WRX grows up without losing youthfulness

2015 Subaru WRX
2015 Subaru WRX

Subaru’s WRX has been known for it’s all-out raw performance at a somewhat budget price. It’s the kind of car that enthusiasts love because it is so raw.

So what happens when Subaru decides to give it a good ride along with all that performance. Heresy? Not quite. The 2015 (yes already) WRX has gained acceptable road manners while keeping most of its wild child attitude.

The WRX is still wild. There is much horsepower, handling capability and, well, bad attitude to suit anyone’s taste. What it does not have is a hatch. That’s gone. All will have to be satisfied with the four-door sedan. It’s roomy enough for five, four will be the most comfortable.

Back to that in a moment. There are 268 horses coming out of the 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged Boxer direct-injected four-cylinder. Torque peaks at 258 pounds-feet but is available from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. It’s connected to an exhaust which has one fewer muffler chamber and shortened exhaust tubing to give the engine a deeper note. Neat trick but it’s the horsepower and torque that had me at hello.

What can one do with all that? Whatever one wants. The six speed manual has been reworked to be smoother in it’s transitions through the gate. Maybe, but it works well enough to get the WRX to hustle down the road with bluster. Blast down an open piece of road and you’ll love yourself. Throw it around a curve and it performs like a high-speed monorail – no slipping and sliding, but clean negotiation. The new found road manners may have a little to do with that. This thing never loses composure.

The electric power assisted steering is a huge improvement. Response is wonderful and whatever you ask it does immediately. Throw in the standard all-wheel-drive and the WRX is still quite the party on wheels.

It’s still based on the Impreza’s body, just stiffer – 41 percent more than last year. Spring rates are also higher as well as having a bigger stabilizer bar.

I do like the carbon fiber-looking interior. It seems to be better put together than last year. The gauge package is good looking and there is a 3.5-inch screen with graphics and a 4.3-inch display in the center of the dashboard. Go for the optional navigation system and the screen is 6.1 inches. I didn’t get that option but I liked what I got. My premium model had an all-weather package, glass moonroof, fog lights and trunk spoiler.

My car’s color was Crystal Black Silica, roughly that’s black metal flake paint that sparkles in the sun like a Twilight vampire.

The seats were sporty and comfortable with height-adjustable headrests. There was also a plethora of standard equipment: AM/FM radio with HD, single disc CD, iPod/Phone/Pad connection, USB connection and three months of SiriusXM Satellite radio.

There’s not a whole lot I don’t like about Subarus and I couldn’t think of anything I didn’t like about this car. Yeah, maybe dropping the hatchback wasn’t the best of ideas, but this little sedan is quite the machine. The tricked out wheels, flared fenders and hood scoop certainly don’t make it look pedestrian.

The 2015 WRX should be arriving at dealers by the time you read this. The STi model will follow shortly.





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IS350 F-Sport shows Lexus has lots of life

2014 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport

A few years ago I thought Lexus had lost its mojo.

It always built cars that were great value in the luxury field as well as those which you could drive the wheels off, buy new tires and drive for another dozen years or so. Yet, the SC 300 was the last true sexy thing the company made.

The IS was a good attempt, but it lacked until you moved up to that fire breathing V8. Then came F-Sport, the company’s fun-inducing arm which gave everything new life, even the family hauling RX. It also produced the to-lust-after LFA sports car.

That’s another story.

Now comes the revamped IS which the company totally gets right this time. It’s got the looks and hardware to take on everything in it’s class. Everything.

I find the new body stunning. From that now famous spindle grille to the funky taillights. There are plenty of aggressive lines between those two points and some tricked out tires and wheels. There are three versions: 250, 350 and 350 F-Sport. I got the F-Sport and was giddy with excitement.

Interior gets lush upgrade

The F-Sport gets and even more aggressive grille, wheels and body bits. It also gets an adjustable suspension that works very well. The V6 engine pushes out 306 horsepower and 277 pounds-feet of torque. That’s the same as the outgoing model but that’s fine. This is a sweet engine that sounds better than it did but drives as well which is saying a lot. Sixty miles per hour can be obtained in about 5.6 seconds, even with the now standard automatic (which has eight speeds, by they way).

The suspension is an independent double wishbone up front with multilink in the rear. The 18-inch wheels are wonderful and the Bridgestone Turanza ER33 summer tires stick just about everything.

If you are wondering, this car’s performance numbers are in the same league with the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Caddy’s ATS.

Lexus tuned this car more for comfort because of complaints about last year’s jarring ride. This is very livable, but you can do some grin-inducing driving. The steering is precise and the suspension is good enough to call this thing a sports car. It can be a little soft, but just dial up the S+ setting and you will really have some fun.

Lexus also address the interior which is now some of a revelation. This now is worthy of a luxury brand. Every surface from the leather and metal dash to the comfy leather seats has been touched, pampered and attended. There is also more room in the rear seat.

You can immerse yourself in sound with the Mark Levinson surround system that has Satellite radio, CD, HD radio, 15 speakers and 835 watts. It’s still one of the best sounding original manufacturers equipment units available.

I do like this car a great deal. Quibbles? Slip the V8 in this body style and see what happens. Is the convertible ready yet? I’m waiting.

Lexus never lost it’s mojo. It put it aside for a bit to retune. I’s going to continue. There’s a stunning RC coupe on the way as well as other SUVs. Doesn’t look like the company plans to take a breath anytime soon.



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Fiesta ST is fiery, fuel efficient hatchback

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

Ford’s Fiesta  has enjoyed much success during its second run as a vehicle for the company. Small cars with good gas mileage and a willing spirit for the driver are all the rage.

That’s why Ford keeps tinkering with the Fiesta. How do you make a good thing great? How about adding a 197 horsepower engine, hot body work and a race inspired suspension and calling it an ST? Yep, that does the trick.

Yes, the zippy little Fiesta has gotten more firepower. The 1.6 liter engine is turbocharged up to 197 horses with gobs of torque. It only comes with a six-speed manual but alldaytech doesn’t mind that at all. The engine revs sweetly and lets you pull off violently if you so desire. This thing feels good underfoot.

Power without control isn’t worth much so Ford gave this little hotrod better handling capabilities. The suspension begs you to toss it around big, sweeping curves and any thing that isn’t straight. It likes to be flung about, even tossed if you want. It will play.

You may not find the ride comfortable. It’s not a bad tradeoff but only the serious need apply to the party. It’s fine on good roads but doesn’t seem to be able to miss potholes and uneven pavement – unless you make a game out of it, then it’s kinda fun.

Let’s talk more about that fun. I’m glad Ford has decided to stay in the hot hatch game. The Fiesta ST just feels good to drive. Not a true sports car, but an exciting sporty car. It’s fast and has quick reflexes. It stops short and turns sharp. It does about everything you want or need. Man, do those summer tires stick.

It is a five door hatch but remember this is a small car – really small. The back seat is for kids (if not infants) and headroom may not be friendly to those over six feet.

The ST variant is how Ford has updated the Fiesta, along with a nipped and tucked body. The ST gets more racy duds inside and out. The integrated fog lamps are different as is the spoiler. Inside you can get a Recaro package with heated seats – that’s “real” Recaro seats. They certainly grip you well and, at least to me, are very comfortable.

All of this goodness comes at a fair price. The Fiesta ST with the Recaro seats and navigation is around $24,000. That includes many standard amenities as well. You can always buy a regular Fiesta for thousands less but you will be missing out on one sweet hot hatch. No, it’s not for everyone but for anyone looking for an affordable sporty car, look to your Ford dealer.

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