Subaru WRX

"As far as street-legal rally cars go, there's still nothing better than a WRX." I wrote that line following my first drive of the 2015 Subaru WRX late last year – one of the better motoring experiences I had in 2013. Sure, a particularly involving drive route helped, but I don't want to sell the new Subaru short: it's a seriously good car – easily one of the sharpest, best-driving little turbos available today.

When I drove the even hotter 2015 WRX STI in January, it was a similar love-fest. The STI is infused with all of the WRX's greatness, but it's sharper, meaner, and on good roads (and race tracks), the winged wonder is really outstanding. But because of its higher price tag, less forgiving suspension tuning, and only marginal performance increases, I'm convinced that the STI isn't the best WRX for the money. And much as I love it, I just don't think I'd ever buy the STI over its more sedate sister (though I totally understand why others might).

So when it came time to add a new long-term car to the Autoblog fleet, many votes were cast in favor of the WRX. There was a lot of debate about whether or not to get the standard version, or the mightier STI. But at the end of the day, my argument that the basic WRX is the better daily driver – nee, one of the best all-around, all-weather performers money can buy – carried the day.

Our WR Blue turbo darling has landed. Will our hearts still be aflutter after 12 months of hard use?

Subaru WRX
Subaru WRXSubaru WRX

This new boxer-four feels really sharp, with a broad range of power and a potent turbo punch.

Let's go back to the "turbo darling" line for a minute – that's one of the big reasons why we went WRX and not STI. The more-powerful version uses the same 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer-four as before – an engine we've become very, very familiar with over its time in Subaru's stable. In previous generations, the standard WRX used a detuned version of the STI's powerplant, but that isn't the case for 2015 – our car has the company's new, 2.0-liter turbo-four underhood (also found in the Forester), producing 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

That's a potent little engine, able to get the 3,267-pound, all-wheel-drive WRX to 60 miles per hour in 5.4 seconds. The new powerplant only offers gains of 3 hp and 14 lb-ft versus the outgoing engine, and it's tasked with lugging around an additional 59 pounds compared to the 2014 model. But as was noted in the first drive, this new boxer-four feels really sharp, with a broad range of power and a potent turbo punch. It's great for canyon carving and backroad cruising, but will it still be thrilling when slogging through winter slop? And while the new 2.0T is estimated to achieve up to 28 miles per gallon on the highway, is that something that can be obtained day in and day out? We'll see.

Subaru WRXSubaru WRX
Subaru WRXSubaru WRX

The 2015 WRX starts at $26,295, and the car Subaru has been kind enough to loan us stickers for $33,290.

As for the car itself, it's a fully loaded WRX Limited in traditional WR Blue. We love the color, though we still aren't totally sold on the styling just yet. It wouldn't really be a true WRX unless there was a bit of ugliness baked in, and we might find the sedan's design less unfortunate as we get used to it day in and day out. Do we wish Subaru still offered a hatchback bodystyle? You betcha. And we'll see if the loss of functionality really hurts the car over the course of the year.

The only option not found on our car is the continuously variable transmission – not because it isn't good (it's actually damn impressive), but because really, the WRX is best served with the ever-engaging six-speed manual transmission. And besides, what sort of car guys would we be if we chose the automatic over the manual?

The 2015 WRX starts at $26,295, and the car Subaru has been kind enough to loan us for a year stickers for $33,290, including $795 for destination. Standard kit on the $29,995 Limited model includes things like leather seating surfaces (heated up front), a sunroof and LED headlamps. Optional goodies fitted to this car include the navigation/infotainment system and Harman/Kardon premium audio system, all lumped together in one $2,500 package.

Subaru WRX

We have a lot planned for the 'Rex this year, and are ready and raring to go.

Of course, with one year of testing on the docket, it stands to reason that we might make a few tasteful modifications to the 'Rex during its stay in the Autoblog Garage, just as many owners will. The stock, dark-finished, 17-inch alloys are handsome enough, but they still might need to go in favor of some STI-spec 18-inch gold rollers. And certain staffers have been eyeing Subaru's short-throw shift kit – standard fare on the limited-run STI Launch Edition.

But right now, we're going to focus on the stock car's capabilities, and see how it fares when tasked with daily driving duties, road trips, weekend backroad drives, and maybe even a track test or two. Be sure to follow this space for all of the monthly updates, and hit us up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more on-the-go impressions.

As of this writing, our new WRX has just a tick over 200 miles on the odometer, and we'll be adding tens of thousands more. We have a lot planned for the 'Rex this year, and are ready and raring to go. Here's hoping we're still all smiles in one year's time.