2016 Wards 10 Best Engines Test Drive: Subaru WRX

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The 4-cylinder gasoline engine once again dominates the field for Wards 10 Best Engines. This fall we have 14 of them.

One is a returning winner, the FA-series boxer that moves the Subaru WRX. I drove it for a weekend and getting from Point A to Point B made me wish there was a Point C.

The WRX is one of eight 4-cylinder nominees that are turbocharged. The first thing to set it apart is the FA-series’ boxer configuration you’ll find in several Porsche models and in Japanese-market Subarus.

So what are the boxer’s advantages? For starters, it allows the WRX to squat closer to the ground, which translates into curve-hugging, rally-grade pleasure. Add 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque over a broad power band of 2,000 to 5,200 RPM, and you’re ready for some fun.

This engine effortlessly powered the car through the roller-coaster hills of a snaky two-lane blacktop in east-central Ohio. Easing up on the curves had me looking forward to downshifting the 6-speed manual because that set me up to shoot along the next straightaway  -- after I made sure no Amish buggies were around.

Here’s a bonus, and a big one: I averaged 24 miles a gallon in city driving and 31 on the Interstates, numbers that easily beat the WRX’s EPA estimates. Chalk that up to features including direct injection, twin-scroll turbocharging and Subaru’s Active Valve Control System, which micromanages intake-valve function by computer.

I noticed some turbo lag, then forgot about it. I was having some fun in an WRX that stands ready to take on all turbo-4 comers.

Jim Irwin

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Feb 10, 2017
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