and Evo IX
I was out at the Bira circuit this month and
watched a frantic race with around 30 All-wheel-drive cars pitted
against each other. The vast majority were Mitsubishi Lancer Evo’s
and Subaru WRX Imprezas. There was hot rivalry between the two makes,
and the ultimate winner that day was an inspirin-gly driven Mitsubishi
Evo VII (or VI or VII – they all look the same).
That round to Mitsubishi, but another direct
comparison in Australia in their “Motor” magazine, with a race
driver taking both cars round Oran Park circuit, had the Subaru ahead
by 0.3 of a second. Round 2 to Subaru, but on the road in Thailand,
there’s no contest, in my books. An Impreza is two point something
million here, while the Mitsubishi is four point something million!
With the cars so equal, I would have to pick the Subaru and pocket the
extra two million change.
The latest version of the Subaru, which is now
coming out of Japan for model year 2006 has a 2.5 -litre turbo four in
place of the venerable 2.0-litre turbo boxer engine. It has some of
that awful styling still there, but perhaps everyone is getting used
to the snuffly nose look, called the koala nose Down-under.
According to GoAuto, the new 2006 Impreza is just
55 mm longer than the old car and remains largely unchanged except for
specification improvements, an engineering makeover involving the
engines, gearboxes and some added dynamic refinements.
In profile, the Impreza’s handsome lines
continue, with its wheel-arch blisters and chunky door handles. Apart
from some new tail-light lens the rear end remains the largely same.
Overall weight has inched up a tad, by 20 kg to
1415 kg in the WRX, which one assumes is because of the extra weight
of the now standard side head and thorax airbags.
In the absence of having any normally aspirated
2.0-litres available, which include the perky 2.0R with its double
overhead camshafts and active valve control delivering 118kW of power
at 6400rpm and 186Nm at 3200rpm, we were easily coerced into the WRX
for a modest spin around the windy mountain roads behind Brisbane.
As soon as you were under way the Rex was like an
attack dog straining to be let off the leash. The power we remember
from WRXs of old – rapid and unrelenting - but its seamless and
linear delivery from barely above 20 km/h really impressed in the new
The newest WRX is less aggressive, more
progressive. The same can be said of the all-paw traction in the WRX.
It offers levels of grip that can leave passengers spell-bound if they
have never experienced four-wheel drive before. But the price you pay
for such acceleration and handling is a firm ride and plenty of tyre
noise generated through the cabin.
Even though the Rex’s power output remains at 169
kW at 5600 rpm it remains an awful lot for a little car. Torque is up
20 Nm, or 6.6 percent, to 320 Nm at 3600 rpm. The power comes on in a
seamless fashion from low down the rev range, making third-gear
point-and-squirt acceleration through some windy hills an entertaining
However, because of heavy holiday traffic we had to
amuse ourselves running through the car’s revised specification
levels – aluminium lower suspension arm in the sedan, aluminium
pedals, electronic throttle control, HID headlights with headlight
washers, immobili-ser, Suretrac limited slip differential, four-pot
front and two-pot rear disc brakes and new 17-inch alloys.
All very nice touches complemented now by dual side
airbags for the modest ask of AUD 40,990 (about 1.2 million on direct
conversion) for the five-speed manual. This includes climate control
air conditioning, cruise control, sports seats, anti-lock brakes,
remote central locking and fog lights and the WRX remains a persuasive
argument for low-cost, high-performance motoring.
Apart from the more refined power delivery, the
clutch and shift linkage quality felt vastly improved – more
positive in the gearshift throws and with a firmer, more precise
clutch take up.
The car’s drive-by-wire electronic throttle
control – all Imprezas get it – allows the WRX to be driven with
more precisely measured throttle inputs.
Fans of the traditional throbbing horizontally
opposed boxer engine will also be delighted by subtle exhaust changes
that have made the WRX more efficient while also delivering a more
throaty engine note.
In our all-too-brief exposure to the latest WRX it
is clear Subaru has maintained a build-brief of continuous
improvement, refining and improving the things that it really believes
count – a car’s dynamics and overall performance.
The bottom line however, is that the WRX remains a
thoroughly entertaining car to drive.
That was what one Aussie tester thought of the new
WRX, which should hit Thailand next year. For my money, the WRX
remains the performance bargain package of the year. You are getting
close to ‘supercar’ performance at everyday car prices. Zero to
100 kays in 5.4 seconds is quicker than the vast majority of cars
available on the market, and would have to be the fastest in the sub-3
million baht bracket. Since the Aussies pay around half of what we are
forced to cough up, perhaps the much vaunted FTA with Japan might see
the price come down? Please raise your umbrellas now as a squadron of
pigs is going overhead!