Whining and complaining that the Subaru WRX no longer comes in hatchback form isn’t enough to convince Subaru to change its mind on the matter. The automaker says it used the money it saved on the hatch to make the WRX and STI more distinct from the Impreza, a strategy that seems to be working, as the WRX and STI are now outpacing combined sales of the old hatch and sedan.
Still I wonder whether the WRX has lost the practicality that makes it such a versatile sports car. To find out, I resolved to treat our Four Seasons 2015 Subaru WRX as if it were a hatchback and take it on a camping trip to northern Michigan.
The 2015 Subaru WRX might be sedan-only, but there’s still plenty of room for me to load up tons of gear and three passengers—Beth, David, and Michelle. The trunk’s wide opening and reasonably low bumper make it easy to pile in our gear, and we make the most of the 12 cu ft of space. We stuff sleeping bags and overnight bags for four people, a large tent, three folding chairs, and multiple bags of food in the trunk. Some extra bags and snacks overflow into the back row’s middle seat and in the footwells, but nobody seems worried about cramping up or getting uncomfortable on the 260-mile trip to Michigan’s scenic Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Toughing out the weather
Things start off smoothly, as I hand off DJ duties to Beth so I can focus on the road. I know better than to fuss with the WRX’s archaic infotainment touchscreen while driving, so I go through the motions of connecting her phone via Bluetooth before we set off. “Billie Jean” is soon coursing through the Subaru’s Harman/Kardon sound system, competing with road noise and the WRX’s turbo whistle as we merge onto the highway and head north. We’re running on a full tank, and the Subaru tends to get about 30 mpg on the highway with a featherweight right foot, so I’m optimistic we’ll make good time.
Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City is a can't-miss for beer snobs and thirsty people alike.
Then, much like the end of Michael Jackson’s career, things start to look grim. The minute we pull off the highway and hop on forested country roads, the sky blackens with storm clouds that threaten our hopeful plans. Nightfall is soon, and before I can even think about getting to our assuredly soaked campsite, I need to focus on staying shiny side up on the slick, unlit, and unfamiliar pavement.
“You’re sure you’re good with this?” asks David. “Don’t sweat it,” I say, trying to see through heavy gobs of rainfall and intermittent flashes of lightning. “The WRX is made for this stuff.” No doubt the 2015 Subaru WRX inspires a lot of confidence, and I know full well from manhandling one on a frozen lake that it’s mighty capable. But I also know that I’m not a rally driver, even if the WRX’s sharpness and tough attitude has a way of tricking you into thinking you are. Nevertheless, the Subaru’s all-wheel drive, grippy tires, tight steering, and bright headlights help me navigate washed-out sections of road, fallen trees, and patches of gravel.
We finally arrive, car and passengers intact. The rain has died down by this time, so we unload our stuff and join our other friends waiting for us around the fire. It’s damp, it’s 44 degrees, but we made it.
A rude awakening
At first I think I’ve shivered myself awake. In the middle of the night I rolled to the side of the tent, and as a result my entire right side is soaked in frigid rainwater. To make things worse, a regiment of Boy Scouts arrived in the middle of the night, and now they’re up and yelling at each other to get in formation amidst blaring bugles and animal calls.
The WRX always looks poised and prepped for another adventure.
I grab the key to the WRX and head out to the parking lot, hoping to find a change of clothes and some coffee to wake myself up. I notice as I approach that the windows are somewhat fogged. I resign myself to the likelihood that two of my friends used the spacious back seat of the Subie for something lewd. Instead I find David wrapped in a sleeping bag, totally asleep in the front seat, reclined all the way and almost lying flat. Another friend is in the same position in the passenger seat. “Too cold and too wet for the tent,” says David. “And these seats are pretty comfortable.”
Never a dull moment
We pack up all of our gear and make for Sleeping Bear Dunes, a huge natural sand dune and lakeshore on Michigan’s Leelanau peninsula. On the way, however, I take a wrong turn that leads to a two-track dirt road. David is giving me that look again, but this time I can’t control myself. I’m laughing maniacally as we barrel down the dirt road, mud flying in every which direction, as my passengers hang on for dear life. The WRX’s stiff suspension isn’t exactly kind to bumpy dirt roads, so everyone is relieved once we’re back on asphalt and on our way to the Dune Climb.
The hike across Sleeping Bear Dunes takes about an hour, round-trip. We’re wiped by the time we get back in the car, and I don’t have the energy to worry about the piles of sand we’ve undoubtedly carried with us into the cabin. Luckily I had the foresight to swap out the 2015 Subaru WRX’s stock carpet mats for the Weather Tech mats we use in wintertime.
Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay is a refreshing stop-over after a long hike.
Washing off the weekend
Grime aside, the Subaru arrives home little worse for wear, although in the process of cleaning the car up, I discover a dent under the fog light. It’s hard to say whether this occurred during my trip or some point during the hellish winter. After a $618 visit to the body shop, it’s back in action.
The 2015 Subaru WRX proved it’s the right kind of car to brave nasty weather, bumpy roads, and sweaty campers. It even hauled all of our junk without frustration, and I never found myself wishing I had a hatchback.
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