It’s very orangey, isn’t it? It could be argued that the lurid tangerine hue of Subaru’s latest limited-edition WRX, the Crouching Tiger, is designed to distract us from the fact that this one-of-10 special model is not quite as limited as it seems.
Underneath all that orange, the Crouching Tiger is essentially a repeat of last year’s WRX Ace Of Spades edition: an engine tweak to 211kW (up from 195kW), STI strut brace under the bonnet to stiffen up the car for hard cornering and STI springs for the front suspension.
The Ace of Spades was offered in a limited-edition run of 10 as well. Given that it’s all a last hurrah for the WRX - which, remember, is still in production in the previous form, a whole generation behind the mainstream Impreza – there might well be another 10 of something else on the way. And perhaps another.
That’s all fine with us. The WRX is feeling a bit raw these days, but it’s still a whole of fun, a whole lot of bang for your buck at $54,990 ($5000 more than the standard car) and let’s face it: a future collectible, given that it’s a hangover from a time when Subaru was all about the World Rally Championship (the factory withdrew in 2008).
Behind the times, then? Perhaps a little. The throbbing boxer-turbo engine is matched to a five-speed manual gearbox, which came as a genuine surprise to me. Five gears? I kept reaching for the sixth, but it wasn’t there.
But the Crouching Tiger does a lot with what it has. It’s not crazy-fast like a full-house STI, but it has enough performance and turbo-boost violence to get your attention and there’s enough compliance in the chassis to keep you busy in corners, as the weight transfers front-to-rear in synch with the throttle. If you don’t drive smoothly, it could be your undoing.
It’s engaging to say the least, but the steering and chassis are still superbly communicative. You could definitely get into a lot of trouble in a Crouching Tiger, but ultimately it’ll be your fault. You can’t say the car didn’t warn you.
Perhaps more pleasing is that you get more than a hint of that menace at urban speeds. The engine note, gearchange and chassis still get your attention even when you’re cruising around town. Just as well, because look past the orange detailing in the cabin and you do need something to distract you. The WRX is, ahem, functional in its own way but a good reminder why Subaru put so much effort into sprucing up the interior architecture of the latest Impreza.
So this WRX – any WRX actually – is definitely old-school, but definitely enjoyable. After all, it’s been a legend for nearly two decades and those times are coming to a close. Get a fix while you can.
Perhaps it won’t suit everybody’s visual aesthetic, but the Crouching Tiger has to be the best WRX so far. Until the next (limited-edition) one.