Well hello, Clarice ...

Having a dark side is nothing new; nor is it all that sinister. I remember old Disney cartoons where Pluto (Mickey Mouse’s dog) would sit in front of an open fridge wondering whether he should be a bad dog and eat everything in the fridge or whether he should be a good pooch and turn away.

Pluto’s conscience would then split in two as a red devil popped up on one shoulder, egging him on, and the do-good angel would manifest on the other to dissuade him. Oddly, even in the unrealistic world of Walt Disney, the devil won more than the angel.

The bathed-in-white-light heavenly being has never had a tougher time than in this day and age when our collective dark side seems overwhelming, especially in a country such as South Africa where vapid ANC politicians can promote bloodshed and go unchecked.

For most of us, our dark sides are controllable unless we’re confronted with a trigger of some sort that sets us off, such as: that racist colleague who constantly tells you he’s not racist, but only ever tells you racist jokes, or Woolies triple chocolate dessert, or stupid drivers too lazy to use their indicators, or that big-engined car that you really should drive slowly but is just so rewarding when you put the pedal to the metal.

My new six-month test vehicle, the Subaru Impreza WRX, is going to be a real test of my temperance, not because it’s a hot hatch of note, but because whenever my dark side gets the better of me and my puerile “hotshot, heavyfoot” persona takes over, it becomes quite a thirsty beast.

The new Impreza, in its latest incarnation as a hatchback, comes with symmetrical all-wheel drive across the range while the WRX comes with ABS, EBD, vehicle dynamic control with hill-start assist, six airbags, cruise control, multi-function steering and xenon headlights, among other features.

On the road it is difficult holding the WRX back.
It’s not a manic sports car that wants to get away from you when you start it up, but as the revs climb, the engine note gets deeper and you soon realise that you’re changing gears well above 3500rpm all the time.

It’s become quite an effort, trying to remember to drive in a frugal manner and to keep the revs below 3 000rpm because from 3 500rpm to the red zone is where the WRX comes alive.

Not only do you feel a heady surge of power, but the acceleration—with a 0-100kph sprint time of just under 6s—is simply addictive.

Of course, with an alphabet soup of safety aids, the handling exceeds expectations, but given that this is an all-wheel drive, I would’ve liked it to be just a little more tenacious in the twisty sections.

This is, after all a Subaru and, whenever you mention the brand, people either think of the favourite family offroader—the Forrester—or, on the opposite end of the continuum, they think of the malevolent, rally-bred STi. Either way, the common reference point is a car that holds its own and while the WRX is an amazingly composed little demon, it could be better.

Ultimately, the visceral WRX, which I’ve nick-named Clarice—because it reminds me of Jodie Foster’s Silence of the Lambs character, Clarice Starling—is truckloads of fun and I welcome the challenge of not letting my dark side get the better of me as I attempt to get more than 330km out of a tank of petrol.

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