The WRX is more than two decades old, but put away the mini sausage rolls and the old, melted candles, we've got a better way of celebrating: reuniting the nine most heroic WRXs ever, and driving them all again. Hard.
Back in the '90s, and now, the all-wheel-drive poise of an early WRX on humble rubber let it deploy its healthy kilowatt count on drenched roads like few other cars, making drivers of modest ability feel like Colin McRae, Possum Bourne or Petter Solberg in the process.
These attributes certainly proved their worth on the day of our photoshoot, but there’s more to the WRX’s allure than flattering dynamics and tenacious traction; appeals that have kept Subiephiles coming back to the turbo flat-four powered sedan and hatch, with the trademark off-beat burble, in the two decades since it went on sale in Japan.
In celebration of the 20-year anniversary of the model, we’ve set out to get to the bottom of why the WRX has been so popular for so long. And to do so, we’ve compiled a best-of collection that spans nine models over three generations.
So, where did it start for members of the Impreza WRX Club of NSW, who were kind enough to provide the cars?
For MY09 owner David, the thing that sucked him in was the WRX’s practicality, “Yeah, there’s been some modifications, but I can still drive the kids to school – for me that’s the real attractiveness about this type of car.”
“I’ve always been into the practicality and performance of Subaru,” agrees MY05 STi owner and adventure sports man Craig, who’s owned his share of wagons (hatches, officially), an option that isn’t available to Mitsubishi Evo enthusiasts (aka, the enemy!).
Others cite the brand’s reputation for longevity – case in point, club president Evan McNeill’s MY98 WRX. Bought used in 2001 with 30,000km on it, it first hit the track more than 200,000km later and, countless track days on, it has clocked 350,000km on the original engine and turbo. Impressive.
But there’s more to it than pragmatic factors such as practicality and reliability. For mine, it’s the fact that the WRX, with its all-wheel drive and turbocharged flat-four, set itself apart technically. It wasn’t different for its own sake – the powertrain brought a clear performance payoff and loads of character, which is a quality you certainly can’t count on in a cut-price Japanese performance car.
One way or another, the WRX has a way of getting under owners’ skin, because it seems the WRX club guys have either stuck with the car, the model, or the brand over the years.
Jim, for example, still owns the MY94 he bought new 19 years ago, while Craig’s had six Subies, Adam’s had four, and Ian’s on his third.
But can the club guys agree on the best Rex? “I think everyone’s got a soft spot for the classics, and things like the 22B,” says Ian, who started with a MY00 WRX, but now owns a MY06 STi. Version 6 STi owner Adam started with a MY00, too, but he’s stuck with it. “This is the model that I love – I’ve had three of the same.”
So that’s the club guys’ vote. Can we also find a favourite?
This article first appeared in the December 2013 edition of MOTOR magazine.