2015 Subaru WRXEnlarge Photo
Better car control. If you’ve driven a car with a manual transmission—and you know how to drive it—you understand that you’re simply more in touch with the engine and the road. You’re not as detached from the experience, and because of that you might be able to react faster when it matters. With the new-generation, direct-injection turbocharged engine in the 2015 WRX, you don’t need to worry as much about keeping the revs up (as you would in the STI, for instance), but the WRX feels more vivid with the manual—in part because you have the revs exactly where you need them for what happens next. Throws are relatively short and precise, and the clutch pedal is light, so you don't have to worry as much about fatigue in traffic.
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Stronger launches. If there’s one weak point of CVTs—even the impressive, high-torque Lineartronic unit in the WRX—it’s that launches aren’t all that consistent. Furthermore, the lowest ratio offered in this system is still a bit too tall for this vehicle to come to life the way it should from a standing start. Manual transmissions let you be in control, revving the engine into what zone is best for the conditions, and ‘dumping’ the clutch at the right rate. It takes more experience and driver skill, for sure, but in the manual WRX it makes you feel like a rock star when you do it right.
Engine braking. It's a common complaint with most automatic transmissions, and those of all types. We felt that, for a performance car, the WRX could use more engine braking, even in Sport Sharp (S#) mode and in one of the lowest gears available. The engine might be humming, but the CVT version feels as if it’s gliding along too easily—even if you pull the left paddle once or twice. In the manual, if you downshift, the car slows down in a more straightforward way.