On the Road to Redemption: 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX

As the new guy here at The Garage, some of you may notice I talk a lot about marketing, or brand managers. They, like accountants, have a lot of say about what we see in our dealer’s showrooms. We all know their job-increase sales, maximize profit. They insist, the numbers do not lie. Maybe, but when it’s an emotional product, the numbers don’t always tell the story.

For any World Rally Championship fan, or a kid who’s played a video game, your lean years were when Subaru refused us its rally-car, the WRX. Our dreams finally came true in 2002, and Subaru sold a lot of cars. Sure, the thing looked kooky, wasn’t what anyone would call refined, but in this modern era, the car dripped character. But the Impreza was a very old design, and it was way past due for an overhaul. 

What Subaru wanted, of course, was a new Impreza that would sell more cars. To do this, the car’s aesthetics lost its funky look for a more generic form. The car became more refined. Heavier. Quieter. Qualities that most people like in a car. On the surface, Subaru’s plan was working. They had, in fact, broadened the appeal of the Impreza, and the WRX. Save for some tweaking here and there, mechanically, the WRX was about the same as it was in the old car. 

The numbers here did not tell the whole story. The hardcore WRX fans were not happy with the look of the car at all. They were not interested in a kinder, gentler WRX. They threatened to hold onto their old generation cars, or worse, switch sides to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. In fairness, the Evo X is a little more mellow than the Evo IX, but Mitsubishi did not take refinement to the level that Subaru did.

Proof that Subaru reads the message boards is the revised 2009 Impreza WRX-the car they should have delivered us last year. Better late than never. For this year, Subaru has a goodie-bag for all you WRX fans. Thanks to a larger turbo, larger-diameter exhaust, and low density catalyst, you now get 265hp vs. last year’s 224hp. Suspension bits from the WRX STi, fatter tires and re-tuned suspension damping make for a sharper handling car. My only gripe about the drive train is that it still has a 5-speed manual-it needs six.

From a styling point-of-view, the new WRX took a beating. Too generic. Not aggressive. What was worse, you had to pay extra for the Aero package. Thankfully, this is standard equipment now. When it came to the interior, critics were just as harsh-nothing here to suggest you were driving anything special. A new racier black check pattern covering the seats with red stitching reminds you this isn’t a granola Subaru. 

While the WRX has gotten its mojo back, I think Subaru was equally wise to offer the new for ’09 2.5GT-essentially last year’s WRX with an automatic transmission. While Subaru has broadened the Impreza’s appeal, the hotter WRX and tamer 2.5GT prove the car is versatile enough to please both crowds. According to WindingRoad.com, both models are expected to be priced about the same, in the mid-$20′s. This is important, because the upcoming Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, which will not be available in a manual, has an expected retail price of close to $28,000. 

I am happy to give Subaru a big thumbs up here for realizing they may not have approached the new Impreza the best way possible. As a car company, they turned on a dime and offered a demanding public a better car. This was not as simple as you would think-all the tame ’08 WRX’s out on 24,36, 48 month leases now-their residuals just took a huge hit for rolling out a much-improved model, and Subaru is going to have to eat that cost. That Subaru was willing to accept that loss to retain its most loyal fans says a lot about the company.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m still curious as to what all of the people who bought 08′s will do. Will subaru offer them the better exhaust and turbo as a sort of ‘buyback’ style option? I remember Mazda offering cash up to the first RX8 buyers as the dyno numbers didn’t match up to the claims… will Subaru do this as a sort of ‘good will’? hmmm…..

  2. says

    Subaru really dropped the ball on this vehicle — so hard to believe. Hopefully, they fired the ‘brand manager’ who lobbied for this generation’s absurdly generic design.

    Until they release a sedan STI with those obscenely flared fenders, here’s to the Lancer/Evo and Mazdaspeed!

  3. LOU says

    Do any current MY08 “NEW GENERATION 3G WRX” owners out there feel like we,ve been dumped by Subaru. Subaru have introduced this car without consideration to the current G3 owners, our resale values have just been slashed considerably due to the yawning gap in performance of the both the so called “NEW GENERATION G3 WRX” vehicles.

    Car manufacturers obviously strive to improve vehicle performance and sales hence minor improvements are the norm from year to year with occassional generational changes. The MY08 WRX was/is sold/advertised as the “NEW GENERATION WRX” why after just around 11 months is the 09 vehicle so much better again??? Our 08 rexs are going to be worth ‘heaps” less than the 09 when i go to sell or trade it, just months after purchasing it.

    The media INCLUDING SUBARU are saying how much better this 09 car is. And i quote from CEO Subaru Australia;Nick Senior, Managing Director, Subaru Australia, said:

    “This latest model year Impreza WRX is a step change.

    “We’re not only introducing big power and torque increases, we’ve dramatically sharpened handling too.

    “We’ve spent a lot of time with the engineers on Australian roads and in local conditions, developing a suspension package that appeals to the driving enthusiast.

    “The result is an Impreza WRX that is true to our core Subaru DNA, of delivering pure driving confidence.”

    He added: “Drivability of Impreza WRX is sharper and, combined with the power and torque benefits, this is a compelling, aggressive package.

    The “new generation MY08 WRX” have just been us shafted, no questions, the models continuity has been blown apart, and to say it is a mild evolutionary change [like some are] would be disagreeing with Mr Subaru CEO, Australia.

    If you agree, contact Subaru like i have and see if we can get some equity/continuity in these vehicles by; Subaru offering ECU/suspension upgrades, discounted or free??? Or subsidised trade ins of MY08s for those lucky enough who can purchase the 09??

    Its in Subarus interest to do it as well, the pr would be fantastic rather than negative and wouldnt be very costly for them at all. And finally do they want to have a comparitively lame WRX haunting their prestigous WRX lineage.

  4. Max Power says

    Im still proud to pimp my 02 WRX. I knew about it and got
    it early.
    Bigger turbo, injectors and lots of other fun.
    Why get a body kit if you only see my ass end.

    EVO’s never see me comming.

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