It would seem to be a contradiction in concept in putting a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) in the drive train of a car billed as a sports sedan, but Subaru has done it and done it very well with its WRX high-performance sedan.
More often than not, the CVT is found in models where the goal is more efficient performance (i.e., better gas mileage), not in models with the kind of responses the WRX delivers to drivers looking for a little fun.
Subaru introduced the new automatic transmission, along with a new six-speed manual, on the 2015 model WRX that made its world debut at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show in late November of that year.
The Japanese automaker calls it a Sport Lineartronic transmission and it’s paired with the Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) to give the driver a variety of driving options, depending on road conditions or perhaps just how he or she is feeling that day.
There are three settings:
-- Intelligent is for most daily use with a more gentle torque curve resulting in a more efficient, relaxed driving mode.
-- Sport mode results in quicker throttle response and, if the drive exerts more force to the pedal, “stepped” shifting rather than the seamlessness of the CVT. In sport mode, the driver also may shift the gear lever from D to M and operate the car as a six-speed manual using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
-- Sport Sharp (Sport #) jacks up the engine for even quicker throttle response, and the transmission acts as an eight-speed in both automatic and manual mode.
Of course, the WRX is not ALL about the transmission, though with all the choices it offers to suit your driving preferences, that’s a big part.
There’s also what’s under the hood that adds to the fun.
The WRX features the company’s turbocharged Boxer engine with four horizontally opposed cylinders pumping out 268 horsepower (at a top 5200 rpm) and up to 258 pound-feet of torque from as low as 2000 rpm to 5200 rpm, depending on the setting you have selected.
Premium fuel is recommended for top performance with fuel mileage rated at 21 mpg city, 28 highway with the manual and 19/25 with the Lineartronic.
Those aren’t particularly great numbers for a mid-sized sedan these days, but if fuel economy is what you want from your Subaru, you should probably be shopping the 2015 Legacy introduced earlier in February at the Chicago Auto Show.
Oh, yeah. The WRX has been labeled for years the Legacy WRX but, though they share the same platform, they are now separated as the WRX and the Legacy. For those seeking even more performance, there’s also the WRX STI model.
The 2015 WRX also features two different versions of the company’s well-known Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive systems, one for manual transmission models, one for those with the Sport Lineartronic tranny.
There are three trim levels -- base, Premium, and Limited -- but all get the functional aluminum hood scoop to get air to the intercooler along with front-fender side vents and quad tailpipes.
The base WRX carries a nice array of standard equipment that includes two 12volt power outlets in the dash and center console; a three-spoke, flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel; AM/FM stereo with HD radio and single-disc, in-dash CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio (with subscription), USB port, iPod control capability, auxiliary audio input jack, etc., etc.; performance-designed front seats; remote keyless entry; and rear-vision camera.
There’s more, but you get the idea that this is pretty well equipped.
The Premium trim adds an all-weather package (dual-mode heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, windshield wiper de-icer), fog lights, SI-Drive, and a trunk spoiler.
The Limited gets an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather-trimmed upholstery, and LED low-beam headlights with automatic height adjustment.
The Sport Lineartronic transmission and touch-screen navigation system are the top options available on Premium and Limited models.
Pricing starts at $27,090 for the base WRX (including destination and delivery). WRX Premium models are $29,290 with the manual transmission, $30,490 with the CVT.
The WRX Limited with the manual starts at $30,790 and with the CVT $31,990.
WRX STI models run from $35,290 to $39,290.
There is one bit of news that good be bad for some WRX fans but not-so-much for others. The company has discontinued the WRX hatchback to stay strictly with the sedan.
Check out the accompanying slide slow for a look at the WRX and more details.