Compared to hot hatches, sports saloons or even supercars, there’s a hands-on, full-of-feel, macho, workhorse physicality to the WRX. Still, what its weighty steering means is that it’s a pretty stable motorway car where, eventually, sitting in sixth gear, turning over at what are unnaturally high revs these days, it’ll clog along at 25mpg. You can turn up the stereo but a conversation is always more of a shout than a whisper. But there’s cruise control, the seats are supportive without appearing aggressively bolstered and the driving position is bang-on, with brilliantly spaced pedals. For all of its outdated feel, ergonomically it works rather well.
Still, that’s not really what the WRX is about. It’s about going to places with dire conditions and finding grip and traction where no other performance car would and, fundamentally, going from one end of a road to the other quicker than everything else. That was, after all, the point of homologating a rally car in the first place.
I do wonder if Scotland, more than anywhere else on this island, is where people still have a bigger place in their hearts for quick cars like this, where there’s nobody around to cheese off, where the weather so frequently turns poor and where driving standards, it seems to me, are high. People don’t point and shout so much if they hear an engine revving.
And the WRX’s engine does rev, like it always did. It’s a 2.5-litre these days, revving with none of the sound-augmented refinement or faux overrun pop-bang of a modern superhatch. No, it just takes abreath of air when you ask it to, then runs through with strength to the 7000rpm redline, with a fulsome, bombastic and eventually urgent attack. There’s less audible off-beat flat-four wobble than there originally was, now the exhaust lengths are more even, but it’s still, in its own way, really quite charming.
It’s old-fashioned, then, but matched to gear ratios that have been honed over the years to meet the needs of keen drivers rather than emissions regulators (this remains a 252g/km car), and there is real finesse, energy and reward to driving a WRX at anything between one- tenth and ten-tenths. With a hard but composed and controlled ride, it has that sort of intoxicating, analogue, mechanical interaction that, when all’s said and done, is part of the appeal of a sports car in the first place. Sure, it’s physical but, well, what else would you be doing?
There are not many other cars I’d rather drive in conditions like this; when the snow comes, I know exactly what all four wheels are up to, where grip and traction are and how they can be relied upon totally. Yup, I can drive cars like this all day in snow and ice without fear or hesitation to our spectacular progress.