08-13-13 - Subaru WRX Mini Review

We got a WRX Wagon a while ago to be our primary family car. It's basically superb, I absolutely love it.

Above all else I love that it is simple and functional. It feels like the best car that Subaru could have possibly built for the money. It has no extra frills. It's not trying to be "luxury" in any way, and I fucking love that. But where it counts, the engine, the drivetrain, the reliability, it is totally quality, superb quality, much better than the so-called German masters of engineering. And actually I like the feel of the interior plastics (for the most part); they feel functional and solid and unpretentious. Way better than the gross laminated wood in modern BMWs and the blingy rhinestone-covered interiors of modern Audis. So-called "nice" cars have all become like tacky McMansions catering to the Chelsea tastes, all faux-marble and oversized and so on. Trying to appear better than they actually are, whereas the Subaru is better quality than it looks.

It feels so crazy fast on the street. To be so sporty and also be a good family wagon is just amazing. Sometimes I wish I'd spent the extra money for the STI (and then spent some more to de-stupidify the ridiculously hard and low suspension of the STI) just for the diffs. The base WRX (non STI) has a totally non-functional viscous 4wd system that ruins the ability to throttle steer in a really predictable fun way. But realistically the number of times that I'm pushing the car that hard is vanishing and it would need lots of other mods to be a Ken Block trick machine.

Given that I basically love it and highly recommend it (*), here are a few things that I don't like about it :

(* = I believe that everyone should buy a WRX. If you want a car for X purpose, no matter what X is, the answer is WRX. The only reasons I see to buy anything but a WRX are 1. the gas mileage is not great, and 2. if you really need more space, like you if you have 8 children and 4 great danes or something ridiculous like that).

Sport Seats. God sports seats are so fucking retarded and are ruining cars. They are entirely for looks, put in by the marketting department to attract dumb teenage boys (the same dumb boys that like low profile tires and jutting hips). You can make a non-sports seat that holds you in place perfectly fine, and if you are actually doing performance driving you just need a harness (or a lap-belt lock). The specific problem in the WRX is the big solid head rests that are part of the seat - they block visibility really badly for backing up, and they also get in the way of the folding rear seats, so to fold the back seats up and down you have to go fold the front seats up first. It's lame.

Hill-start Assist. I hate hill-start assist. It would be okay if it was optional, actually I would like it if it was optional, on a button I could turn on and off so I would only get it when I actually wanted it, but no it's on all the time. I can start a car on a hill just fine by myself, thank you (where were you 15 years ago when I couldn't ?). The main result of hill-start assist is that I press the gas to get going and the car doesn't move and it feels like the brake is holding the car and I'm like "wtf is going on, the car is broken god dammit" and then it finally lets go and I realize it's the dumb HSA. Sucky. Stop trying to help me drive.

Variable Power Steering. The PS is variably boosted and *way* too variable. It's so boosted at low speed that the wheel feels all swimmy with no response. Variable PS in general hurts your ability to develop muscle-memory for turning. If you are going to do variable PS, it should be a very minor difference, not like a completely different car the way it is in the WRX; basically an ideal variable PS system should be so minor that the driver doesn't consciously know it's there at all, it should just feel right. At least it's still hydraulic, not that god-awful electric crap.

Hatch blockage. One of the big problems with the car is that the wagon back is not as useful as it should be. It's a decent amount of space, but there's a lot of weird bumps and lips that make it hard to get large things inside. The hatch opening in particular is a lot smaller that it should be, and it shouldn't be so sloped in the rear; if the roof was longer and the rear glass more vertical, you could actually get a small couch in the back (fast-backs in general are retarded; they are drawn by car designers because they *look* aerodynamic, but a hard edge is actually more aero and provides way more interior space). As is, it's unfortunately terrible for cargo carrying and just not a very good small station wagon.

Summer Tires. God damn summer tires are such a stupid scam. They're annoyingly low profile too. It just sucks that almost any car you buy these days you have to immediately buy new wheels and tires to undo the stupidity, which is again marketing department tinkering. Cars should be sold on all-season tires, and we need to stop this low-profile retardation. Rubber is amazing wonderful stuff, it's what makes wheels work well. (part of the reason cars are all sold on summer tires now is to make the magazine tests "on stock tires" look better. Those "on stock tires" tests have always been retarded, because there are a few sports cars sold on autocross tires (street legal track tires) which is totally unfair, and a few actually good-to-their-customers car companies sell their cars on all-seasons, so the magazines' claim that by testing all cars on stock tires is a fair way to compare is just bananas.)

Jack plates & hitch. The jack points on these cars absolutely suck (pinch welds with the actually reinforced part inboad of the pinch weld). What would it cost the factory to put a decent jack plate there, maybe $10? Come on. A factory hitch option would have been nice too.

Plastic bumpers. The body skirts are super low (too low, they don't clear a parking spot curb thingy) and what's worse is they're made from crunchy hard plastic that cracks or pops out of the weak plastic press-fittings rather than bends. I wish bumpers and skirts were still steel with rubber, or even soft polyurethane plastic that bends on small impacts would be fine. As usual with metric over-training, the fact that the official crash tests don't rate the damage to the car means that modern cars are very good at protecting the occupants, but self-destruct on even the slightest impact. These really aren't even "bumpers", the actual impact absorbing part is all hidden underneath; these are plastic skins over the bumpers, and they really should be designed so that you can have a 1 mph impact without cracking them or popping the fittings out.

But really the only serious complaint is the stupid shape that ruins its cargo capacity :

I just hate it when marketing people ruin the functionality of things for no good reason. First you make it as functional as possible. Then the marketing people can play with the look or whatever but *only* in ways that don't change the functionality. Almost all modern cars are really "haunchy" these days, with wheels jutting out from the body, and bodies that are cut in at the top and back to be "sleek". No it is *not* for handling or aerodynamics. It's entirely an aesthetic thing. It's making me long for something like the Honda Element that at least has not compromised function for stupid vanity.


Aaron said...

Hahahah nice. I need to drive your WRX again someday now that I've had my MS3 for a while now that I have a better frame of reference. I have a sneaking suspicion that the WRX feels way faster in practice, but I can't quite tell. Love the red X's over the pictures.

Aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Forsyth said...

^ is feeling smug.

Elliot said...

What if X = a dedicated sports car that gives you an excuse not to give people rides to cut down on your normally excessive generosity?

cbloom said...

@Elliot - Simple, buy a WRX and take the rear seats out.

yotadrag said...

So I'm guessing you haven't had your firewall literally fall apart after the welds on the clutch assembly support bracket fail from normal use yet? Your going to hate the car when that happens. It's happening to almost everyone with a manual transmission car and usually happens between 30K-60K miles. Mine completely broke (while I was driving no less) at 53K miles. Absolutely no help from Subaru. Total denial of the problem.

cbloom said...

Well that's a damn shame.

Sadly total denial (and even blaming the owners) seems to be standard car company practice these days. I'm not sure there's a single good car company left, now that Honda makes junk and apparently Subaru doesn't stand up for their build quality. Maybe Kia? Hyundai?



Bram Stolk said...

So, one and a half yr later... Did your firewall go bad?

cbloom said...

No, it's okay so far.

What I read is that Subaru is now covering many repairs as "good will gestures" to keep things quiet.

It sucks. Reminds me of the whole Porsche IMS thing where they never admit a mistake and just fix it, leaving you with a permanent sour taste about the shitty manufacturer.

old rants