2016 Subaru WRX Long-term Test – Passing the 50,000 Mile Mark

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The WRX has racked up some miles since our last update over a year ago. While the car is still as enjoyable as ever, that doesn’t mean a few new annoyances haven’t popped up. The odometer reads just over 55,000 miles as I type this, so we’re well past the mileage limits for the standard warranty, along with just a few thousand miles remaining for the powertrain warranty.

I’ve only made a few changes to the car, though there’ll be more coming as I try to sort out minor annoyances and feed my habit of making modifications. Overall, the car has proven very reliable, but a few issues crept up along the way that required a warranty repair.

We left off our last review talking about tires. At the time, I had just put on some Hankook I*Cept winter rubber, which soon came in handy (we had a bunch of winter storms and snow in the area over the past couple of winters). An incredible bargain at just under $300 after rebates and discounts, I was generally satisfied with how they handled in all situations. Like with most winter tires, noise is a factor, but it was a small trade-off for the increased safety.

Once we were back into the warmer months, I decided to install a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S after hearing many of my friends rave about them. Their retail price is only about $25 more per tire than the OEM Dunlops in my 235/45-17 size, but their performance is a world apart. I ended up paying a little over $600 plus installation for a set after some rebates and negotiating at the tire store. The PS4S tire is the successor to the Michelin Pilot Super Sport, so most reviews will likely talk about the incremental improvement in dry performance on the track or on an autocross course. Where they impress me most is actually in the wet.

Most summer performance tires that I’ve had in the past were excellent in the dry with some falling off as they get hotter, but the PS4S is a great all around tire. The OEM Dunlops were great for daily driving and even lapping around a track, but when it came to colder temperatures or rain they began showing that they were outside their primary focus. Performance suffered. On the other hand, the Michelins are compliant in all conditions and even when we had a cold spell earlier this year, they didn’t get stiff and performed almost as flawlessly as they do in the warmer, dry periods.

Other than the tires, I have not made a whole lot of changes to the car — thought I do have some parts waiting on a shelf to be installed. Since the powertrain warranty is almost up, I’ve decided to start replacing things that annoy me, and one of these is the feel of the shifter. I fixed a bit of the slop by installing a limiter beside the shifter, but I still want it to be a little tighter, with shorter throws. I’ve picked up a short-shift kit from Kartboy that includes a new counter-weight along with a shifter-cable bearing which should hopefully enter service soon.

The other annoyance relates to a transmission that creaked and chirped when trying to shift into gear after the car has been sitting for a while. This doesn’t affect performance, but it gets on one’s nerves after a point. The creaking was resolved by a TSB where the dealer replaced the pedal assembly with one that had a reinforcement on the back; unfortunately, chirping remained. I recently found out there’s another TSB for an updated release bearing for the clutch, which states that the design of the original part may cause chirping when the car sits in a cold or damp environment overnight. The repair requires dropping the transmission to install the updated part.

Unfortunately, since I am out of the standard 36k mile warranty, this is no longer covered, but I am going to see if my dealer will do a goodwill repair since I complained about it in the past. If the dealer nixes the goodwill repair, I’ll likely just leave it be. It doesn’t affect performance, and I’ll just swap it out when the time comes for a new clutch.

The car itself is holding up very well and the seats have gotten progressively more comfortable as they’ve broken in to fit my shape. The interior looks much the same as it did when new and has retained its color and condition through many cleanings.

The only interior issue occurred when temperatures dropped into the single digits last winter. I noticed that when the ambient temperature was below freezing, the A-pillar trim would start to make a creaking noise until the car got warm. That was resolved fairly quickly by finding the impact point and placing a piece of self-adhesive felt on it.

Outside, most of the paint held up well (it’s been treated and polished by my brother a couple of times), but the hood proved a bit troublesome. I’ve mentioned in the past how the paint was torn up in a few spots and even dented from small rocks on the road, and that has not gotten better. While I’ve touched up and repaired the previous pockmarks, new ones show up on a monthly basis, meaning the hood will eventually require a repaint. For now, it looks fairly decent thanks to the occasional touch-up.

Performance remains superb and maintenance has been minimal. Other than an air filter swap, standard oil changes, and brake fluid swaps after a track day, there hasn’t really been anything else that I’ve done to the car. Out of curiosity, I’ve tried out a few different oils including the Subaru factory fill, Valvoline Advanced synthetic, and Motul 8100 synthetic. Oil changes at the dealer run about $70 and requires nothing more than dropping off the car. The others were performed by my brother. The Valvoline runs about $28 for a five-quart jug, plus around $8 for an OEM filter. The Motul runs around $40 for a five-quart jug, but they gave me a free oil change to try as they provide the oil for the race car I crew for.

I sent samples both of the dealer fill and the Motul to Blackstone labs and paid around $40 for an analysis at 38k and 45k miles. The dealer fill was run for around 6,000 miles, while I took the Motul to 7,200 miles, based on recommendations. What I found in the report was that they performed in a similar manner, but staying with the Motul would be worth my while in the future. Both oils showed similar wear for most metals, but iron showed up at level 20 percent higher, even though I ran the Motul for a longer period. Even at 7,200 miles, the oil showed good viscosity and could likely have been pushed longer. The only item which went in the wrong direction was aluminum, which showed an increase with the Motul. Still, it’s not enough to outweigh the other benefits.

The next step for the car is to install the short-shifter upgrade, put some new brake pads on it, and possibly consider a reflash from somebody like Cobb to tune it for a little more power. Other than that, I plan to get the most out of the warmer weather and head to the North Carolina mountains. Hopefully, there’ll be a couple of track days over the summer to wring maximum enjoyment out of the car.

[Images: Bojan Tatarevic/TTAC, Blackstone Labs]