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2009 Subaru WRX 265 Road Test
It's almost the same as the WRX STI, but less expensive
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
There's probably not too many drivers who wouldn't want a Subaru WRX parked in their driveway, especially the wonderful STI model. However, how many of us truly need what is pretty much a full-blown, rally-ready, competition hot rod?
That's a good question, and to make matters even more interesting, this week I'm testing out the Subaru WRX 265, a vehicle which, to all intents and purposes, is a priced-down/powered-down version of the STI.
Ok, so you might not get all the bells and whistles that you do with the STI, and you'll have to make do with a few less ponies in the 265 (the STI boasts 305hp), but believe me, the WRX 265 supplies plenty of fun. The 265 designation, of course, is for 265 hp (the standard WRX is 224 hp). Both four-door and five-door (hatchback) versions of the model are available.
From the outside there's really not much to tell the two apart in the hatchback versions (there's no four-door STI in Canada), especially as my tester was painted in the now-famous Subaru rally blue. Even the interiors appear similar, with the exception of a few STI-only buttons. You also get some sharp-looking, and very comfortable, rally-style front bucket seats to complete the look.
Yes, you'd need to be a pretty avid Subaru fan to be able to spot the difference between the two versions of the WRX. Possibly the fact that the 265 has one less digit on top of its gearshift might be a giveaway. It carries a five-speed gearbox as opposed to the six-speed in the STI, but does that really make that much difference? On the road, I found it was actually better, as there's less work to be done. I also found that the gear ratios worked so well with the power output of the 265 that a six-speed could be deemed more trouble than it's worth.
Yes, the 40 hp loss might make a difference at the track, but on the road, where the gadgets pointing at you from the sidelines aren't TV cameras, but rather police radar guns, the loss is a lot less noticeable. Performance is still ample enough to plant you firmly back in your seat and impress the living daylights out of any passengers, and the small fuel savings over the STI shouldn't hurt either.
Speaking of money, if you go for the Subaru WRX 265 instead of the full-blown STI, you'll drive off the dealer's lot with enough money left in your wallet to book yourself in for a few track lessons. In fact, the WRX 265 at $34,895 (Cdn) will save you several thousand dollars over the STI versions: Base STI at $39,995 or STI Sport-Tech at $49,995.
The difference is not exactly small change, although I'm not about to say that the STI is in any way overpriced. The STI is simply an awesome machine and a true track demon. Being able to adjust the throttle sensitivity and the power bias from front to rear might make a huge difference to a track vehicle but, as I've stated previously, very few owners will ever venture onto a track.
In my opinion, for most consumers looking towards the WRX lineup as a daily driver, the 265 offers the perfect balance of affordability and excitement. It is comfortable for everyday use, yet when required, it can provide a barrel full of fun.
As there was snow on the ground during my test week, and Subaru had been wise enough to fit winter rubber to my tester, I decided to take to the backcountry roads and put the 265 through its paces. The vehicle felt quite light in its handling, yet you can literally -- or should that be 'lite rally' -- throw the car around the snow-covered dirt roads with complete and utter confidence.
The low centre of gravity that the famous Subaru boxer engine supplies seriously aids the balance of the vehicle, and it doesn't take long to realize why so many competition teams choose the WRX models.
Obviously, the correct tires for the road conditions play a large part in any vehicle's winter handling, but I couldn't help feeling that the car was truly playing a major role in this funfest.
Now some have berated Subaru for its new-for-2009 hatchback design, and even I have to say that when parked alongside its archrival, the Mitsubishi EVO, it does appear a tad on the tame side. However, for everyday use I think that the hatchback idea works best. It is more practical as it permits larger items to be carried in the rear, and somehow the feeling of snugness that you get from the Subie adds to your driving confidence. It also draws a little less attention than the EVO, which is possibly a good thing on the highways.
Subaru products are well-known for quality and the 2009 WRX 265 certainly lives up to the image. The fit and finish on the exterior panels are excellent, and the well-designed interior is extremely comfortable for a vehicle in this class.
So okay, the WRX 265 carries a few less goodies than the STI, and costs a few thousand less, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you are selling yourself short by purchasing one. Believe me, it's still a vehicle to be reckoned with.
I guess that this brings us down to the big question ... which one would I go for?
Well, all I can say is this. If money permits, go for the STI because it's an 'epic' vehicle in every sense of the word. However, if that's beyond your reach, then you should seriously consider the 265, because if the STI is a track demon, then the WRX 265 is a road warrior!
'Crash' Corrigan is a regular contributor to CarTest! More of his reviews can be found at www.carkeys.ca.
Manufacturer's website: www.subaru.ca