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So I have had some experience with both the Yakima Whispbar (previously known as Prorack until Yakima acquired them in December 2010), on the car for about a year, and the OEM roof rack, on the car for about 7 months.
Aesthetics: This is obviously completely subjective, but I actually preferred the low profile, sleek look of the Whispbars.
Usability: Unfortunately, the low profile sleek design of the Whispbar does make them slightly less usable. With the Whispbars, the wind noise is much less than the OEM bars at higher speeds, and the audible noise from the Whispbars can be completely eliminated simply closing the sunroof shade to get that extra bit of sound insulation.
Edit: I have tried a fairing on the OEM rack, and found that it reduced some of the noise, but still wasn't as quiet as the Whispbar.
Noise: I will give this category to Whispbar, since noise can be eliminated with the sunroof shade closed. Cost: OEM bars are about 60% of the price of the Whispbars, OEM is the clear winner in this category.
Reason: Edited company name from Prorack to Yakima since the Whispbar brand was acquired by Yakima. I wrote the review a long time ago, but have since switched back to the Whispbars (yes, I have both racks). Alright there have definitely been a lot of other threads on this but I want to lay everything out on the table on this thread. Yakima: I've noticed people have the most trouble with these including leaks when it rains because it pushes on the door seal. Whispbar: I haven't seen any complaints on these but I'm going to take the looks over function stance. What are your guys' experiences with these and how much difference does the fairing make for the Thule and Yakima kits in terms of noise and MPG?
In HEAVY downpour, on the highway, city streets, and even parked - I have seen only a drop or two on my door's armrest. Does anyone know if the JSW has any kind of roof reinforcements since their roof rails bolt to the top of the roof?
Just thought I would share my impressions of both for anyone who’s considering either option. I mainly used the bars for going to and from the beach with a surfboard, so I can’t comment on attachments or whether snowboard bindings or bike racks work out. On the other hand, with the OEM bars you can still hear some of the wind noise at freeway speeds even with the shade closed (especially as gusts of wind hits them while you're driving).

As I mentioned, the main flaw of this test is that it’s just the bar by itself in the wind tunnel. For the front, they both have the brackets with a pin that fits into a small hole inside the weather stripping on the front door, and for the rear they have brackets on the feet that clamp on above the rear window (on the 3 door application). If you have been keeping track of which bar outperformed the other in each of the categories I reviewed, here are what I came up with.
The Whispbars are definitely quieter and you can still use the sun roof without crazy air buffeting that the OEM's do. Haven't gotten around to selling the OEM bars, but nice to know I have them in case I need to carry anything heavy.
I really like the way the fairing looks and I know Whispbars do not need them because they were designed to be aerodynamic to begin with.
I'd consider retrofitting a set on my Golf if all I had to do was cut down the aluminum bar that runs longitudinally and bolt them to my roof with some backing plates and then use the Yakima Whispbars for the JSW. Before I begin, I will say that both options are very good, but they have some interesting differences. 33lbs is not much different on paper, but it’s hard to tell what factor of safety Yakima uses versus Volkswagen when they print these ratings. I think the idea of these is to seal out dirt and debris from getting underneath the feet, but there are small gaps on the roof line of our cars that let dirt get in. It seems like the higher profile position of the OEM bars catches the wind more at higher speeds. I prefer OEM because I think the feet sit a little more naturally, and I don't like how the Thule bars extend past the feet.
For the cost difference it seems OEM is the way to go (for me) since there seems to be little tangible benefit, and even some drawback, for the extra cost.
I've seen people put the Thule and Yakima fairings on them but can you guys link the threads that show you how to do this?
They are great if you just do bikes and ski racks, not so great if you do canoes and other heavier items.
I really like nikhsub1's setup and it looks like you could remove the crossbars in a few seconds. I leave my bars on all the time, and when I finally took them off to do a full detailing there was all sorts of dirt stuck to the paint on my roof, which was difficult to remove even with clay bar. The lower profile position of the Whispbars seem to catch the wind at lower speeds, and as speed increases the airflow seems to go over the Whispbars, whereas the higher profile OEM bars disrupts the airflow at higher speeds.

I would think this has a pretty major effect on the airflow, turbulence, and the sound you end up hearing. When you first get the Whispbars, you have to slide the feet to the correct width for the roof before attaching the brackets to the car.
Also, when I bought mine, their website said the faring doesn't work with the aero bars, but it does. After getting the roof completely clean and waxed I can still see some marks in the clear coat where the edges of the rubber seals were. On shorter trips, or on drives under 65mph, I seem to be getting about the same mpg with OEM bars as I did before. I liked the look of the Whispbars a lot, and liked the fact that you don’t see them very often. Like I said, I leave the bars on all the time so this probably won’t be an issue of you take the Whispbars off between uses.
Again, it would be interesting to see what the car looks like in a wind tunnel, as the effect is much more noticeable once you hit a certain speed.
If you end up buying Whispbars, be sure to refer to the back of the fit kit manual where it tells you what width to set the bars for your car. Again, I mainly used the racks for surfboards so the load rating doesn’t really concern me too much, but might be an important factor for others depending on what you expect to carry. If you do leave them on all the time like I did, I recommend getting some clear 3M paint protection to adhere to your roof under the feet, or at least pulling them off to wash out the debris at least monthly.
Either way, 1-3 mpg is negligible enough for me to still leave them on the car most of the time. This makes the initial install much easier, so you don't have to guess whether you set the width correctly and wonder if a load is going to be put somewhere it shouldn't on your roof.
The OEM bars are a fixed width designed specifically for the car so no adjustments are necessary.
Once the Whispbars are setup for the first time, installation and removal is identical to OEM and only takes about 5 minutes to remove or install.

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