2015 Subaru WRX STI

2015 Subaru WRX STI

Episode 3336 , Episode 3349
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

The all-new Subaru WRX just rode home with our 2014 Drivers’ Choice Award for best sport sedan. It simply delivered lots of serious thrills for the money. But we knew that the WRX was just a tease until the next WRX STI arrived. Well, it’s here! So, with our hopes flying sky-high, let’s strap in, and see if the next hot Subaru can make our smiles even wider.

Going down the spec sheet, the 2015 Subaru WRX STI checks all the right boxes for purists: rally grade suspension…a six speed manual transmission…over 300 horsepower…check, check, AND check. Yet for a vehicle of the STI’s heritage, predicated on back-to-basics, old school fun, this latest model does benefit from some new-age technologies, despite changing little else from previous generations…

Returning is the BOXER horizontally opposed turbo flat 4; 2.5 liters worth, and rated at 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque. Indeed it is the same engine, and the same output, that the STI faithful already know. And it’s mated to the very same six speed manual transmission, as well. Slight improvements for 20-15 reduce vibrations, and make shifts smoother between low gears.

Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive is naturally standard, as is the Driver Control Center Differential, which allows for mechanical and electronic control of the center diff through various settings. All this, combined with the helical limited–slip front diff, and the TORSEN limited-slip rear diff, basically translates to: GRIP. And lots of it.

New this year is Active Torque Vectoring, which works with the stability and traction control systems to apply a bit of braking while cornering. So what better place to experience all this, than at our test track?

Off the line power was easy to find, with a more manageable clutch than in our 2011 test. We just hooked up and flew to 60 in 4.7 seconds. Seven tenths quicker than the WRX. Then our STI punched through the full ¼ mile in 13.2 seconds at 104 miles per hour.

Where Subaru says they improved the STI the most is in handling. And indeed, through the cones it really comes alive. The added rigidly and a thoroughly retuned suspension, while a little more solid than before during commutes, really takes to tight switchbacks. The quickened steering ratio, now 13.0:1, adds precision and great feedback.

Getting to high speeds is easy in the STI, and luckily, so is slowing it down; taking a scant 108 feet from 60.        

As with the standard WRX, the STI distances itself from the Impreza sedan on which it is still technically based. Wheelbase is also stretched one inch over the last STI, to 104.3 inches, and the A pillars and windshield are significantly more raked, offering both a more swept look and better visibility.

But what’s an STI without the wing?! It’s here, in full force, to augment the WRX’s hood scoop up front, and quad exhaust in the back. Our Limited tester’s 18 inch BBS forged alloy wheels came wrapped in 245/40 summer performance tires. But our inner “Mr. T” wishes we could have the Launch Edition’s gold wheels, and its WR Blue Pearl paint, and we pity the fool who doesn’t grab one of the only 1,000 in production. But we digress…

Hop inside, and you’ll find things are also very similar to the standard WRX including racer red gauge accents, a 4.3 inch dash top screen, faux carbon fiber trim, and flat-bottom steering wheel that feels great. One plus, the improved “STI” embroidered seats do offer better grip, and we loved the STI-exclusive short throw shifter.

Government Fuel Economy ratings, are 17 City, 23 Highway, and 19 Combined. Even driving like we think owners will, our test loop of 23.4 on premium was better than expected.

Even better news is that STI base pricing starts at a reasonable $35,290. Limited trim goes for $39,290, with our test car adding a $1,500 NAV and Keyless Access option. It’s a little more “buck” over the WRX, but you do get a lot more “bang” for it.

Now it may seem to casual observers that the STI got left behind, as Subaru has been doling out the major overhauls everywhere else in their lineup. But while we always love something that’s “all-new”, there’s a certain charm to holding on to some of the “tried-and-true”. The STI has always been a showcase of exceptional performance with an accessible price; which is exactly why we love the 2015 Subaru WRX STI even more.

Specifications

  • Engine: 2.5 liters
  • Horsepower: 305
  • Torque: 290 lb-ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 4.7 seconds
  • 1/4 mile: 13.2 seconds @ 104 mph
  • EPA: 17 mpg city/ 23 mpg highway
2023 Mazda3

2023 Mazda3

Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better

Episode 4304
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.

The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.

Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.

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A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.

That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.

The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.

At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.

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While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.

Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.

Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!

Specifications

As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
  • Horsepower: 227 | 250
  • 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
  • MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
  • EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined
2023 Genesis Electrified GV70

2023 Genesis Electrified GV70

Genesis Waves Their Magic EV Wand Yet Again

Episode 4303
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

The Genesis Electrified GV70 is not only the 3rd all-electric vehicle offering from Hyundai’s luxury division, but it’s also the first Genesis model to be built here in the US. You know, the GV70 was already a big hit with both critics and buyers, so let’s find out if a big pack of batteries and American workers can take it to the next level.

For the 2023 model year, the Genesis GV70 utility has gone electric. And like the Electrified G80 sedan before it, Genesis has integrated an all-electric drivetrain into its existing platform seamlessly and effectively.

Now, it may look almost exactly like the sleek and sophisticated internal combustion powered GV70 SUV that arrived just last year. But packed underneath it all, is the GV60’s next-gen propulsion system that uses a pair of electric motors delivering standard all-wheel drive and 429-horsepower. Both the front and rear-mounted electric motors are 160-kW and produce a combined 516 lb-ft. of torque, relying on energy from a 77.4-kWh battery. Full 350-kW charging capability will get the battery to 80% in just 18-minutes. The Electrified GV70 is rated to travel 236-miles between those charging sessions.

But based on our driving loop, we’d say more is easily possible as we were on pace for over 250-miles; making it an overachiever, much like the G80.

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The approach to the interior is not so much a heavy-handed blast of over-the-top luxury, rather just a soothing blend of high-quality metal and leather materials with soft tones, subtle ambient light, and an airy feel that ultimately delivers a very comforting experience.

There’s an available 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, along with a 14.5-inch touchscreen that houses standard navigation, and it also has a rotary style control on the console if you prefer that, just don’t confuse it with the rotary gear selector like we did. Lexicon audio, quilted leather, and a suede headliner come with the Prestige package that also includes active noise control and white brake calipers.

Regen braking paddles mounted on the back of the steering wheel allow for adjusting amounts of regen up to full 1-pedal driving; or you can let Smart Regen take control, gathering data from past driving history, navigation, and road conditions to determine the appropriate amount of braking. Drive modes include Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport +, and Custom, and Genesis has added some additional sound deadening for this EV.

Based on the incredibly quiet, smooth, and steady highway ride we experienced, we weren’t sure what to expect when we pulled this GV70 up to the line at our Mason Dixon Dragway test track.

Well, not much calmness or serenity here, as this thing absolutely blasted off the line like a rocket, hitting 60 in just 3.9-seconds. That’s almost a full 2-seconds quicker than last year’s 2.5-liter turbo-equipped GV70. It’s hard to beat performance-tuned EVs when it comes to torque delivery, and like the GV60, there’s a boost button on the steering wheel that delivers an additional 54-horsepower for a thrilling 10-seconds, helping us clear the ¼ in 12.4-seconds at 112 miles-per-hour.

The low center of gravity, an electronically controlled suspension, and a Disconnector Actuator System that allows for 2-wheel or 4-wheel-drive operation depending on circumstances, helped keep the Electrified GV70 well-planted through our handling course, and provided a livelier feel than the ICE version.

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Substantial side bolstering of the front seats kept us settled in place very nicely. Great steering feel, very little body roll, and only minor amounts of understeer at its limits. Brakes were equally as sporting, with good feedback and stability, despite the noticeable nosedive that typically accompanies stopping 5,000-lbs. of utility vehicle in just 111-feet, 6-feet shorter than the standard GV70.

There are some subtle changes outside for this Electrified version of the GV70; it gets unique 20-inch wheels, and as in the G80, the signature crest grille gets an aerodynamic makeover, nicely integrating the charging port. Same 2-line lighting theme up front, and in back, where the rear bumper is reshaped now that there are no tailpipes. Cargo area is well finished with thoughtful use of space; at 28.7 cubic-ft. with a max of 56.5, capacity is down a tiny bit, but a small storage bin up front under the hood more than makes up for it.

At 37-kWh/100 miles, the Electrified GV70 rates a good efficiency score. Pricing starts at $66,975, about 20-grand over a base ICE GV70, and 3-years of free charging at Electrify America charging stations is included.

Genesis is slowly but surely electrifying their lineup, and the 2023 Electrified GV70 is not just another step in the process, but further proof that carmakers can progress to EVs without upsetting the entire apple cart of their brand. Forward thinking but staying classy, just what we’ve come to expect from Genesis.

Specifications

  • Motor Setup: Dual 160-kW Motors
  • Horsepower: 429
  • 0-60 mph: 3.9 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 111 feet (avg)
  • MW Range: ~254 miles
  • Battery Size: 77.4-kWh
  • Torque: 516 lb-ft.
  • 1/4 Mile: 12.4-seconds at 112 mph
  • EPA Range: 234 miles
  • Efficiency: 37 kWh/ 100 miles