I’ve mentioned before how enamored I am with the Subaru WRX. I first learned about them in the late 1990s and it quickly became a quest that someday I would own one. Well, I have now owned three, but lets go back to the original.
When I had bought my RX-8, I did test drive a few used WRXs. The manuals were out of my price range and a higher mileage automatic just didn’t do it for me. Ultimately, I ended up with my beloved rotary wonder. But after it let me down for the last time, I decided it was time to move on, and the WRX was once again firmly on my radar.
It was the early spring of 2010 and I headed to a local Subaru dealership I knew well. After a bit of discussion, it was decided. I was going to be the owner of a shiny new 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX Limited. Of course, I had to get the car in World Rally Blue Pearl.
Despite the WRX being all-new in 2008, just one year later Subaru significantly improved the cars performance. The 2.5-liter turbocharged engine was boosted up to 265 hp and 244 lb-ft of torque. This turned the car into a pseudo Japanese all-wheel drive muscle car, with magazines at the time routinely achieving 0-60 times under five seconds. (Full disclosure – this could only be achieved with significant clutch and drivetrain abuse).
To back up the newfound power, the hatchback versions received gunmetal 17-inch wheels and the same rear spoiler as found on the more potent WRX STI model. To say I was absolutely smitten with this car would be an understatement.
Immediate Road Trip
I took delivery of the car on a Thursday and immediately set off on an 800 km round trip to Grove City, PA for the weekend. Four of us piled into the car for three days of shopping, eating and drinking. Not only was there enough space for all of us, the ride was more compliant than I was led on to believe it would be.
The only detriment to the trip was on our journey home. All three of my passengers were fast asleep as I cruised on I-79. I had been following a car hauling a small utility trailer when a piece of scrap metal fell off it and started tumbling along the highway. I did my best to straddle the debris to avoid puncturing a tire. As I went over it all was good until it reached the back of my car where it kicked up and slammed into my muffler.
The noise of metal on hollow metal was shockingly loud. All my passengers woke up with a startle, thinking we were in the midst of some horrific collision. Luckily, the only damage that occur was a sizable dent right on the bottom of the muffler. Still, just three days into ownership and there is already a bit of damage.
A Different Kind of Subaru Rally
Less than a month later, the Subaru WRX was taken on a much larger road trip. As part of the inaugural Rally North America charity rally, we would travel from Toronto to the start of the fabled Route 66 in Joliet, Illinois. From there we would head down to Amarillo, Texas and meet a group of travelers that started at the other end of Route 66. In all, we would put just over 5,000 km on the car that week.
The memories my codriver (my Dad) and I made on that trip are amazing. We made lifelong friends and saw parts of North America most people will never experience in their lives. The WRX proved to be a great road trip companion. Freeways, dirt roads, racetracks or crumbling biways, the car derived from rally racing could handle it all. My friend with a Camaro SS was even impressed by its straight-line speed, as I didn’t get absolutely embarrassed by him at the drag strip.
The next year we would once again take the WRX on a Rally North America event, this time driving through the Appalachia Mountains and visiting the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. Once again, days driving hours on end never felt like a chore in the WRX. The days it rained or were unbearably hot out, we appreciated having a modern vehicle with strong A/C and capable all-wheel drive.
Subaru’s Can’t Stay Stock
Of course, owning a Subaru WRX means it cannot remain stock. Despite me leasing my car and only having it for about two and a half years, I still did some of the usual, more budget minded upgrades. I installed a catback exhaust system to properly hear that BOXER rumble, I equipped it with the ubiquitous Rally Armor mud flaps, and I upgraded the headlights with some questionable HIDs.
My favourite mod though has to be the Whiteline rear swaybar. Anyone familiar with the 2010 WRX will know it tends to want to continue straight in a corner. Or in more familiar terms, it is easy to create understeer when driving this car. This car was the first one I had ever taken to an open lapping day and although I had fun, my front tires were badly abused. Instead of improving my driving abilities, I decided upgrading the car to rotate better was the solution.
To achieve this, I installed the thickest rear swaybar I could find. It was fully adjustable with three setting of stiffness. I initially had it installed on the medium setting but still wanted more backend play. I popped it up to the stiffest setting and was satisfied. A few days later, I encountered my first dirt road while driving with some friends. I hit the first sweeping right hand corner and lifted off the gas. The backend began to rotate with enthusiasm and before I knew it, I was counter steering at a 45-degree angle through the corner, grinning like a damn fool.
Sadly, the car was sold before I got to experience the now tail happy WRX in the snow. This might actually be a good thing because I probably would have ended up arrested, upside down in a snowbank, or both. I just hope whoever bought my car was aware of the rear swaybar before really pushing its limits
Goodbye Sweet Rex
As mentioned, my time with this car was cut short. I began doing this job where people actually paid me to drive their car and write about them. I know, life before 2020 was CRAZY!
At the time, I no longer needed a brand-new car with a large monthly loan payment since I was rarely driving my own car more than 10 minutes a week. But fear not, this set off a chain of irrational car purchases over the next few years that I will cover in upcoming articles.