The Brute (Subaru WRX) / by Andrew Fails

Some cars are precision instruments, and require a delicate touch to elicit every iota of performance. The Subaru WRX is not one of these. In a world of scalpels, it is a hatchet. Some cars have you pick a laser precise racing line, delicately feathering the throttle as you tweak your steering angle. Not the WRX. Turn the traction control all the way off, drop a gear, stomp the pedal to the floor, and point it in generally the right direction you'd like to go. Less a sniper rifle, more of a shotgun. It will bounce, and crash, and slide, and hop, but it will never stop. Keep your foot in it, keep your nerves up, and trust the machine.

The sheer unflappability of it causes a distinct change in your driving patterns. You become much less concerned with things like potholes, or snow, or pavement, or traffic laws. "It will be fine," becomes your mantra. You're on an unpaved construction road tight enough that the only thing louder the gravel rattling off the undercarriage is the weeds slapping against your side-view mirrors? Just let the car settle a bit after any major hit, and keep a light touch on the wheel. It's going to squirm on you. Driving a WRX fast in the wild is surprisingly similar to driving a snowmobile: it's never going entirely in a straight line.

Along that line, you will develop a unhealthy appreciation for poor driving conditions. A WRX gets better and better the worse everything else gets. You will pray for everything sports cars hate. You'll crave rain, and snow, and mud, and gravel. When the rest of the city is asleep during a blizzard, you'll be out in a parking lot, practicing your Scandinavian Flick. When everyone is creeping along in the sleet, you're the asshole trying to see if you can keep the car sideways all the way through the intersection. You'll drive down beaten paths in construction yards, just to see where they go.

The trade-off to this is that in perfect driving conditions, you can start to notice some of the shortcomings of the car. Think of it as an AK-47. Its success is directly tied to the sheer abuse it is willing to absorb. The side effect of that is a certain ham-fistedness. The steering is a bit vague on-center, the clutch is a bit heavy, the shifter is a bit rough, and the car bounces a bit. While in a second gear slide through a foot of snow, as you steer by looking out the side windows, none of that matters, and in all reality, is probably helping. But when you're commuting to work, that slop raises its head.

But at the end of the day, none of that matters.  To put it in real world terms, I drove OVER a dead deer at 70 miles per hour, and all that happened was a crack in the front lip of the bumper. Zero mechanical issues. Zero damage to the skid plate. It felt like a hit a small speedbump. It did that, drove across the city in a foot of standing snow, slaloming stranded cars on the interstate, carried a shocking level of speed down unpaved country roads, and much more. All with never missing a beat, while still being able to run with a 5.0 liter Mustang, or haul hundreds of pounds of equipment from the hardware store. You want delicacy? Go buy a Miata. You want speed, utility, durability, and a Nirvana level of "not caring"? Buy the WRX.