Appeasing the Demon: Living with a car that does Naughty and Nice wickedly well


If I were to add up all the gearshifts completed in my WRX since I picked it up in Loganton, PA six months ago, the clutch pedal has been depressed approximately 90,153 times. And let me state one item from the get go: Each shift has been more exciting than anything I could have ever imagined.

My 2009 Subaru WRX, with all 265 turbocharged ass-kicking horsepower, is not a car to be taken lightly. It could quite literally kill you if you aren’t careful and treat it with respect. It will achieve 0-60 mph in a scant 4.7 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster than its heavier, muscle bound big brother, the WRX STI, due to weight and gearing. Putting that kind of power to the ground is not an easy task so the WRX has all-wheel-drive, traction control, and the tires are wide and sticky, yet even with all those measures in place, mashing the fun pedal in first gear will immediately illuminate the traction control light on the dash.  Following the first gear wheel-spin and the rapid gear shift to avoid painting the interstate with a myriad of engine internals, one will find that triple digit speeds are achieved with little effort.

Once your thirst for speed has been quenched, you’ve pulled the reigns back and your adrenaline has come back down from outer space, the WRX becomes tame in the way you hope your upcoming flight will be: Uneventful. The WRX is calm, smooth, and in the six months of ownership the aggressive yet balanced suspension has not left me with one compressed vertebrae to report. This car has everything an enthusiast’s car should and nothing it shouldn’t.

Whilst cruising down the highway one will notice how the seats are well bolstered, supportive and comfortable for any drive length. The passenger seat is set closer to the floor than the driver’s seat to lower the center of gravity and continue the rally inspired feeling. There is plenty of headroom and the gauges are well lit and easy to read. The e-brake handle is set close to the driver and in immediate firing range of the shifter allowing for formula drift style snow driving.  The steering is tight and predictable and when there’s a need to stop on a dime the WRX will have your eyeballs splattered all over the windshield.

Oh yes, this car is good, but it’s not perfect. Here is my a short laundry list that should be titled, “What the hell was Subaru thinking?”:

The clutch pedal carries enough weight that it’ll make those living in an urban area reconsider their purchase. The shifter is too tall and soft. Locating first gear can be a chore and don’t be too surprised if you mistake a wooden spoon stuck in a bowl of pudding for your shifter. The creature comforts are limited, and to put it bluntly, the stereo sucks. I ended up turning to internet forums searching for an solution and learned that I’m not the only one to realize that my Walkman from 1992 had more output than the WRX’s head unit.  Let’s see… the hill assist is overly sensitive, the car lacks sound deadening, and oh, spirited driving will have you spiritedly driving to the gas station for that special 91 or premium 93-octane fuel because 87 just won’t cut it in this beast.

Am I complaining? No. Here’s my point.  Even with the aforementioned issues, the car is simply delightful. You’ll love hearing that classic Subaru “thrump-thrump-thrump” from the exhaust, the stereo can be reprogrammed to sound great (thank you “subielover63”), a short-shifter/bushing kit upgrade will resolve any unhappiness on mountain roads, and the world will be perfect once again.

The WRX can be driven with the best intent to obey the law and fly well below the radar. You could take little Sally to school, head to Sunday brunch with five in the car, and then cruise to the local ski slopes without a second thought. But, should that little devil who delights in high speed mischief and mayhem prop itself on your shoulder, there’s enough of that in the WRX to feed that little demon child until it looks like Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka. And it begs to be fed.

– Dave Tracy

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