• Dec 1, 2010
Measuring The Difference In Inches

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX – Click above for high-res image gallery

One point three inches. How much difference can it make? That depends on what you're measuring. If you're comparing the 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX to the 2011, that small measurement makes all the difference in the world.

If you're a Subie fan, you've already read our First Drive. The headline news for the 2010-to-2011 changeover is that the WRX gained the STI model's widebody fenders and 1.3-inch wider track. Wanting to know whether the growth in girth made any difference to the affable and relatively affordable WRX, we decided to spend some quality time in the example you see here.

We learned plenty. Many things work well for the practical enthusiast. Others, not so much.

Continue reading...

Photos copyright ©2010 Rex Roy / AOL

What works? The place we'll start is on a narrow, circuitous road outside of San Francisco that links two unimportant intersections well off the beaten path. Driving this road requires as much time looking out the door glass as the windshield. Some corners are cambered, which makes the flat ones much more interesting. The straights are long enough to change up a gear, an action that is quickly followed by serious braking.

Driven at just 25 to 65 mph, this road demands everything a car and driver can muster. We've enjoyed it many times and know that through many corners you'll use up every inch of the chassis's suspension travel. On downhill sections, brakes can fade. Communicative steering is highly valued because intel on the road surface can mean the difference between smacking a rock wall, driving into a ravine or clipping the perfect apex.

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX road

The 2011 WRX attacked this road. Spinning almost from lock to lock, Subi's light steering felt perfectly weighted for this duty cycle. Thankfully, the car's ample greenhouse and thin pillars provided good visibility. From the driver's seat, you don't notice the car's extra width.

What you do notice is that when pushed hard, the WRX's jounce bumpers (a.k.a. bump stops) are definitely designed to be an active part of the car's suspension. Jounce bumpers prevent articulating suspension components from impacting the subframe or chassis. In some cars, these are simply hard pads that prevent metal-to-metal crashes. In the Subaru, they are progressively tuned to manage suspension energy during the last iota of suspension travel.

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX side view2011 Subaru Impreza WRX front view2011 Subaru Impreza WRX rear view

Braking and turning into a tight curve often uses up most of the damper's main travel. When steering corrections are needed or pavement undulations are hit mid-corner, the outside suspension components need to compress further. Instead of causing a harsh impact and a poorly controlled rebounding action, the WRX's bump stops absorb the extra energy and enable a smooth rebound that doesn't upset the neutral balance of the car, making the 2011 'Rex incredibly trustworthy and predictable at the limits.

High-performance summer tires certainly contributed to the WRX's stability. Measuring 235/45R17, they're a centimeter wider than the 2010 edition and ride on new, lighter wheels (down 1.5 pounds per corner) that are themselves an inch broader. (Those who live in northern climates with four seasons should opt for all-season rubber or plan on owning a second set of tires. When temperatures approach the freezing point, the summer-compound tires get hard as chair casters and offer about as much grip.)

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX headlight2011 Subaru Impreza WRX wheels2011 Subaru Impreza WRX taillight

Once into a good road rhythm, you begin to notice other things about the 2011 Subaru WRX.

The 265-horsepower turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four sounds great. Unlike most cars, the WRX (and most Subarus) emits a unique exhaust note thrum that enthusiasts can ID without a pause in conversation, and the engine itself emits a muscular howl as it moves up and down the power band. On the highway, things settle into a pleasant hum that matches the powertrain's minor vibrations. But make no mistake – this is not a quiet car from idle on up, though if you're looking for interior refinement, chances are you aren't shopping for a WRX.

As for how it performs, under 2,500 rpm the torque curve is flat (read: turbo lag). But spool it up and the 244 lb-ft moves the WRX with authority. On boost, the power delivery is nearly linear with a bit of extra ramp up just before the soft rev limiter cuts in at around 6,500 rpm.

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX engine

Like the steering, the clutch and accelerator pedals have a lightness to them. We would have appreciated more feedback from the clutch pedal, but it's easy to get used to and won't tire you out in normal driving.

The shifter also felt light, requiring little effort to change from gear, while still providing Subaru's patented blend of aggressive notchiness. The relationship of the brake and accelerator pedal made heal-toe downshifting a breeze, even for someone with smaller feet.

The brakes proved stout, but our pace was aggressive enough that the pedal did soften a couple times. The aroma of hot pads wafted into the cabin more than once, suggesting a pad and fluid swap before heading to the track.

After exiting our remote and semi-private proving grounds, we headed toward the Pacific on various roads south of Half Moon Bay. On these roads, we mingled with traffic and realized that the WRX invites challenges from other enthusiasts. (To the guy in the vintage MGB coupe who tried hanging with our WRX... valiant effort. You and the car did very well considering the vintage brakes, skinny tires and the fact your girlfriend was riding shotgun.)

At legal speeds driving north on Highway 1 and then on interstates heading toward wine country, the WRX shared more about itself that only extended wheel time reveals. For example, the light steering that was a clear benefit on twisty roads felt almost too feathery for regular driving. Likewise, the useful suspension compliance sometimes felt floaty over undulating highway pavement. The front chair that proved initially supportive also got downright hard after five hours at the helm.

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX interior2011 Subaru Impreza WRX front seats2011 Subaru Impreza WRX gauges2011 Subaru Impreza WRX shifter

Design details also made themselves known; the halo glow at the end of the speedo and tach needles made it easier to capture a quick read of those gauges. And those gauges are a style statement. Before you key the ignition, the dials are a black void. Once running, the gauges come to life and their graphics make them easy to read. Even still, don't confuse the WRX's interior for anything but a workmanlike environment – the controls are where you want them, but the overall ambiance is one of a discount and somewhat dated interior livened by a few good driver's tools (namely the wheel, alloy pedals and the leather gearshift knob).

Wind noise was well controlled, and the cabin remained free of buffeting with the sunroof open. There was noticeable road noise, but considering the WRX is an Impreza at its core, expecting a library would be unreasonable. Curiously, most of the din seemed to originate from behind the driver.

When the sun set, we quickly learned that the fog lights are for style only. Good thing the low beams threw adequate light and that functional fogs would be an inexpensive upgrade. Naturally, the optional HIDs are a solid investment considering how easy it is to overdrive the lights in a car this quick.

2011 Subaru Impreza rear 3/4 view

After spending quality time with the 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX, we came away feeling that this would be an easy, practical performance car to live with. In most people's real lives – as opposed to their fantasies – 265 horsepower is plenty, making the WRX STI's extra 40 hp seem superfluous.

And about those extra 1.3-inches; they add considerably to the car's visual presence while enhancing usable performance. With a starting price of $25,495, that's a good deal no matter how you measure it.

Photos copyright ©2010 Rex Roy / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Subi has a great cars and the WRX line only adds to the fun. I prefer the sedan version myself but appreciate every WRX ever made. I find it funny how Subi has been doing this for years and just about everyone else is now just catching on and making it a big deal that they now have turbos on there stock engines. Keep them coming Subaru!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Good reading bevis. "just about everyone". Still would take a Subi over either of those choices! The 62 Chevy Corvair was one of the first gas engines to use a turbo!
        • 4 Years Ago
        The VW group, including Audi, has been using turbocharged "base" engines for years. So has Volvo. Credit where it's due, but Subaru isn't a pioneer in the turbocharging world...
      • 4 Years Ago
      I gotta say, this bodystyle is growing on me.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well... I live in La Honda and that's Alpine Road for sure. I'm also the owner of an 08 STI, and I'd never drive Alpine as hard as you are describing: it's foolhardy, unnecessary, and dangerous to others. You see... the reason I recognize it is that not only is it literally in my backyard, I'm also an avid cyclist and ride up Alpine all the time as do many others. The things you cite; it is TINY (one lane many places), joins two intersections with more major roads, but otherwise goes nowhere; make it a safe place for cycling Hell, I even pull my two-year-old up it in a trailer every weekend.

      I can tell you... if I see you going 65 on this road, I'll be taking down your license and reporting you to the Sheriff. Seriously... keep it on 84, 35, or even Pescadero Roads. Those are great roads with heavier traffic and a heck of a lot safer for fast driving. Anyone who knows me knows I'm willing to push pretty hard in the right place at the right time. Alpine Road is never that place.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am just not so keen without a boot. Five doors just does not do it for me really.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Too boy-racer for me.
        • 4 Years Ago

        The widebody increases track, which is good for handling. Especially in the real world, where the road isn't as smooth, flat or straight as at the strip. Perhaps you'll understand that, if Ford ever gets around to spending the extra $50 bucks it would take to put even a half-assed IRS on the Mustang...

        The widebody is also sculpted to produce some additional front downforce - not a huge amount, but it is part of the design.

        If you're using a 2011 Mustang GT as your comparison point, the basic GT coupe starts at $30,495 - a nearly $5k price advantage. The way the WRX and Mustang prices stagger, it's not easy to set up a direct price comparison, so how about we just agree to flip things giving the Subie a smaller price advantage and go with a $33k WRX STi?

        At the strip, where the Mustang is at its best, that AWD STi will launch much more consistently for the average driver. On the road or track, the STi will also do better, especially if driving conditions aren't perfect.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Since when have racers cared more about cylinders than speed? This measly 2.5l "boy racer" will blow the doors off a bloated 08 Mustang in a straight line and then humiliate it on a race track. Maybe "boy racer" should be a compliment, boy signifies young, agile, and quick, while old signifies fat, slow, and clumsy, so yes maybe a WRX is a "boy racer" rather than a "fat old racer"
        • 4 Years Ago
        So what would be "man-racer" then? The WRX is a highly respected series among actual racers.
        • 4 Years Ago
        John H.

        That was my point. It's boy-racer because it can put power down to all four wheels and 245's will sufice. (I got that number from the sube specs, not the mustang) And they will fit under standard fender flares. But no, they have to create and advertise a 'wide-body' kit so 16 year olds with no clue can brag about it. egro, Boy-Racer

        If we are comparing 2011 models the car reviewed here (not as STI) will get killed by a 2011 GT in a stright line. Mustang 0-130 18 sec, sube 0-130 29.x seconds per C&D. Even the STI will be behind by .5 sec at the 1/4 mile. The current mustang is no sluouch at the track either, but hard numbers are harder to come by for that. Yet there is no 'Wide-body' option for the mustang, but if there were, it would have wider tires under it.
          James Davies
          • 2 Months Ago

          Lol..who drives in a straight line? Wrx will cut through corners and snow and rain..hell even mud.  Poor old mustang cannot. Call a tow truck

        • 4 Years Ago
        God forbid you try an Evo...
        • 4 Years Ago
        It make sense, because its a WRX. Agreed, with widebody this car rocks!
        • 4 Years Ago

        It's not that they "needed" eight cylinders to generate the same power; it's that they wanted it. It is a preference thing.

        Granted I have nothing against this car as it serves a different purpose than say a Mustang, but I respect it for what it is. I would consider the two competitors only on the basis of price.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Like an 08 Mustang? Ford needed a V8 to generate the same power that's now easy for a turbo 4. Number of cylinders and tire width mean very little. Way to show gf your expertise.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thing is, with a full set of 235s at each corner putting down the power, that AWD Impreza has nearly twice the total tread width as Mustang with a pair of 245s in the rear.

        To lay down more rubber, that Mustang would need a pair of 475s in the rear, and you aren't finding those anywhere short of a Funny Car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Like the drivetrain.
      Like the engine
      Like the scoop in the hood.
      Really like the Rally Blue Pearl paint.

      Other than that, it is an ugly car, and I say that as a Subaru enthusiast.

      I still call the 5-door Impreza cars 'Quasimodo, the hunchback of the auto industry.'

      The awkward blistered fender flares don't help the aesthetics, even if they allow wider rubber.

      With the ugliness of the Impreza, and the current Legacy... I am waiting with the hope that the Impreza Design Concept is coming, and is near to production trim, in terms of sheet-metal stampings, even if the lights and bumper covers aren't quite as flashy, and the interior isn't so overwhelmingly white.

      Put the turbo flat 4, or even a free-breathing flat 6 engine in there.
      Put the manual gearbox AWD drivetrain in there. Even better, if it has 6 well-chosen gears, and variable torque distribution or DCCD management, and 5x114.3 hubs, Brembos, and Bilsteins.
      Paint it that color blue, or close to it. (I wouldn't argue with a shade or two darker.)

      Then I'll consider replacing the two Subarus I already have with a newer one.

      I cannot bring myself to even consider a car that looks like the current Impreza lineup. I can't spend tens of thousands of dollars on a car I can't bring myself to even slightly enjoy looking at in my own driveway. Just can't do it.
        James Davies
        • 2 Months Ago

        Cause your a tool

        • 4 Years Ago
        Of course if they the Impreza coupe returns using the new body, well, that'll be just fine, too. They can call it an XT, and I'd be delighted with it.
        • 4 Years Ago

        Between that, and my SVX... Subaru hasn't built anything nearly as good looking, otherwise. Good looking, and technically very competent, and affordable for the average household budget, are not mutually exclusive of each other. It has been done before, and can be done again.

        The Impreza Design Concept isn't quite as lithe and sleek, but it comes closer to the BL Legacy and SVX than anything else Subaru has built since.

        And, I am so hoping that the Impreza Design Concept arrives with 2 or 4 side doors, as a choice. Something that combines the best of the BL Legacy, and the SVX in the same car... They could call it *almost* anything, as long as they build it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I like the looks of the WRX/STi hatch far more than the sedan. It's got a lot of bulldog in its looks.

        If/when the new Impreza comes out, that'll change to favor the sedan, but right now, I prefer the hatch.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree, BoxerFanatic's Legacy is gorgeous. Hell, I even love that generation's Outback... perfect lines. The current Impreza is simply ugly, regardless of the performance. I like it, kind of how I like me pet Pug, so ugly its cute.

        I am very afraid that when Subaru redesigns the Impreza to be attractive, they will also make it bigger, heavier, and softer, like they did to the Legacy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You're right, but I think the Leggy in your avatar is going to be VERY hard to beat style wise. It's just one of those timeless, understated, but elegant and low Japanese designs.
        • 4 Years Ago

        You always post the same (long) Subaru post on how you hate the styling and they need this and that motor etc...

        Your SVX is ugly IMO (legacy good looking)

        I personally like the look of this 5dr WRX. Not everyone is going to like it but Subaru was aware of that
        • 4 Years Ago
        @foobar: you're insane. The SVX is the farthest thing from a Mustang 5.0 or IROC-Z, and you know it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        SVX? I wouldn't call that car a looker at all. Makes me think of a mullet. Do you have a mullet?

        I think the Impreza's, even in the base form, are comely.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "I cannot bring myself to even consider a car that looks like the current Impreza lineup. I can't spend tens of thousands of dollars on a car I can't bring myself to even slightly enjoy looking at in my own driveway. Just can't do it."

        I agree that Subaru's styling has gone south since the last update, particularly the Outback and Legacy. The WRX is a trade off in that new one looks better as a hatch while the older ones looked better as a sedan, imo.

        In their defense, I do not think building "head-turners" was ever Subaru's intent, at least not in a broad sense of the word. For Subaru, looks I think took a backseat to performance, driveability, and practicality. As a result, you have cars like the WRX Impreza that is quick, handles well, is practical in a multitude of driving conditions, and does not look bad with a bike rack on it. Compare that to the likes of the Mustang, Camaro, or Chally, where they were designed to be "headturners" second only to performers. That comes at the expense of the other elements the Subaru has to offer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Can't wait to see how the new Focus ST stacks up against the WRX, Mazdaspeed & GTI. The winner is likely my next car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Out of that group, Subaru wins.
        Even with all the new fangled FWD tricks, hard to do better than AWD.

        The Golf R20 would be a better comaro.
        • 4 Years Ago
        true, but the R20 is (estimated to be) $10k more, so well out of my price range. At least the WRX is within shouting distance of the others.

        The AWD makes it an odd bird in that group. Ideally it'd be my pick but factoring in comfort, reliability, mpg, interior quality, features, etc muddies the picture somewhat. Depending on how you look at it, they all have an Achilles' heel in one way or another.
      • 3 Years Ago
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      • 3 Years Ago
      Every year it seems like SEMA coverage lasts for a month, yawn. Is it me, or has it been about 10-15 years since snoopy was sort of "luke warm" cool. Now he just looks like some skinny old bald guy trying to live on "cred" from two decades ago. He really aint that far from being like the old guy who rode the motorcycle naked in "Waking Ned Devine". I wouldn't want my ride associated with him.
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      • 4 Years Ago
      wah, i would like to blast my car on that road for fun.



      performance wise: yeah pretty intresting

      looks: not quite

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