Model Evolution: Subaru Impreza WRX

By John Beltz Snyder

May 18, 2011


The first generation (1992-2000) of WRX was not available in the US, though we did get the naturally aspirated performance version, the Impreza 2.5 RS, in 1998, which was similar in appearance. In Japan, the first WRX had 236 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque from its 2.0-liter turbo engine.


The 2001 model year Subaru Impreza WRX began the second generation in Japan, and it became available in the US for the 2002 model year. It is affectionately known to enthusiasts as the “bug-eye” (with apologies to Austin-Healey) thanks to its headlights. Available as a sedan or wagon, its 2.0-liter turbo four made 227 horsepower and 217 pound-feet of torque.


2004 saw a slight refresh of the WRX, the most notable difference being the new head- and taillights and larger hood scoop. This year, the tachometer moved to prominent view in the center of the instrument panel. Some ’02-’03 owners were jealous, while ’04 owners mourned missing out on the bug eyes. Let’s call it even, shall we?


For 2006, the WRX began using a 2.5-liter turbo four, good for 230 horsepower and 235 pound feet of torque. It received upgrades to the chassis, steering rack, and brakes. The 2006 model also got a whole new front end, with a three-section grill.


The WRX was redesigned for the 2008 model year, beginning the car’s third generation. It still used the 2.5-liter boxer four, now making 224 horsepower and 226 pound-feet of torque. It was available as a sedan or hatchback.


In 2009 Subaru updated the WRX with a power boost (265 horsepower/244 pound-feet), stiffer suspension, and some aerodynamic touches. It ditched the automatic transmission, leaving only the five-speed manual available.


The 2011 WRX borrows the aggressive widebody look from big brother STI, making it 1.5 inches wider. 17-inch wheels are now standard. And, despite its evolution, the WRX still retains a lot of the driving character that made American drivers fall in love with it in the first place.

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The Subaru WRX is well known for its combination of a powerful four-cylinder turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. A favorite among tuners, it has the basics to make it a fun street car, autocross athlete, or rally monster. It’s seen a few changes over the years, though, and here, we point out some of the notable points along the model’s timeline, from its birth in Japan, up to the current WRX available in the US.