Updated: Apr 1, 2022
Publisher's note: Normally, the cars you read about here at MikeHagertyCars.com are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days. Seven is typical. Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days. Our "30 Minutes With" series features cars we spent half an hour driving during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Half Moon Bay, California.
Needless to say, these are quick drives and brief impressions that we hope to be able to flesh out with a full review of the vehicle at some point in the near future.
Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at our host hotel, the Aristocrat, down Highway 1 to Highway 84, onto Stage Road (named for the former stagecoach stop still---but barely---standing on the corner), past the historic (since 1889), socially-aware and only-in-Northern-California funky San Gregorio General Store, through some marvelous twists and turns that lead back to Highway 1 and ultimately back to the hotel.
At the hotel, support teams from Page One Automotive and DriveShop sanitize the vehicles as they return while journalists choose their next vehicle from a total of 27 cars, trucks and SUVs provided by their manufacturers. This goes on for eight hours on day one, minus a 90-minute lunch break, and for three hours on day two. For me, that was enough time to drive 11 vehicles that I hadn't driven yet.
My seventh drive of the first day was in the 2020 Subaru WRX Series.White.
Yes, 2020. Subaru, a smaller car company that's been having a serious hot streak in sales the past couple of years, made a pretty sound strategic decision. Since the WRX was unchanged for 2021, why take a 2021 that could go to a paying customer for the press fleet?
And given that an all-new Subaru WRX is scheduled to be announced about the time this review posts, why not give journalists the chance to freshly compare the new one to the previous generation? Plus, there are still some sales to be made of remaining 2021 WRXs. On the day I wrote this (August 10), there were actually five brand new 2020 WRXs still on dealer lots and 332 2021s.
Under the hood of the Subaru WRX is a 2.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder Boxer engine. 268 horsepower, 258 pounds per foot of torque with peak torque available from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. That's a wide range of useful power when you put your foot down, and it means that stabbing the throttle in fourth gear gets you somewhere---incredibly useful in passing. 60 miles an hour comes from a standing start in six seconds flat.
The WRX is one of the few cars left that comes with a six-speed manual transmission standard. Yes, you've seen me saying that modern automatics (especially of the dual-clutch variety) can shift better than we do and are actually quicker and more economical, but the alternative here is a CVT. The manual is the way to go in a WRX. The EPA fuel economy estimate, if anyone is asking, is 21 city/27 highway. The 20-mile route from the Aristocrat down to San Gregorio and back is just one big happy memory. The WRX oozes primal light car-powerful motor energy and the handling on Highway 1's curves was just outstanding. If I owned this car, I'd be taking the long way----everywhere. Trips to the store would be half-day events ("Honey, there's a Safeway at South Lake Tahoe...").
The base price of the 2020 Subaru WRX Premium is $29,795. And Subaru did not raise the price for the 2021 model year, so these numbers will actually hold up regardless of which year WRX you buy. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights are fog lights and a power moonroof, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, summer performance tires and automatic climate control.
Our tester had extra-cost options including the 2020-only Series.White package, which brings Brembo brakes, a sport-tuned suspension system with Bilstein dampers, and ultrasuede-trimmed Recaro front seats for $4,200 (it also deletes the WRX Premium standard moonroof). See the window sticker below for the rest of the package.
And, apart from $268 for bodyside molding and $98 for a bumper applique', that's it. So with $900 destination and delivery, the as-tested price of the 2020 Subaru WRX Series.White is $35,259.
I'm not going to say 35K is cheap, but it's five grand below the average price of a new car today. And the Subaru WRX simply is not your average car. This is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
I'm virtually certain this car won't end up coming here for a full week's evaluation. I'm glad Subaru brought it to WAJ Media Day. Driving it is a great way to focus in on what a high bar Subaru has to hit with the new-generation WRX.