Model tested: Subaru WRX Club Spec 9
Price as tested: $44,490
Road Tester: David Dowsey
Date tested: August 2006
Distance covered: 767km
On the back of previous popular limited edition models Subaru has spun out yet another low-volume WRX. On sale from August 21 a limited run of just 300 manual only Spec 9 models -- painted WR Blue or Obsidian Black -- are available.
Sitting between the standard WRX and super hot STi models the Spec 9 package includes chassis, driveline, exterior and interior upgrades from the 'base' model.
There's new 18-inch alloy wheels and 215/45 spec tyres and, most importantly, the STi suspension kit, which lowers the car 15mm.
Handling has been improved by the car's lower centre of gravity but it comes at the cost of the jiggly ride.
Styling-wise there's an STi lip spoiler up-front, which Subaru says improves aerodynamic efficiency, stability and cornering. But unless you drive the car really, really hard you probably wouldn't notice the difference. But hey it looks good. There's also a CS9 Club Spec grille badge which will give you boasting rights over other WRX devotees.
Inside the Spec 9 gets standard leather trim and an electric factory-fitted sunroof. The seats are comfortable and supportive but the interior ambience is lowered through uninspired cabin detailing.
The Spec 9's engine is the accomplished 2.5-litre turbocharged boxer that can devastate V8s with a single foot plant. On paper its 169kW (at a highish 5600rpm) and 320Nm of torque won't blow you away, but the complete package sure will.
Subaru claims a 0-100km/h blast in 5.9secs which is fairly quick for straight line speed -- but there are plenty of faster sprinters. Where the WRX really wins the day though is in its tenacious grip, great brakes and super handling. For the price it really is a performance car bargain.
The Spec 9 features a lovely short-shift gear lever with the STi's classy aluminium shift knob. It's a terrific unit. Crisp and sharp it's fun to use which is just as well because around town you need to keep changing up to get the best out of the peaky engine.
The WRX is a car that needs a niche. Putting around town it's pretty uninspiring and the turbo lag below about 3000rpm means you either have to work the gears and engine too much or live with the sluggish performance.
Alternatively the package doesn't suit highway cruising either. The hard ride, ever-present road noise, highish revs and cosseting seats meant our three hour cross country stints ended with sore hips and roaring ears.
Where this car shines however is on shortish blasts on your favourite road on a quiet Sunday morning -- or even better, on the track. That's great and all that but it really means the WRX is best suited as a supplementary 'fun' vehicle -- a luxury not everyone can afford.
Sure go ahead and use it as an everyday car -- but really we can think of plenty of better all rounders.
The Spec 9 is an entertaining driver's car but there are some niggles.
There's far too much road noise in the cabin and with only five cogs it really needs a sixth gear to settle the car down during highway cruising -- it's noisy in there.
And what's with the fiddly cruise control Subaru? Press a hard-to-reach dash-mounted button; fumble with the column stalk -- the operation of which may require you to take your eyes off the road momentarily. It's a chore and has to be the clumsiest system on the market. There's improvement to be made here.