It all happened rather quick. One moment I’m reading my mail. The next I’m across town signing paperwork for a 2015 Subaru WRX. This is a trend in the RFD family.
Let me explain. It’s no secret that I’ve been searching for a more practical, smoother riding, family friendly but still fun BRZ replacement for a while. The WRX is a natural progression – in fact, I compared the two last year, and determined that if I was to make the choice today I’d take the WRX over the BRZ. I also spent a week with a Ford Focus ST last summer, and though I haven’t yet driven a Volkswagen GTI, I can extrapolate from the Golf R I drove what the GTI would be like – especially its excellent interior, which I have sat in. All three were strong contenders to be my next daily driver.
My BRZ is due for its 45,000 mile service – no big deal. With decent snow tires it’s getting through this winter just fine, like the other winters before it. There’s nothing wrong with it. I don’t need to replace it. But when I got a letter in the mail about a special event at North End Subaru offering me significantly more than book value on a BRZ trade-in, it got my attention.
Now, I know that letters like these are nothing more than marketing ploys. The price they offer you is for a best case scenario with about a thousand disclaimers that the car’s actual condition, mileage, etc. may (in other words, will) reduce the offer. If you actually use your car at all, that number will go down. But, considering that I already have a good relationship with salesman Bob Waite, who hooked me up with the WRX I reviewed last year and is a fellow BRZ driver, I figured there was no harm in seeing what they could do for me anyway.
I went. I got a $10 Target gift card just for showing up. I missed out on the $5,000 raffle by two transposed digits in my number, and was unable to convince them that mine was close enough. I was very clear about what I wanted – to turn my BRZ into a WRX for similar payments and no money out of pocket. We checked out a 2017 Dark Gray Metallic model on the lot – a base model, which they had a special offer on, but with a few add-ons like fog lights and such. It was a nice car, very much like the 2016 model I reviewed, but with a better infotainment system. Then they gave me the numbers. Even with my discount coupon for being a Subaru Ambassador, It would cost me an extra $100 a month to get into this car. I immediately said, “I can’t do that.”
But, I had a Plan B. I had perused their online inventory for both new and used vehicles, and I saw that they had a couple of older models in the same 2015+ generation in stock. One of them was a blue 2015 model, which is of course the fastest color, especially on a Subaru. Unfortunately it was the wrong blue – Galaxy Blue Pearl rather than World Rally Blue. But it was a Premium rather than base model, which meant features that the 2017 base WRX doesn’t have – heated seats, a tasteful trunk lip spoiler (not the giant wing of the STi or Josh’s WRX), and a sunroof. It also had a few tasteful modifications, such as window tint and carbon fiber SPT trim pieces here and there.
The biggest issue with buying a used WRX is that being a rally bred sport sedan, chances are it’s been driven like one, and in some cases not driven or maintained particularly well. This particular car, however, previously belonged to the dealership manager’s brother. A man in his 50s put all 32,000 miles on this car. No doubt he enjoyed it, but it’s also unlikely that he fancied himself the equal of Bucky Lasek and drove it like him. (RFD knows exactly how Bucky Lasek drives.) The car was in beautiful shape, inside and out, with only a couple of minor scratches on top of the rear bumper giving away the fact that this was not a new car.
That, and this first year WRX had the old style stereo from the previous generation instead of a modern infotainment system. Even my BRZ’s not-so-great infotainment is more modern. Navigation isn’t even an option, but I typically use Waze anyway. This is basically what our stripped down Kia Rio rental in Puerto Rico had. But it still has satellite radio, aux in and USB ports, and Bluetooth capability. I can live with that, or upgrade the system later if I decide I can’t live with it after all.
The numbers came back, and the payments were just $35/mo more than I was paying on my BRZ. For that much more car, it was well worth it – and within the limits my wife gave me. Speaking of whom, there was just one more test – could she drive it? She knows how to drive stick, but the BRZ’s shifter actually causes her pain when she drives it. She had no problem rowing gears in the Focus ST, so how would the WRX measure up? I asked for and got permission to drive the WRX home to show the wife and her kids for final approval. The BRZ has the slicker, sportier shifter, but the longer throws, reduced effort, and lower position of the WRX shifter didn’t put her in pain like the BRZ’s. She had no problem easing the car forward and backward in our driveway. Unlike the BRZ, she would be able to drive the WRX, and she was sold. Therefore, so was I.
I’ll miss the BRZ and its amazing handling on the track and fun back roads. I still believe that the Subaru BRZ, as well as its Toyota 86 and Scion FR-S clones, are the closest you can get to a true sports car experience this side of a much more expensive Porsche Cayman. (Before you say, “Um, MIATA,” yes, they’re great cars, but the Miata/MX-5 is a roadster, not a sports car. Even Subaru and Mazda don’t consider the BRZ and MX-5 to be direct competitors, despite practically everyone else comparing them to each other anyway.) But the WRX is no slouch at the fun factor, and in reality 99% of my driving is commuting or running errands, not carving corners or banging apexes. Though I’ve handled three winters with rear wheel drive just fine, I’ll enjoy the sure footed all wheel drive of the WRX – a feature the Focus ST and GTI I considered don’t have.
Honestly, I’ve loved the WRX ever since I drove various versions of it in Gran Turismo. I’m talking about the original version, the one without a number after the name. I was thrilled when Subaru finally brought it to the US in 2002, though I couldn’t afford one at the time. When I had to give up my ex-cop Crown Vic in March 2014, a WRX was my top choice to replace it. Unfortunately, none were available at the time. All of the 2014 models had sold, and the redesigned 2015 model wasn’t out yet – so I “settled” for the BRZ. I use quotes because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my three years with it, and have no regrets about buying it other than its rapid depreciation. That won’t be an issue with the WRX – it holds its value well, and I’m not taking that “new car” hit myself this time.
Josh gave up his WRX after just 7,000 miles because he wanted the quality of the BMWs he’s accustomed to driving. I don’t blame him – the WRX doesn’t offer that level of refinement and luxury, and doesn’t claim to. It’s a more raw experience, yet still more refined in the 2015+ version than any previous model. Coming from the opposite direction of the pure sports car experience of the BRZ, the WRX feels more upscale – not that it takes much, as the BRZ is often criticized for having a rather spartan interior. The WRX will be refined enough for my current wants and needs, but it also won’t give up much to the BRZ when it comes to performance, and deliver more in some areas such as power and all wheel drive traction. In last year’s article, I concluded that if I was given the choice between a BRZ and a WRX today, I’d get the WRX. I meant it then, and I’ve followed through on that now, because now there’s a WRX in my driveway.
Now it’s time for me to go read Josh’s old WRX articles…
(If anyone would like to buy my BRZ, it will be for sale at North End Subaru in Lunenburg, MA. Email Bob Waite and tell him you heard about it on Right Foot Down!)
Great read, and well thought out. As a fellow Miata enthusiast I’d love to hear your thoughts on the WRX. It to, is a dream car to own one day.
It’s entirely unlike a Miata in any way, shape, or form. More space, more power, all wheel drive… But I can tell Subaru applied lessons learned from the BRZ to the current generation WRX’s handling. It’s no BRZ, but it’s pretty darn good.
Nicely written Justin! As always I enjoy your insight and appreciate you being an Ambassador for the Subaru brand (enthusiast of all fine machines). We’ll do our best to find a loving home for your BRZ. Bob Waite-North End Subaru