Even if you find the sight of a big wing in the rear view mirror massively disagreeable, there is no denying the appeal of the Subaru Impreza WRX. It handles well and goes like stink. Few cars deliver thrills per dollar like this otherwise innocuous-looking saloon.
But there has always been a hindrance. Purists may insist that a manual gearbox is the only way to savour a performance car, but the realists (and there are many) cannot reconcile working a clutch pedal through peak-hour traffic.
So here’s something for the realist; a WRX with all the fireworks sans the clutch pedal. As a bonus, you save a little bit of road tax levy with the automatic since it’s a 2-litre and not a 2.5 as on the manual.
Just don’t call the automatic a watered-down WRX. As a JDM (Japanese Domestic Model), the car
is in no way lean in terms of equipment count. It wears bigger wheels than the 2.5 and carries a wiper on the rear windscreen. It also has climate control and stylish instrument dials that sweep in unison during the starting sequence, all of which are essential feel-good features to liven up the utilitarian-looking cabin.
Without having to contend with the more stringent emission standards applicable in export markets, the 2-litre boxer engine has also been tuned to make more power than the 2.5-litre. In this application, the auto WRX boasts some 250bhp and 333Nm of torque, more than what the 2.5-litre manual version manages.
While there is discernibly more turbo lag than in the 2.5, the rewards are well worth the wait. Once the turbine comes on song, the boxer engine pulls like a train, all the way to the 6500rpm redline, or at least till the automatic gearbox calls in the next cog.
The graph shows that torque peaks at 3300rpm and tapers quite significantly after 5000rpm or so. Ideally, you would want to shift between the two points and keep the progress within this window.
Except that you can’t quite do that. Even if you are changing gears manually with the very fast-acting Sportshift, having only four cogs for the job means that in most cases, an upshift will land the next ratio just shy of the sweet spot. The gap is even more obvious in downshifts.
Not that the car feels crippled when off-boil, but you just know that it’d be even better with another ratio. On the upside, having the enthusiastic lump work up a sweat after every gearchange with the addictive turbine whirl is a treat on its own, too.