Subaru has more than earned its reputation among Canadians for building practical, all-weather vehicles thanks to the popularity of the Outback and Forester sport utilities and the compact Impreza sedan and hatchback.
But this Japanese brand knows how to let loose, too, as demonstrated by its most potent model, the WRX.
For 2019, this sport sedan's uplevel STI variant gets a boost of 5 hp, for a new total of 310 (and a carried over torque rating of 290 lb-ft), thanks to new air intake and exhaust systems for its 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Subaru says that motor also boasts retuned computer controls and stronger pistons to improve performance, while a new third gear ratio promises quicker acceleration.
Meanwhile, all WRX models get a revised infotainment system that supports the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration platforms.
That leaves the rest of this car's fundamentals unchanged from last year. The base WRX uses a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder good for 268 hp and 258 lb-ft that comes with a choice of six-speed manual and continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmissions. STI models are available only with the six-speed.
The WRX gets a multi-mode vehicle dynamics system, and CVT-equipped cars add the Si-Drive system for fine tuning of the car's performance. The STI package gets a driver-controlled centre differential (DCCD), which lets the driver adjust how the AWD system distributes the engine's power to the wheels.
If you can do without AWD and a rear seat, the Nissan 370Z puts 332 hp to its rear wheels for the same money as the base WRX, and if you're willing to throw price comparisons right out the window, the Porsche 718 Cayman has a 300-hp motor and an MSRP $15,000 richer than the top-end STI.
Subaru has left the WRX and STI trim offerings as-is. WRX comes in base, Sport, Sport-tech and Sport-tech RS. The Sport-tech is the only variant that can be optioned with the brand's EyeSight active safety suite, and it can be added only when the CVT is selected. EyeSight is not offered on the STI.
Standard features include 17-inch wheels (18s for the STI), windshield wiper de-icer, automatic climate control, backup camera, heated front seats, Bluetooth and cruise control. Sport trim adds blind spot and rear cross traffic detection, 10-way power driver's seat, automatic LED headlights and fog lights. Sport-tech models get navigation, passive keyless entry and leather seating. In the STI, Sport trim also adds a sunroof.
Subaru's fuel consumption estimates are 11.3/8.5 L/100 km (city/highway) for the WRX with the six-speed and 12.6/9.6 with the CVT. The STI is the thirsty one, rated at 14.1/10.5 L/100 km.