2011 Subaru Impreza WRX Review

I’ve driven a few Subarus, and have always liked them, but the WRX moniker has always escaped me.  I found that any time I mentioned that I’d be reviewing a WRX, guys faces lit up like a Christmas tree.  Is this something the female population misses out on? Is it not in our DNA to recognize the hot little sports car in hiding? Well, five seconds behind the wheel of this car made me understand the excitement that all of my male friends exhibited. 
Wow. Wow. Wow. Did I say “wow”? A very impressive driving machine. Subaru actually seemed to make it bluer than the bluest blue you’ve ever seen (not really my style), but it sure was a blast to drive!

  • Accelerates crazy fast
  • Very comfortable seats
  • Excellent handling ability
  • Back seats accommodate passengers easily (not cramped seating)
  • Really, really, really FUN to drive
  • Bumpy ride could require a dose of Dramamine for passengers before riding on winding, bumpy roads
  • Release handle for gas door quirky and frustrating
  • Plastic interior dash and door panels feel like they came from a 1992 Corolla

2011 Subaru Impreza WRX 5-door
Fuel Economy:
Advertised: 19 in the city, and 25 highway (22 combined)
Actual: 23.4 mpg in mixed conditions (city, highway and heavy-footed driving) and 24.6 mpg highway
Driving Impressions:
I found myself driving in ways I don’t ordinarily drive, just because I COULD. This could be bad, as I became very impatient and drove much faster and more aggressively than normal. But because I could… I did it! And it was fun. I giggled. The WRX handled so well and hugged the road so spectacularly, that I railed corners, frightening my passengers. I was forced to slam the brakes on when some clown turned in front of me, and they worked amazingly well (in the rain, no less). I took it to a dirt and gravel lot, turned OFF the traction control and drove around like a maniac, seeing if I could get the car to slide (I did). And I giggled a lot more.
It’s a rough ride. But it’s basically the type of ride you’d EXPECT from this class of vehicle. You want to feel the bumps in the road, the start of the slide, the way the car hugs the curves in the road, the traction the tires make when accelerating fast out of a corner, whether or not you can push it harder into that curve, or whether or not you need to back off and save your skin (and the car!). In short:  you NEED to feel how the car interacts with the road surface.
2011 Subaru Impreza WRX
Despite the expected rough ride, there didn’t appear to be any undo rattling indicating things coming loose or poor construction of the interior. The doors felt pretty light, but I didn’t have any issues closing any of them to where I felt I needed to slam them. The windows were smooth going up and down. The rear hatch (5th door) opened and closed easily. The seats were light enough that I didn’t have to struggle putting them down to fit my bike in, or putting them back into the upright position. The storage areas inside the cabin opened and closed easily. The rear cargo cover was a piece of cake to remove and put back in. The car seemed very well built, both interior and exterior.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics:
The good:
Comfortable seating position, excellent visibility out of the windows, rear-view mirrors, etc. All of the controls were easy to use (once you figured them out!), and all within reach.
I really loved the matte display panel for the gauges! Such a simple solution for a nasty problem for when the sun shines in, blinds the driver with the glare, and suddenly, you can’t see how fast you’re going, the engine RPMs, etc. Safe and functional (and pretty sweet-looking).
The LED-illuminated front storage tray in the center console was the perfect place for my cell phone (although it didn’t prevent me from leaving it in the car on more than one occasion!). At least I could see it and get to it easily.
Sport-design electroluminescent gauges 2011 Subaru WRX interior
Even the back seats are comfortable and roomy-enough for the average sized person! Disclaimer:  If you’re taller than the average bear, probably not a good idea to ride in the back! Besides, this is a car you want to drive, not spectate in!
The bad:
The dashboard, center console and door panels felt like really cheap plastic. I didn’t expect it to be like butter, but the material should at least feel like “JC Penneys”, and not the “Dollar Store”.
Hate me if you will, but the aluminum pedals are a bloody nightmare when your shoes get wet. I happened to be testing the car when a pretty nasty storm hit, and despite trying to dry my running shoes off, my feet slipped on the pedals several times. Not good if you’re using a critical pedal at the exact moment you need it most (e.g. your brake pedal!).
Subaru Impreza WRX rear cargo area heated seats heated seats
Nits and nags:
The gas door release gave me fits. I had to pull on it at least 3 or 4 times to get the door to release.  One time, I got in and out of the car FIVE times. I was afraid I’d break the release.
Aesthetically-speaking, it would be nice for the center cup-holders to have a sliding cover, so you could hide them away, keeping a smooth surface under your elbows.
The center console box (between the front seats) would do well to have the LED-illumination that the little front storage tray had. It was really tough to see in there (like when I was searching for the USB port that the owner’s manual described, but our model was conspicuously missing) without having to contort my upper body into a pretzel to avoid climbing in the back seat to get a better view.
The Subaru WRX is at home on your favorite mountain road or on the track
With the lightness of the car and the turbocharger, the 265 hp 2.5 liter DOHC engine felt like a lot more horsepower than the numbers suggest. The acceleration was positively exhilarating!  Due to the punchiness of the WRX, it was tough to keep at (or near) the speed limit and even harder not to drive like a jerk! The 17-inch (P235/45 R17) wheels kept the WRX attached firmly to the road surface as I zoomed around on-ramps, off-ramps, twisty roads in both wet and dry conditions.

The 5-speed manual transmission was a snap to get used to, and I only once missed a shift (my own fault – I haven’t driven a stick in over a year, and I was talking.  Whoops.)  The gear ratios were tight and easy to hit all the gears with just a flick of your arm.
I never once feared that I’d find a hill that would bring the WRX to its knees. My lack of stick-driving ability, on the other hand, could have been embarrassing if it wasn’t for the transmission’s “hill assist” feature, but I managed to not make a complete fool of myself driving up and down some steep hills and even parking on a downhill!
My takeaway:  seriously impressive performance for an AWD vehicle!
2011 Subaru Impreza WRX 5-door
If someone thinks of the WRX only as an AWD car – then they haven’t driven one. Yes, it’s AWD, but I’d consider it an AWD SPORTS CAR. The WRX is low to the ground, has a wide-enough wheelbase that it just HUGS the road. I never once felt like I was going to “lose it” coming through a corner too fast.  Even in the rain, I drove it harder than I’d ordinarily drive. It handles *THAT* well.  The turning radius is great, just like you’d expect from a sports car. Even when trying to get the car to slide, I had to work really hard at it, and use a road surface akin to the snow.
The steering is so precise, that the WRX just seems to follow wherever you point it. No fighting you in the corners, it just GLIDES into and out of each corner you point it at. The WRX handles like a dream.
2011 Subaru Impreza WRX 5-door
While I’m not a fan of the bluer-than-blue-in-your-face-blue-BLUE, it really does go with the shape and styling of the car. The car handles so over-the-top, why should the style be a shrinking violet (of course, blending is nice when breaking the law, but I digress.)? The hood-scoop and front grill start the testosterone styling, all the way to the rear spoiler. These help harden up the softness that the eye sees with the smooth, arcing line from the front to the rear with the side view. The wheels just shouted “bad ass”.
Let’s talk a bit more about that hood scoop. Not only does it look good, it’s completely functional and serves to feed cool air into the inter-cooler for the turbo.
Frankly, the WRX is pretty reasonably priced. It had a good array of features (including leather!) for right around $29k.  Of course, our model seemed to be missing the advertised USB port*, which was monumentally disappointing, but I got over it. (*missing from our model, even though the Subaru website AND the owner’s manual said it was in the WRX)
Safety features included:  Subaru advanced frontal airbag system, seat-mounted front side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags height-adjustable 3-point front seatbelts, rear child-safety door locks, energy-absorbing collapsible steering column, daytime running lights, 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS), brake assist, tire pressure monitoring system, traction control system (TCS), vehicle dynamics control (VDC) and Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD).
2011 Subaru Impreza WRX 5-door
Standard features included:  XM Satellite Radio, USB Audio Interface, 6 speaker audio system, touch-screen GPS navigation system, driver’s 6-way manually adjustable seat, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter handle, power front and rear windows with driver’s side auto up-down, power side mirrors, power-tilt/sliding-glass moonroof, leather upholstery, electronic cruise control, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, dual cup holders in the center console and one in each door panel, cargo-area grocery-bag and tie-down hooks (necessary with the way the WRX drives, so your groceries don’t end up all over the back of the car!), retractable/removable cargo-area cover (easy in, easy out), analog speedometer, sport-design electroluminescent gauges, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, 17″ x 8.0″ 15 spoke aluminum alloy wheels, P235/45 R17 summer performance tires, foglights, LED taillights and various other exterior effects that add to the oomph factor of the look of the WRX, and functionality. Plus, the standard warranties:  3-year or 36k new car limited warranty, 5-year or 60k powertrain limited warranty, 3-year or 36k wear item limited warranty (includes: brake pads, wiper blades, clutch linings and transmitter batteries) and a 5-year unlimited mileage rust perforation limited warranty.

Common-Sense Not Included:
Warning:  if you have an over-abundance of testosterone, and zero willpower, do not buy this car. Buying it can result in many tickets and possibly losing your license!
Now, if you have a shred of willpower, love to drive fun sports cars and don’t have a family of 7 which you need to transport around, then this just might be a great option for you.
If you’re a family of one or two, love to go do fun things, need to transport a bike or two (with both seats folded down and some Tetris-master skills, you could pretty easily fit two bikes in it), and don’t get car-sick easily, you could easily make this your primary (and only) vehicle. It’s way more practical than a 2-seater sports car, and with the AWD (and some willingness to step off the gas) your travel options aren’t as limited as with some cars. Our model definitely had enough features to keep the car interesting and functional, all without totally breaking the bank.

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