The WRX started out as a turbocharged road-going rally version of Subaru’s mainstream Impreza compact car. It has always featured standard all-wheel-drive and aimed at performance compacts. Eventually, Subaru separated the WRX from the Impreza line and became an all-wheel-drive performance car, one that was a core model for the company.
While the WRX launched in Japan in 1992, the U.S. had to wait until the global second generation was put on sale. But it has always been offered as a compact car in Japan, essentially in a standard version and a higher-performance STI model.
For its first two generations, it shared a strong commonality with the standard Impreza. However, that changed with the third generation as Subaru built up its line of sports cars. It’s been typified by aggressive styling and fewer creature comforts than luxury all-wheel-drive performance cars, but that has given it a strong following in the tuning community, and there are lots of aftermarket parts for it – allowing lots of room for highly modified versions.
2015 - Present Subaru WRX (3rd Generation)
The third-generation WRX was launched for 2015, this time completely separated from the Impreza in Subaru’s lineup. And unlike previous models, it was only available as a four-door sedan.
The standard model received a new 2.5-liter turbocharged four with 268 horsepower, with direct injection for the first time. It also departed from past cars by offering an automatic option, a continuously variable transmission. The standard was a six-speed manual transmission, up from the previous car’s five-speed.
The new WRX grew slightly over its predecessor and was slightly more refined. A new option on automatic-equipped vehicles was the Subaru EyeSight group of driver-assistance technologies that included automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. Features such as leather upholstery and navigation were available on higher-end versions, as were special edition appearance packages.
The WRX STI continued with its six-speed manual as the only transmission and a revised 2.5-liter turbocharged four, first with 305 horsepower 310, from the previous model. It also continued to offer special design details, including a larger wing on the trunk lid. For 2019, a special-edition STI S209 was released with 341 horsepower.
2008 - 2014 Subaru WRX (2nd Generation)
The second-generation Impreza WRX was released for 2008, alongside the mainstream Impreza model. It was offered again as a four-door sedan, but Subaru also added a new five-door hatchback to replace the sedan.
This car continued with the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that made 227 horsepower from the previous generation, with a five-speed manual as the only transmission. If buyers wanted an automatic transmission, Subaru offered a turbocharged version of the Impreza, but the 2.5GT wasn’t officially related to the WRX models.
The new WRX also grew slightly, with more creature comforts and a modern interior design. Top-end Limited models could be had with leather upholstery and eventually a built-in navigation system, and the ride was made softer, and the whole vehicle became more refined.
The WRX STI returned, only in hatchback configuration, and with its 2.5-liter turbo four and 300 horsepower. It also received a six-speed manual, along with various styling enhancements such as a revised front end and wider fenders. A sedan arrived in 2010, along with a few changes to address customer complaints about handling and steering.
The WRX was updated for 2011 to incorporate suspension tweaks to make the handling more accurate and the ride stiffer, as well as changes to the front bumper. It also became known simply as the WRX, dropping its connection with the Impreza, as there would be a new version of that car with different mechanicals and styling that adopted cues from the STI model.
2002 - 2007 Subaru WRX (1st Generation)
To coincide with the global second-generation Impreza line, the WRX arrived for 2002 for the first time in the U.S. It came as either a four-door sedan or compact wagon. Yet it was closely related to the first-generation car that never made it to North America, sticking to its rally-inspired format – if it was toned down for driving on the road.
Both versions received a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 227 horsepower, all-wheel-drive, and a five-speed manual as the only transmission. Apart from some minor modifications such as a hood scoop, it looked mostly like a standard Impreza inside and out, sharing its spartan economy car interior.
In 2004, the front grille was revised, and new headlights were added. The higher-performance WRX STI was also added, this time with 300 horsepower and a six-speed manual for higher performance.
For 2006, both models received another exterior revision, as well as interior revisions with changes to the center console and new optional features such as leather upholstery and a six-disc CD changer. More sound insulation was also added.
The WRX also received a new 2.5-liter engine for more torque, but still turbocharged and with 227 horsepower.