 2,000 to 5,200 rpms, it is hard to drive the WRX slow. It is eager to gain speed quicker and wants to keep going well into the red. It flies through the first 3 gears and finds its sweet spot in 4th gear.

After a week driving on dirt and pavement about the only complaint I had was trying to shift smoothly from 1st to 2nd gear. While I don’t drive a manual every day, I am not a newbie and found I had a learning curve to get a smoother shift.

IMG_7563_TSBeyond a bumpy shifting experience, the car performs flawlessly holding tight corners, minimizing bumps thanks to inverted front struts. Also thanks to its 3,386 lbs curb weight and short 104.3” wheelbase, the WRX feels extremely powerful and it is easy to see why it performs so well at Rally race events.

Lastly, EPA estimated fuel economy comes in at 20/27/23 MPG city/highway/combined for the performance-oriented car. I spent far too much time putting my foot into it to get reliable MPG numbers.



The 2016 Subaru WRX is an incredibly fun to drive “rally” type sports car which can also double as a family sedan. While you will have to sacrifice a bit on the fuel economy and the price in exchange for the performance compared to other sedans, the “throw you back in seat” feeling is hard to find in those other sedans. If tearing up the dirt and driving your kids to school is on your vehicle wish list, this is the sedan for you.

2016 Subaru WRX Premium

Engine: 2.0L twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder

Transmission: 6-speed manual

HP/Torque: 268 HP @5,600 RPM, 258 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 RPM


  • Navigation, harman/kardon audio system – $2,100

Price: $32,855 with $795 Destination and Delivery Fee


  • Fun to drive
  • Interior room
  • Exterior appearance


  • Shifting through early gears
  • Seat Comfort
  • Harmon/Kardon speaker system


Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl

Hailing from Western Nebraska, Tim has covered the automotive industry for many years. He has written for a variety of outlets including Truck Trend,, and others. He is a married father of three and an avid golfer.