Evolution of the Subaru WRX

With the all new 2022 Subaru WRX arriving in our dealership soon, we wanted to take some time to reflect on the storied journey of the Subaru WRX. This may be the last WRX with a combustion engine, so the 2022 edition is set to leave a lasting mark on the historic run the sedan has had. In this piece we will be solely focusing on the WRX version of the classic Subaru, rather than the STI. From rally racing to commuting to simply flexing, WRX owners each have their own reasons why they love their car.  

The WRX started as an Impreza model and eventually evolved into its own version of a Subaru sport sedan. The WRX name came from Subaru jumping into the rally scene, abbreviating World Rally eXperimental into WRX. The WRX has stayed mostly similar in specs throughout its life, with a flat-4 boxer engine, AWD, and 4 doors. The first generation of the WRX sedan was released in Japan in 1992, under a different model than you see today: The Impreza. Much like the editions of Subarus you see today, this Impreza was sold as a different version than the stock model itself. The WRX featured a more powerful, turbocharged engine that was designed specifically for rally racing, the iconic gold rims, a spoiler, and the Subaru blue paint.  

This first generation of WRXs never made it to the United States, making them extremely sought after. That iteration of the WRX was designed for rally and was produced instead of a larger size Legacy sedan. The first Subaru to win the WRC - driven by rally legend Colin McRae – it is iconic yellow trim paint and gold wheels have become the most recognizable WRX scheme since. In 1997 the WRX hatchback was introduced, and this was the precursor to the next rendition.

The second generation featured the “Bug Eye” design, and was the first to make it overseas to the United States in 2002. This generation featured a turbocharged engine and an all-new look for the fresh market. It also kicked the coupe version of the WRX, pushing the sedan to the forefront where it stays today. Introduced in late 2003,the Blobeye was a redesign version of the Bugeye WRX, with the new front fascia, front and rear bumper, and headlights. Although most car fans think that Blobeye was just a second facelift to keep the WRX

looking fresh and updated, the truth is that Subaru did, in fact, did some modification by slightly upgrading the engine and mechanics. The 2003 to 2006 Subaru WRX kept the 2.0-liter flat-four engine but delivered a few more horsepower than the predecessor. The power output was 225 hp and 300 Nm of torque; however, the overall performance was unchanged. The second release of this era was in 2006 and featured a more widely accepted headlight design, the “Hawkeye”, which continued into later versions.

This edition of the WRX was just as successful as the previous on rally circuits, winning two drivers’ championships in 2001 and 2003. The second generation was also highlighted by the Saab 9-2X Aero. This was a car made in Europe in 2005-2006 and was basically exactly the same as the Subaru WRX. It featured a Saab rebranding (Saaburu) and came with a 4 or 5 speed manual transmission. The 9-2X had an STI steering rack, retuned suspension, and a more upscale interiorThe only drawback with the 9-2X is that it was marginally heavier, reducing the speed from your traditional WRX. This car was only sold for two years but is a great choice for someone who is looking for a WRX on a budget.

The third generation ran from 2007-2013 and featured a longer body and more closely represents the most current models of the WRX. The engine was unchanged, but the suspension was redesigned and paired with cleverly designed noise, vibration, and safety mechanisms which kept the weight like earlier iterations. Other than halting the production of the sedan and only releasing in hatchback form, this generation was unchangedThis would be the last WRX generation made under the Impreza name and the last that was featured as a hatchback.  

The 4th generation lasted from 2014-2021. The WRX resolved its identity crisis and stepped out of the Impreza’s shadow for good. The shape of the car stayed the same, but changes to the front and back ends made the WRX its own. The engine was swapped for a new 2-liter boxer engine and allowed for better weight distribution. This sedan is much more comfortable than its predecessors and is decently affordable with loads of power. This is also the first edition of the WRX to feature a 6-speed transmission, as well as Subaru’s torque vectoring system. In 2016, rally driver Mark Higgins tackled the Isle of Man time travel record at the time, finishing the 37.7 mile long course in 17 minutes and 35 seconds. He used a tuned WRX with 600hp and averaged a whopping speed of 133mph! The 4th-gen WRX is enjoyed by car and Subaru enthusiasts, and packs a punch that few sedans on the market today do. 

The 5th generation of the WRX is yet to be revealed, but now it looks like Subaru is looking to electrify the rally mainstay. This car will be a carbon-neutral build from Subaru and will look to keep much of the same power and handling of the earlier generations.  

Overall, the WRX has changed the way we view rally racing and the way we view everyday cars. WRXs are not only stylish but perform incredibly on the road and on the trails. Collectors and Subaru lovers adore them, so it will be interesting to see what is in store next. One thing we can count on is another home run from Subaru.   

To check out our inventory of WRX’s, visit this link! 

For more information on WRX headlights, check out our blog!