It's hard to miss the 2013 Subaru WRX Special Edition. The twins (the automaker is offering the package on both the WRX and its higher-performing STI sibling – just 300 copies in total) arrive in Tangerine Orange paint with Jet Black wheels, black exterior mirrors and black front fender badges. The purely cosmetic upgrades are carried inside the cabin with black cloth upholstery contrasted with orange stitching on the seats, doors, shift boot and piping on the floor mats.
After a day, I completely forgot about the controversial orange paint (you either love or hate its burnt pumpkin color) and focused on the simple joy of driving the rally-inspired Subaru WRX.
- The turbocharged 2.5-liter flat-four is a gem of an engine. It pulls soundly from the low end of the tachometer yet willingly runs to fuel cutoff at redline. Unfortunately, the note coming from the quad exhaust pipes resonates and booms from within the cabin. I liked it, but many of my passengers complained.
- While the industry has moved to six-speed manual transmissions (as has the STI), few realize just how wonderful a competent five-speed gearbox really is. Despite giving up a bit in acceleration and fuel economy (the 6MT has a lower first gear, and a taller six gear), the 5MT will easily run to 60 miles per hour without a shift to third gear. This also translates to less clutch work around town.
- During a spirited run up Decker Canyon and Mulholland Highway, Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive kicked serious tail in the corners. It absolutely refused to let go of the pavement, regardless of how much power was going to the wheels.
- The suspension of the WRX is a bit softer than I expected. While it translated to a much more comfortable highway ride, it came across a too squishy for really hardcore flogging. For upgraded suspension, brakes and a more capable all-wheel drive system, consumers need to look at the STI.
- The cloth bucket seats are comfortable, supportive during aggressive driving maneuvers and heated. What more can one ask for?
- The WRX won't let anyone forget its Impreza roots. The cabin appointments are budget-oriented, with no-frills hard plastic on the dashboard and doors, minimal digital instrumentation (no trip computer or fuel distance-to-empty display) and a lackluster audio system (one of the worst I have experienced in years).
- Keep in mind that Subaru has already replaced its Impreza with an all-new fourth-generation model - the WRX (and STI) are still on the third-generation platform - expect their high-performance replacements to emerge within a year.