Metro Weekly

Oddly Even

2006 Subaru WRX Wagon

Consider the platypus.

We always keep a place in our hearts for the odd, the different, the strangely cuddly. The platypus is nature’s ultimate conglomeration of good ideas — if this worked for the duck and that worked for the beaver, just imagine what they can do together.

Kind of like a Subaru.

No, really.

Look at the 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX wagon, the somewhat more utilitarian version of the Japanese automaker’s lauded series of pocket rockets with an unfortunate-when-pronounced acronym for a name. A big hood scoop that could easily have come from an old American muscle car sets atop a front end with a fish-pucker mouth grille. The rear liftback tones things down with a slightly suburban feel.

If the platypus metaphor isn’t quite working for you, then consider the WRX Wagon a reverse mullet: party in the front, business in the back.

However you may choose to describe it, the Subaru remains an odd duck in the automotive world. But if I’ve been surprised by anything over the past few years of reviewing new cars, it would be how much I’ve enjoyed Subaru’s line-up, from the goofy Baja to the refined Legacy to the utilitarian Forrester. The only misstep I’ve experienced is the entry into the SUV sweepstakes, the too-ugly-even-for-a-Subaru Tribeca.

Fortunately, the WRX wagon — like its sibling sedan — is one of Subaru’s most likeable models. Unlike the sedan, the wagon is at no risk of being stuck with a bench-sized spoiler on the rear deck, meaning this version will appeal to those who like a more staid look on the outside, while still hankering for a little something extra under the hood.

And, as expected, the WRX has more than a little extra up front. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine pushes things along quickly, particularly when paired with the five-speed manual transmission. There’s a touch of turbo lag to get used to, but that’s a fairly minor adjustment. And, with the standard Subaru all-wheel drive, the ride and handling are sharp and crisp, without taking too much away from a generally comfortable ride.

The WRX interior is pleasant — nothing spectacularly luxurious, but functional, easy-to-use and easy on the eyes. Everything feels well-appointed and tight. The tested model sported lots of black and breathable leather, which adds to the overall feel of polite aggression. The front seats have generous lateral support, guaranteed to be needed when you figure out just how much fun it is to go flying through the twisties in, say, Rock Creek Park.

2006 Subaru WRX Wagon
Base MSRP: $26,995 ($27,918 as tested)
MPG city/highway (est.): 20/26
Highlights: Excellent performance from the turbo engine, with tight all-wheel-drive handling.
Lowlights: The rear storage is less wagon and more hatchback.

Back in the business end, the wagon offers a decent amount of storage, especially with the seats down, but if you’re looking to haul large amounts on a regular basis, then you’ll need to check out one of Subaru’s larger wagon offerings. But if you’re just looking for some additional flexibility in a small, sporty package, then the WRX wagon is definitely in your ballpark.

Overall, the Impreza WRX wagon is an excellent choice if you’re in the market for a small and convenient car that packs a little extra punch. It’s a mish-mash of ideas and styles that works to great effect — and it’s better looking than the platypus, to boot.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.