The 2018 Subaru WRX is one of the swiftest and best handling compact cars on the market. It’s not very comfortable and quiet, but it’s a reasonably priced performance car that you can get.
You might expect some rough edges in cars that were born out of Subaru’s decade’s participation in rally racing. But the real surprise is how to tame these cars really are. The WRX is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is optimized for performance while delivering a decent fuel economy.
The 2018 WRX also offers generous modern technologies and conveniences, either as standard or optional equipment, including a choice of two audio systems, two multimedia systems, navigation, smartphone application integration and driver aids such as automatic emergency braking, lane warning departures and blind-spot monitoring. These features along with comfortable seating, a spacious cabin and excellent visibility, make the WRX a legitimately practical daily driver and family car.
The 2018 WRX receives several useful changes including an updated front-end design, revised suspension and steering tuning, and thicker glass, seals and insulation aimed at better suppressing road noise. There also a few new features in the EyeSight safety package.
Trim levels and features
The 2018 Subaru WRX is a four-door, five-passenger sedan offered in three trim levels: base, Premium and Limited. The high-performance STI reviewed separately.
Standard equipment for the base WRX includes performance tires, 17-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, 60/40-split folding rear seats, cloth upholstery, a rearview camera, a 6.2-inch touchscreen, smartphone app integration, Bluetooth phone and audio connection, a six-speaker media system with CD player, USB and auxiliary inputs, satellite and HD radio.
The WRX Premium adds 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, foglights, windshield wiper de-icers, heated front seats, and a 7-inch touchscreen. The Limited adds automatic high beams, LED headlights and foglights, keyless ignition and entry, a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, and leather-trimmed upholstery.
Options for the WRX Premium with manual transmission include an upgraded Harman Kardon audio system, 7-inch touchscreen, and a new Performance package that adds red-painted brake calipers, upgraded brake pads and Recaro front seats with an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat. This package deletes the sunroof for weight savings.
The WRX Limited with a manual transmission can be ordered with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, upgraded audio and navigation. The Limited with CVT is eligible for Subaru’s EyeSight system, which adds automatic high beams, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and adaptive foglights that help illuminate corners and curves.
Various dealer-installed options are available for the WRX, such as a performance exhaust (base WRX), carbon-fiber trim, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, interior lighting accents, unique shift knobs and short-throw shifter.
The 2018 Subaru WRX is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed four-cylinder “boxer” engine that generates 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive are standard. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters is optional for the WRX Premium and Limited models. Those paddles let the transmission imitate either a six or eight-speed automatic, depending on the driving mode.
Though its acceleration numbers may be hard to duplicate in the real world, the WRX provides continual thrills in a straight line or around corners. It doesn’t disappoint in the areas that matter most to enthusiast drivers.
In performance testing, the WRX Premium with the manual transmission accelerates from zero to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds. Subaru says the WRX with a CVT will take 5.9 seconds to reach 60 mph. Top speed of 144 mph. For comparison, the Volkswagen GTI with the DSG automated transmission took 6.1 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph and 6.4 seconds for the Ford Focus ST.
EPA estimated fuel economy for the manual transmission at 23 mpg combined (21 city/27 highway), while CVT-equipped models are rated at 21 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway).
Inside, the 2018 Subaru WRX is clearly emphasizing on the performance, not the interior. As a performance car, the driving position is precise, as are the firm, nicely bolstered sports seats. The thin roof pillar provides excellent outward visibility, and large side mirrors make it easy to see conditions on the sides and rear.
The interior also has a basic design and layout, with simple and easy-to-use controls. The audio quality and infotainment system was previously drawback for Subaru, but with the current WRX generation, things have improved. Especially improved is the base audio system and the standard 6.2-inch screen.
The 2018 Subaru WRX has 12 cubic feet of trunk space. This is below average for small sedans. And most of the WRX competitors are offered as more versatile hatchbacks, such as the VW GTI which can hold up to 22.8 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats.
Release Dates and Price
The official price for the base WRX starts at $27,855 (includes the $860 destination charge). The Premium starting at $30,155. The top-of-line WRX Limited starts at $32,455.