In 02 I almost bought an Audi A6 Avant when I happened across a road test of this model. I bought the WRX wagon after the first test drive.
Outstanding performer on the freeway and on offroad excursions. It's suprising how much mud you can plow through and drifting around dirt and snow turns makes a novice look like a pro. (however keep a friend with a jeep close by).
My experience with Subaru service has been great. Free loaners for all my annual service and solid tuning advice. Turnaround has been excellent. I've never had the car in the shop for longer than overnight.
WRX wagons are sleepers. You can travel at pretty high speeds without attracting a lot of attention. And if you do attract any, the small front surface area gives you little more time to get your speed down.
Small car, gets you in and out of tight spaces. Cutting traffic is a breeze. Parking is cake! Small narrow size with nimble handling enables you to squeeze into the tightest spaces with confidence.
Pedal distance is perfect for heel & toe action in the corners.
Predictable handling at the limit.
Great visibilty. No real blindspots.
Makes cutting traffic much easier.
Sweet location for a Bell or Passport remote radar detector. Fit's right in the slot next to the cupholder. If your into plastic fabrication you can even reinstall the plastic blank as a cover.
On the freeway the WRX wagon wanders at very high speed so you need to upgrade the 205/16 wheels and tires to 215/17 or better. Problem solved.
Tight seating, arm rests are awkwardly placed for highway driving, but most of the time you'll want to drive 9 & 3 anyway.
Not much room for accessories. GPS, CB, Police scanner, radar detector, cell phone, iPod mount makes you feel like your in the Mellinium Falcon or something. Only one lighter jack so everything else has to be hardwired in. Overhead storage would be nice.
Low seating, freeway visibility is terrible, particularly in Texas where the F250 reigns supreme.
Brakes are awesome 90 mph and under.
Over 100 and they have substantial fade under sustained use. Must upgrade pads and switch out the brake lines with stainless for a stiffer pedal.
ABS system is awful. Hard braking on wet roads or gravel causes the system to go into convulsions. Just downshift.
Not much power under 3000 rpm.
Fragile coachwork. Hood and hatchback susceptable to dents.
Air conditioning is weak at idle.
Detailing the engine is a bit of letdown. Not much stuff to dress out.
The WRX has big performance in a cheap car so you MUST keep up on the maintence. Follow the mileage schedules religously and you will be rewarded with near flawless reliability.
The clutch upgrade is sometimes covered under warranty if you can catch it early.
By a turbo timer or make sure to let your engine idle for 30 to 45 seconds after you've stopped if you've been running over 3000 sustained rpm.
If you run on a road track any distance install a baffle or perfmance pickup for the oil pan. Hard sustained cornering can starve the engine of oil.