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Generation WRX: The Modern 2002

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A few weeks ago, my best friend finally took the plunge. No, he didn't get married – he and his wife have been together since high school – though this particular platform is one that nearly everyone in our group of friends has been climbing, approaching the edge of, and then carefully backing down from for almost as long as they have been together.

He finally invested in a Subaru WRX.

Now to some of you, that may not seem terribly impressive. It also might not seem like much of an investment either. But to our particular crew, and to just about everyone that we grew up with, the WRX was the pinnacle of cool. It was the turbocharged and suspension-modified version of Subaru's entry-level Impreza; an everyday compact sedan with so much muscle and handling prowess that none of us could have actually handled it.

We all dreamed of trading in our secondhand clunkers and hand-me-downs for this little piece of tuner and off-road heaven. After all, what is cooler than a car that can hang with an M3 on the road and then immediately tear through a dirt course without any modifications? Maybe a genie or a time machine, but this thing exists squarely in reality.

Best of all, unlike a lot of other cars that had our attention, it had four doors a roomy enough back seat for making out after the movies on a Friday night. And if you were lucky enough to score the much-sought-after hatchback, there was space for whatever gear was required for infinite weekend shenanigans.

The WRX has evolved significantly since the early '90s – the particular bug-eye second-generation iteration of our youth has been drastically toned down – and what was once a very basic sedan with an unimpressive interior has grown up to include the creature comforts that we have come to expect as (somewhat?) mature adults.

Despite the WRX's grown-up appearance, the turbocharged boxer-4 engine is still a beast at 268 hp. It outputs gobs of raw power to Subaru's Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive and slamming on the gas still puts your guts into your throat, with nary a squealing tire around hard curves at speed.

My buddy's purchase came at a time that I've been reflecting on one of CocoMats' most popular patterns – the BMW 2002. Throughout all of my research into the popularity of the Bavarian game-changer, I keep coming across statements that describe an almost identical feeling that my generation has had towards the WRX.

The Little Bimmer That Could was really the first true modern European sports sedan for the everyman. It held its own against Porsches and Triumphs and essentially created the market for today's M3 and its competitors, and it put power and performance into an iconically-styled vehicle that still maintained functionality and practicality. It provided drivers in the '60s with the same sort of thrills that the WRX offered to us 30 years later.

There is so much more to say about these vehicles, and I'm hoping to get out into the world, talk to some owners, and explore the 2002 and the WRX at length. Maybe I'll discover some of that magic that helped Germany and Japan bridge the gap between practicality and performance, and perhaps even some commonality behind the passions for two truly remarkable daily drivers.

-Trey Fennell



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