2024 Subaru WRX TR First Drive Review: Sharper, But No STI

For reasons that betray common sense, you still can’t buy a new Subaru WRX STI today, even in this golden age of practical performance. I don’t get it either, but in its absence, we have this: the 2024 Subaru WRX TR. Sure, it’s a consolation prize, but as far as those go, there have certainly been worse.

Once upon a time, the TR-spec WRX was the cheapest way to go fast, devoid of the luxuries that Subaru figured buyers would yank out and replace with something better anyway. Back then, those two letters stood for “Tuner Ready.” Today, Subaru tells us they mean “Track Ready,” which perhaps explains why this is the second-most expensive WRX in the range at $42,775, slotting in right under the CVT-only WRX GT with all the bells and whistles.

Because Subaru’s own data suggests just about four in five WRX buyers opt for three pedals, the TR comes manual-only. Of course, a stick isn’t all you get. Larger Brembo brakes—six-piston in the front, two-piston in the back—come exclusive to the TR, behind massive 19-inch wheels wrapped in grippier Bridgestone Potenza S007 summer tires, an upgrade from the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600s on the standard sport sedan. The TR also gains the new larger brake master cylinder inside all 2024 WRXs, as well as 5%-stiffer springs with adjusted damper rates, plus retuned electric power steering for “improved road feel.”

2024 Subaru WRX TR Specs
Base Price$42,775
Powertrain2.4-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder | 6-speed manual | all-wheel drive
Horsepower271 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque258 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,200 rpm
Seating Capacity5
Curb Weight3,430 pounds
Cargo Volume12.5 cubic feet
Ground Clearance5.4 inches
Quick TakeThe WRX to buy if money was no object. But it is, and without an STI to steal the show, a mid-trim manual is easily better value.
Score7/10

To sample this smattering of newness, Subaru brought us to Sicily of all places, to trace the route of the Targa Florio. This 91-mile course played host to one of the world’s most daunting road rallies from its inception in 1906 to 1977, contested in everything from GT cars to full-on Le Mans prototypes. The event went through various changes in between those years, but after a seven-year absence in the late ’70s, the Targa returned as a rally with actual rally cars in 1984. Impreza drivers stood on the top step of the podium twice since then, in 1995 and 1999, so you’d imagine the WRX TR would be right at home on these roads.

You’d imagine correctly. First of all, the roads of the Targa Florio are still technically paved today, in the sense that if you walked on it alongside the goats and cows that line the route, your shoes wouldn’t get terribly dusty. But as far as driving’s concerned, the surface is old and crumbling in places. Grip is subpar; undulations and ruts, plentiful. Again, conditions the WRX was built for.

A WRX TR passes the Targa Florio’s historic pits, which still stand today.

It manages them well. The new dampers are designed to better sustain imperfections in the road, in lieu of the GT’s adaptive system. The WRX’s tried-and-true viscous-coupling AWD system (automatic models use an electronic multi-plate clutch) maintains traction despite the slick tarmac, helped of course by the stickier Bridgestones. That’s not to say I didn’t leave some tighter corners with some rear-end skittering, but the TR leaves you feeling confident in such situations.

I must note: While I’ve sampled practically all of the WRX’s contemporary cross-shopped competition, I’d never driven any WRX until I landed in Sicily. In other words, if you’re wondering how the sensations of driving the TR compare to the most basic shift-it-yourself version of this car for about $9,000 less, I’m unfortunately not your guy.

On its own merits though? There’s plenty to like and little to gripe about. If you want something fun but uncompromisingly practical, I reckon any flavor of WRX would be a respectable choice. It has loads of interior space, ample legroom for second-row passengers, and fantastic visibility. In fact, the sight lines from the driver’s seat, around those slim A-pillars, might just be best-in-class. It certainly makes getting behind the wheel of my GR Corolla feel like peering through a mail slot.

The turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four is smooth and linear—even if I can’t recall the burble-free sound it makes for the life of me, as I write this—and the “Ultrasuede” Recaro seats, previously only available on the auto GT trim, are competent save for the placement of their bolsters, which collided with my right elbow on every row.

Really, my complaints about the TR are threefold. First, although I’ve grown to tolerate this generation’s chiseled, pissed-off demeanor and over-the-top cladding, the thing still doesn’t look good, inside or out. The TR’s larger wheels do absolutely nothing to help that, even if their design is cool. They should’ve been gold.

But more pressingly, I expected more from the steering and shifter. Again, Subaru says it’s tuned the electric power steering to account for the TR’s chassis tweaks. I can’t speak to how dramatically it’s changed this car, but the result is much too light for my taste. Turn-in feels sharp but paradoxically vague. It’s a combination that can make it a little difficult to assess grip at times, particularly on a surface as slick as the Targa Florio’s.

Still, steering feel is among those ultimate matters of preference, and I could see an owner getting used to the WRX’s. Unfortunately, I could never say the same for the six-speed. The TR’s transmission is unchanged from the regular car’s, and it simply feels inadequate. The throws are rubbery; the lever itself buzzy, jittery, and plasticky. When you notch it into gear, there’s no pleasing tactile feedback confirming your selection. Apologists might call it “lightweight,” and I suppose it is, in the same way disposable cutlery isn’t as reassuring as silverware.

But even a tinge of disappointment with every shift can’t kill the WRX’s fun. It’s sharp enough, but also compliant enough. With 271 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque on tap carrying 3,430 pounds, the all-terrain sport sedan doesn’t feel monstrous but also has plenty of motivation to dance, certainly on the twisty ribbons of gray draped over Sicily. It’d be a perfect daily, one that doesn’t cosplay practically but can actually house people and things, even at the same time. On that note, new WRX buyers will appreciate that Subaru’s finally gotten around to pairing the manual transmission with its full suite of EyeSight active safety tech for the 2024 model year, enabling goodies like adaptive cruise control with lane centering, lane keep assist, and pre-collision braking, among other conveniences.

What the current WRX isn’t is a snarling, raucous special stage carver, and the TR really doesn’t change that. I mean, how could it? If you’re counting on track duty for your “track-ready” WRX, the beefier brakes and stickier rubber will make their presence known instantly. Otherwise, I can’t imagine missing them. Likewise, seats you won’t fall out of pair really nicely with Targa Florio roads, as does the poised-yet-pliable damping. However, you can’t get into a TR for less than $42,775 including destination, and when you compare its bill of goods against those of its rivals in the low-to-mid $40K bracket—GR Corolla, Civic Type R, Golf R—the newest WRX can’t match their power, rawness, nor drama. Suddenly, a six-speed WRX Premium for $35,755 begins to feel like a really compelling value. Because it is.

Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: adam.ismail@thedrive.com

Share
The Drive Logo

Car Buying Service