The big news for the closely watched Subaru WRX is the addition of a turbocharged and direct-injected engine for ’15, as well as the car’s first automatic transmission.

As rumored, the WRX, unveiled at the 2013 Los Angeles auto show this morning, gets the same 2.0L boxer 4-cyl. as the Forester CUV. However, the sedan peaks at 268 hp, compared with 250 hp in the Forester.

Subaru says different cams and higher-rate valve springs help squeeze an additional 18 hp out of the engine in the WRX.

While the ’15 WRX will churn out just 3 hp more than the ’14 model’s 2.5L turbocharged boxer 4-cyl., peak horsepower comes earlier, at 5,600 rpm instead of 6,000 rpm.

More torque at a lower peak also is due for ’15. The new WRX achieves 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) between 2,000-5,200 rpm vs. 244 lb.-ft. (331 Nm) at 4,400 rpm in the outgoing model.

Buyers preferring not to row their own gears can opt for a continuously variable transmission. The Subaru Sport Lineartronic CVT has eight phantom gears in Sport Sharp mode as well as 6-speed and 8-speed manual shift modes when engaging the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Sport Sharp is one of three selectable driving modes, as well as Intelligent and Sport, available on CVT-equipped models.

Subaru also upgrades the WRX’s manual to a 6-speed unit from a 5-speed in ’14. Subaru adds carbon synchronizers on the 6MT’s first and second gears for added durability.

Also new for ’15 is torque vectoring, which works in concert with Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system and should enable higher speeds in cornering.

On CVT-equipped WRXs, front and rear torque distribution is controlled by a planetary-gear-type center differential and an electronically controlled hydraulic transfer clutch, Subaru says. Typically torque will split 45:55 front/rear, which makes for more agile handling. Steering-wheel angle sensors, as well as yaw and lateral g-force sensors, transmit information to continuously optimize torque distribution.

Greater high-strength-steel content and “special stiffening elements at key locations” make for an overall more rigid chassis, Subaru contends.

The car still rides on MacPherson-strut front and double-wishbone rear suspensions, but specific changes are not detailed.

The new model bears a mild resemblance to the WRX concept unveiled at March’s New York auto show, with that car’s deep front spoiler and hexagonal grille with narrow headlights carried over to production.

The WRX’s hood scoop remains functional, but is more deeply set to improve forward visibility.

Also boosting visibility is the shifting of the A-pillar 8 ins. (203 mm) forward.

The WRX’s wheelbase grows 1 in. (25.4 mm) from ’14, but width and height go unchanged.

The base WRX’s weight goes up just 59 lbs. (27 kg) from ’14 while the Premium grade with CVT packs on another 192 lbs. (87 kg) from the outgoing model.

Combined fuel economy is best in manual-equipped models: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km).

The new CVT-equipped WRX should match the 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km) combined average of the outgoing 5-speed manual-only model.

For the first time a premium audio system is offered, a 440-watt, 9-speaker harman/kardon unit, as the car’s formerly basic interior has a higher level of creature comforts and refinement.

The car’s instrument panel and door trim now are swathed in soft-touch material, and the cabin is roomier with more rear legroom and wider-opening doors.

Subaru adds a multi-information central display to the car, with a 4.3-in. (109-mm) LCD screen. The screen houses various functions, including audio, Bluetooth and climate-control settings.

Head restraints no longer are integrated into seatbacks but are separate and adjustable.

Available features on the ’15 WRX include heated front seats, navigation and keyless access with push-button start.

WRX sales were up 39.1% through October from the first ten months of 2012, WardsAuto data shows, with 14,782 units sold.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com