2007 Subaru WRX TR Sedan Review

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2007 Subaru WRX TR Sedan

The Subaru WRX, the original rally car for the road, got the first major changes of its American-market career, for the 2006 model year. If the new-look nose restyling was the most apparent change, the most significant revisions were under the aluminum hood. The original 2.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled boxer four was replaced by the detuned version of the 2.5-liter STi engine used in the Forester XT. With 230 horsepower it would seem little different from the 2.0-liter engine's 227, but there was a significant increase in torque, from 217 to 235 lb-ft. To complement the improved power output, plus-one tires, 17- instead of 16-inch, wider and lower in profile, were fitted, and suspension, brake and airbag systems were upgraded.

And the WRX lineup grew, with the introduction of two additional trim levels, the TR, for the sedan body style only, and the Limited for both the sedan and wagon. Where the $2,500 Limited package adds leather seating with dual-stage heated front seats, a power moonroof, heated outside mirrors and windshield de-icing, and a rear spoiler, the TR subtracts $1,000 from the base price and has simpler interior and exterior trim.

The TR is an interesting spin on the decontented base model, but there is logic behind it. "TR" stands for "Tuner Ready," and Subaru has merely removed things that buyers looking to customize their cars would change anyway. And in the all important engine and suspension departments, the TR is identical to any other WRX sedan.

I've been driving a 2007 WRX TR for the past week, and can't say that I've missed the regular WRX's automatic climate control system, foglamps, or upgraded audio system with a 6-CD changer. The TR's manual heater and air conditioner worked just fine in the fickle fall weather, the single-CD player audio system is not a major hardship, and the simpler seats were still comfortable enough, and provided good lateral support when playing hard. The new powertrain is a significant improvement, and that's saying something, as the old two-liter wasn't bad at all. Best of all, the shift linkage for the standard five-speed manual gearbox has had major improvements. Bottom line: no-frills can be good for anyone. And for the WRX fanatic planning on changing the seats, audio system, lights, or wing, why pay for what you won't use?

APPEARANCE: Differences between the TR and the regular WRX are minor. The outside mirrors are black instead of body-colored, and there are no foglamps, although wiring is in place to mount some, once the covers are removed. And, no wing, which some people (myself included) feel is an improvement. YMMV.... Other than that, the TR is a current WRX, with the Subaru's new front styling, as first seen on the Tribeca SUV. The three-section grille, new last year, is either "inspired by the company's aircraft heritage" or by the new chief designer's Alfa Romeo heritage, take your pick. The headlights and taillights were also revised at that time. The functional medium-sized hood scoop and fender flares remain unchanged.

COMFORT: Interior differences between the TR and regular WRX are almost as minor as the exterior changes. For an allegedly decontented model, it's hardly bare-bones. With power windows, mirrors, and doorlocks with remote entry, cloth sport seats, and simplified audio and climate-control systems, it's merely the same as an Impreza 2.5i. The manually-adjustable front sport seats are more than adequate, the leather-rimmed steering wheel is tilt-adjustable, and the plain rubber pedals are placed well for heel-and-toe driving. Two or three people can fit in the rear seat, and the trunk holds plenty. There is a rear ski-passthrough, but the rear seat doesn't fold - which makes the car a little more rigid, for better cornering ability. The WRX TR is not a bad deal at all, especially if any interior customization is in the buyer's plans. And, for the enthusiast, fewer amenities mean less weight, and so better performance.

SAFETY: Subaru's "Ring Frame Reinforced" body structure helps every WRX to protect its occupants. Active front seat head restraints and improved airbags were introduced last year, as were upgraded brakes. With four-wheel ventilated discs, gripped by four-piston calipers in front and twin-piston calipers at the rear, with antilock and electronic brake force distribution, a WRX can stop as quickly as it goes. All-wheel drive further contributes to active safety.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Here, too, the WRX is unchanged from last year, and the TR is unchanged from the regular model. Use of aluminum for the lower control arms in the front MacPherson struts and for the rear forward lateral links reduces unsprung weight, improving suspension control and compliance. Wider 17-inch (instead of the previous 16) wheels and lower-profile tires increase the contact patch and sharpen steering turn-in, which is also helped by a faster steering ratio. The suspension is only moderately firm, with, in the best rally-car style, good compliance on poor surfaces. All-wheel drive with a static 50/50 torque distribution gets the considerable power to the ground, with fore-and-aft transfer automatically changing to send power to the wheels that have the most traction.

PERFORMANCE: A detuned version of the STi engine replaced the WRX's original 2.0-liter last year, and continues unchanged for 2007. Like the old engine, it's a turbocharged and intercooled 16-valve dual overhead cam boxer four, but a semi-closed deck design, forged high-carbon steel connecting rods, and other internal modifications make it stronger than the old engine. Variable valve timing widens the power band. Less boost, and other internal differences, mean less power than the STi, but it's not deficient. While the horsepower spec, 230 at 5600 rpm, is virtually identical to the old engine's 227, torque has increased from 217 lb-ft to 235, at a lower 3600 rpm. (Note that these are old ratings. Subaru is in the process of switching to the newest SAE power rating specifications, which will put horsepower at 224 and torque at 226.) Turbo lag is not an issue. Horsepower may be what people brag about, but it is torque that gets a vehicle moving, and the extra low- and mid-range torque is noticeable. It makes for easy, almost relaxed, driving, with little need for downshifting. When it does come time to shift, improved linkage makes shifting quicker and smoother.

CONCLUSIONS: With top-notch power and handling at a lower price, the Subaru WRX TR offers a good deal for the budget-minded performance enthusiast.

SPECIFICATIONS
2007 Subaru WRX TR Sedan

Base Price			$ 23,995
Price As Tested			$ 24,620
Engine Type			horizontally-opposed dual overhead cam,
				 16-valve
				4-cylinder with variable cam phasing
Engine Size			2.5 liters / 150 cu. in.
Horsepower			230 @ 5600 rpm 
Torque (lb-ft) 			235 @ 3600 rpm 
Transmission			5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		99.4 in. / 175.8 in.
Curb Weight			3,192 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.9
Fuel Capacity			15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				215/45 WR17 Bridgestone Potenza RE92
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc, 4-piston calipers /
				 vented disc, 2-piston calipers,
				 ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut/
				 independent multilink strut
Drivetrain			inline front engine,
				 permanent all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 27 / 22
0 to 60 mph				5.8  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
destination and delivery		$ 625

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