First Place – 2015 Subaru WRX
Statistically, the Subaru WRX was a dominant force on the track. It was fastest on the stopwatch, reached the highest velocity down the front straight, and generated the highest cornering and braking g-forces, too.
It does still understeer a lot, which can take some fun out of it, but you can counteract that by driving it like the ghost of Colin McRae. Its suspension tuning is a bit on the soft side, but like most all-wheel drive cars, the WRX responds well to being pitched into corners like a rally car, which allows you to stomp on the gas sooner and let the grip it generates at all four contact patches pull you out the other side. It’s not pretty, but it is effective. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun!
Truthfully, the WRX’s victory was not one of finesse. Simply put, the WRX bludgeoned the competition with its power and all-wheel drive grip advantage.
While that secret sauce of AWD and a turbocharged boxer engine are what make a Subaru a Subaru, if we had to single out one feature it would be the engine. Plenty fun on the street, it’s on the track, head-to-head with its competitors, that you really get to experience its uniqueness. It has a big initial surge of torque like the other turbocharged cars, but it also pulls strongly to redline like the naturally aspirated cars in the group.
Faster from a numbers perspective, it felt it too. Down the front straight at the AutoGuide Test Track, once the revs approach redline in third gear it hits you just how much more powerful this car is than its rivals. And thanks to that broad and very useable powerband it’s got the power you want, whenever you want it. There’s just no denying the WRX’s pace around the circuit.
It did lose some points due to a gearbox that’s a bit clunky and, despite big improvements over the outgoing model, we’d still love to see sharper responses to inputs.
As this is a performance car shootout, a total of 75 percent of each car’s grade was determined based on driving feel and lap time. That said, we gave very few points for less-exciting qualities like price, practicality and comfort, but it’s in those categories that the Subaru clawed back marks.
A summer test, the WRX also won without any thought to its all-season potential, of which it has plenty. Not only is it the only vehicle in the AutoGuide Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout that can really perform to its potential in any climate, but one could argue that its fun-to-drive factor only goes up as the grip goes down.
Some may prefer the freedom to steer the rear end with the throttle that the FR-S and MX-5 provide, or the nimbleness of the Fiesta, and while those are all undeniably fun machines, we were ultimately impressed by the new 2015 Subaru WRX. With big power and the grip to make use of it all, chuck the WRX into a corner with a bit of Scandinavian flair and it really comes alive.
Lap time: 1:26.332 (1st) Top Speed: 100.4 MPH (1st) Max Cornering G-Force: 1.18 (1st) Max Braking G-Force: 0.85 (1st) Fun To Drive On The Track (out of 25): 19 (5th) Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, 268 HP, 258 lb-ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Drivetrain: All-wheel drive, viscous-coupling locking center differential, electronic front differential Fuel Economy Ratings: 21 MPG City, 28 MPG Highway Fuel Economy Observed: 31.0 MPG Price: $27,090 after destination charges