Here’s an interesting article that’s worth reading a couple times :)

Road Tests: Follow-Up Test

Follow-Up Test: 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon
Subaru Boosts its Versatile Compact Wagon
By Brent Romans
Date Posted 01-01-2002

We like the Audi S4 Avant. This 250-horsepower wagon has handsome styling, capable handling characteristics and a weather-beating all-wheel-drive system. Its more-than-$40,000 asking price actually seems worth it. Until one drives a Subaru Impreza WRX Sport Wagon, that is.

Subaru’s fortunes have improved dramatically since its Spring 2001 introduction of the 2002 Impreza WRX. Equipped with a turbocharged engine and a sport-tuned suspension, this performance-minded Impreza has tapped into America’s growing interest in sporty compact cars and expanded the awareness of the brand. The company’s new tagline should be “Subaru: It’s Not Just for Vermonters any More.”

When Subaru decided to offer a WRX wagon along with the sedan, it wasn’t quite sure how well the car would be received. Would Americans go for a hot-rodded compact station wagon, or did the wagon’s last hope at being cool die in 1983 after Clark Griswold tied Aunt Edna to the top of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster?

So far, it seems Americans have given the WRX Sport Wagon a hearty thumbs up. Both the sedan and the wagon are selling briskly. Previously, we’ve driven the WRX sedan and the Impreza Outback Sport. We’ve given positive reviews to both, so logic would dictate that we’d like the WRX Sport Wagon, too. We acquired a Blue Pearl Sport Wagon and spent a week doing things we expect WRX owners to do, such as driving to work, heading to the mountains with gear in the back and, on a few occasions, beating the pants off other unsuspecting sporty cars.

There are very few mechanical differences between the WRX sedan and wagon. Both come with a turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. This small dynamo packs 227 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 217 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Impressive to be sure, but near idle, the engine’s responses are dulled. There’s turbo lag down low on the tachometer. Big happy mega fun time happens past three grand. Here, the turbo awakens, the extra boost pressure flows freely, and the engine pulls hard toward the 7,000 rpm redline.

Power is routed to all four wheels via a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The WRX sedan we tested had the five-speed, so we were interested in the performance of our automatic-equipped wagon. While we don’t recommend it for people looking for maximum performance, the auto certainly makes congested traffic much easier to bear. We did note that the transmission could stand some additional refinement, as shifts are a bit rough and downshifts don’t occur promptly enough. Given the sporting nature of the WRX, Subaru would be wise to give the auto a sequential-shift mode similar to Porsche’s Tiptronic.

From a standing start, the automatic amplifies the engine’s sluggish low-end response. Step on the throttle after coming off the brake, and the WRX dribbles forward. In our first acceleration run, we recorded an unimpressive 0-to-30-mph time of 4.0 seconds on the way to an 8.7-second 0-to-60. Better results can be obtained by using a brake torque launch technique. This technique (for an automatic transmission only) is done by placing the transmission in drive, firmly applying the brakes with the left foot and applying ever-more throttle with the right. The brakes keep the car immobile while the engine spools up until it reaches the transmission’s stall speed. Results vary depending on the type of powertrain, but the WRX responds quite well. Done this way, the WRX winds up to about 3,000 rpm and then shoots forward vigorously once the brakes are released. Our best acceleration run gave us a 0-to-60 time of 6.7 seconds with the quarter-mile occurring in 15.1 seconds at 89.0 mph.

The automatic also gives the WRX a different type of all-wheel-drive system. Manual-equipped cars have a simple but effective center differential-mounted viscous coupling. WRXs equipped with the four-speed automatic get Subaru’s Variable Torque Distribution (VTD) all-wheel-drive system. Used in the WRX and the Outback H6 3.0 VDC, VTD employs an electronically controlled hydraulic transfer clutch and a planetary gear center differential to distribute power in a 45/55 split between the front and rear axles.

The VTD system uses multiple sensors to measure front and rear driveshaft speeds, throttle position and gear selection. Then it actively transfers power accordingly between the front and rear wheels for optimum traction and handling. Enter a turn under braking, and the system will bias the power toward the front for greater steering control. Lay on the throttle out of a turn, and the VTD will send the torque out back for maximum thrust; all of this done in a matter of milliseconds completely imperceptible to the driver.

While it didn’t rain or snow during our time with the car (as is usually the case here in Los Angeles), we’re confident in saying that the WRX’s all-wheel drive adds an element of security. It works quietly behind the scenes, applying power where needed. Owners living in climates where there is actually weather should appreciate the increased traction.

Another useful feature is the WRX’s ABS-equipped four-wheel disc brake setup. Our particular test car did not perform as well as we expected, with a 60-to-0-mph stopping distance of 131 feet, longer than the WRX sedan we tested. It was also longer than that of the Impreza Outback Sport we drove, and that car has rear drum brakes. We can’t offer an explanation other than this particular car might have been an anomaly.

Taken to curvy roads, the WRX Sport Wagon provides a high level of driving entertainment. The wagon weighs just 80 pounds more than the sedan, and the automatic adds another 55 pounds, bringing the total to 3,220 pounds. This might seem a bit hefty for a compact, but consider that an S4 Avant weighs 3,704-pounds. In terms of suspension, the WRX Sport Wagon (as well as the sedan) has a MacPherson strut at each corner. It’s a simple design, but Subaru’s engineers have managed to tune the suspension quite well. Pitch it into a corner, and the car claws its way around. There’s no wheelspin or loss of grip thanks to the all-wheel drive. The WRX’s enduring appeal is that it can flatter the most ham-fisted pilot.

Through quick transitions, the wagon is not as sharp as the sedan, a result of a higher center of gravity and the thinner-diameter rear antiroll bar. We managed a 62.6 mph slalom speed, slower than the WRX sedan we tested. Our test driver did note, however, that the sedan had the optional 17-inch wheels and the 215/45R17 tires, while the wagon was stuck with the stock 16s with 205/55R16s. With the 17s, the wagon would have certainly posted better times. It is also interesting to note that the wagon has a slightly narrower track front and rear than the sedan.

Around town, the ride quality is comfortable enough, and the wagon is certainly more versatile than the sedan. It’s roomier, with additional headroom given to both front and rear passengers. Rear passengers also get slightly more legroom. Being an Impreza, the WRX Sport Wagon is saddled with a few lackluster interior trim materials, but this is a minor complaint. Behind the rear seat, the wagon can hold 27.9 cubic feet of cargo. Folding down the 60/40-split rear seat increases that maximum amount to 61.6 cubic feet, more than the S4 Avant, the BMW 325i wagon and the Mazda Protegé5. If that’s still not enough, the wagon’s roof rack can be used to hold up to 100 pounds of gear (meaning it could support Aunt Edna’s weight).

Not too shabby for a car with an MSRP of just over $24,000. Like the Impreza Outback, the WRX Sport Wagon is perfectly suited for people with an active lifestyle. Hiking, rock climbing, biking, surfing — pretty much any activity that requires more than a pair of shorts — can all be accommodated. And like the WRX sedan, the wagon has the power and the grip to compete against sport coupes like the Acura RSX Type-S and even high-end luxury wagons like the S4. It’s the perfect blend, and for the money, you won’t find a more capable sport wagon in 2002.

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