I had a very similar experience a few years back. The dealer demanded that I submit to a credit check before a test drive would be granted and the sales person was very controlling throughout the drive. The WRX made a good first impression, but I think a lot of that was due to throttle tuning. 25% throttle on the pedal seemingly gives you about 80% actual throttle, making the car feel faster and more capable than it really is. When you mix in the attitudes on some of the forums and local clubs... it was easy to say no.
Once again Cam, after reading your current essay, I am glad to have never purchased a New car. Many years ago, I had ventured into a Dealer and looked at a new truck, but just couldn't get my arms around the value of a piece of equipment that lost 30-40% of it's value when I drove it off the lot. That's a bit different now, but the current offerings from car manufacturers all combined give me a case of the yawns. I've found, over the years, that I prefer to purchase something older, for a much smaller amount of money, then modify and upgrade to my hearts content and then I have something I really want to drive. I do like the whole boxer concept though, I've never owned a boxer powered car. Maybe it's time to work on a Corvair?
Some cars attract issues. It is not the cars fault but those who tend to be attracted to it. Not that all are like that but every car has a certain level of idiots and some are greater than others.
The WRX has always attracted a large following but also idiots. Even Subaru understands this. They had clutch issues and Subaru said they would not cover warranties on clutches used in competition. Well many failed to yield the warning and ended up with failed clutches after auto crossing or other events. They would go to the dealer and many warranties were rejected.
Many were puzzled at first why they were rejected. Subaru started to check the rankings at these event ands spot the cars and drivers in the rankings and also more often a video of runs and even some failures.
The sad part this kind of behavior effects all of us as the rest have to pay the price.
I have bought a number of new cars and often driven them hard but never had any trouble. I even was driving a Z06 for a GM event and I took it easy though the cones for the fear of getting kicked out. The GM rep said go back and drive it hard. So I did. Drifting and all. He did not get nervous till if got to the line and I stabbed the brakes. I told him I am used to running for time sorry. Also no cones down.
Well nowadays getting a test drive is good story telling but not real. Most dealers don't have cars. You buy before cars hit the lot. Good luck hoping to get a test drive first before ordering. In my case, my dealer let me test drive a use 2021 Tacoma before we placed the order for a 2022 and I was glad they did. Don't be hard on dealers. Your story shows you wanted to go on a long drive and that is just not real during test drives.
Bought one new car in my lifetime, and one used one from a curb-stoner (unbeknownst to me until I had to deliver a check - though I still have the car 25 years later). Never again. The rest of the cars (8 of them, approx.) have either been off CL with documented service records, or from people I knew. And, IMO, a car 3 to 5 years old is a pretty good value of cost (i.e. depreciation) vs. future maintenance costs. The dealership business model doesn't work for most of us - especially if you do most of your own maintenance.