Take away: Few cars can match the Subaru WRX’s cult following. Since its debut in the 1990s, it’s been an extremely capable, high-performing car that’s just as practical. Suffice it to say that the 2022 model is no exception. It’s very powerful and features Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive system, which blew me away with the traction it was able to find on wet, snowy and even icy surfaces. While he has no problem being a weekend hooligan, he’s a brilliant everyday driver with modern technology, plenty of room for second-row passengers and a trunk big enough to fit your weekly shopping spree.
- Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive and Active Torque Vectoring systems find traction in the slippery conditions.
- Now utilizing Subaru’s Global Platform, the WRX features 28 percent more torsional stiffness and 75 percent more stiffness in the suspension mounting points, resulting in reduced body roll and improved cornering.
- Rowing through the gears feels very intuitive as the shifter offers a short and crisp throw.
- Base price: $30,000 MSRP (Subaru estimate)
- Engine: 2.4 liter turbocharged boxer engine
- PS: 271
- Torque: 258 lb-ft
- Transmission: Six-speed manual
- Drive train: Symmetrical all-wheel drive
- Fuel efficiency: 22 MPG (combined)
what’s in a name
World Rally eXperimental (WRX for short) are three very special words for Subaru enthusiasts. Introduced in 1992 as a racing variant of the Impreza, the WRX has staked its claim as one of the most iconic cars in the sport. Piloted by some of the best drivers the sport had ever seen – Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Carlos Sainz and Ari Vatanen to name a few – the car cemented Subaru as a rally powerhouse.
Unlike in previous years, the 2022 variant of the WRX is now its own model. It’s essentially a major overhaul of the vehicle it was originally based on – so much so that it shares absolutely no exterior trim with the Impreza.
While the new Subie packs a turbocharged 2.4-litre flat-four engine – up from the 2.0-litre in the previous car – I was surprised to see an increase of just 3 horsepower for the same torque figure. However, the end result is much greater than the sum of its parts. Along with the increase in displacement, Subaru tweaked the electronically controlled turbo wastegate and air bypass valves to find a broader torque curve and improve throttle response. The engine felt strong in the middle of the rev range but struggled to get out of the way outside of first gear below 2,500 rpm.
Our tester was mated to Subaru’s six-speed manual transmission, which was an absolute gem. Throws between gears were short and snappy, but the feel between shifts remained intuitive. Subaru says its engineers tinkered with the shifter to improve shift quality, and I believe it. During the entire week that I had the WRX, I never missed a diagonal shift – from second to third, fourth to fifth and vice versa. However, if you don’t want to row through the gears yourself, Subaru also offers a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters.
While the manual is an absolute joy to use, you lose it if you opt for the top-of-the-line GT trim. Unfortunately, if you want goodies like Subaru’s vision-enabled autonomous driving, sportier Recaro seats and electronic dampers, you can’t have the manual. Rather, you’re stuck with a CVT that Subaru says can replicate the feel of a DSG automatic.
After giving the WRX a good workout on some of eastern Pennsylvania’s twisty back roads, I was surprised by its relatively muted steering feel. This is the result of Subaru dumping the older single pinion rack and pinion in favor of a dual pinion setup to improve response and feel. (To offer some perspective, single-pinion steering systems apply engine power directly to the input shaft, which is connected to the steering wheel. Dual-pinion steering, true to its name, adds a pinion on the rack to isolate the driver’s input shaft from the auxiliary motor shaft.)
For 2022, it’s clear that Subaru’s engineers and designers wanted to improve the fit and finish of its latest WRX, and no area makes that more apparent than the cockpit. Gone are the days when WRX owners relied on vapes and traded in neochrome shift knobs. Up front, the gargantuan 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment system ensures the cockpit feels exceptionally premium and mature. My only criticism is the lack of physical knobs and knobs to control seat heating and most climate control functions.
Next is the optional 11-speaker stereo, which was absolutely enjoyable to listen to. Much like any expensive stereo, it maintains midrange punch without sacrificing highs and bass. The end result is an exceptional listening experience across many different music genres. Great stereo is like a balanced cocktail, you get just enough of the high, mid and low without overwhelming each other.
While the standard front seats are very comfortable and held me securely in place when cornering, I was a little confused to see that the option for the snazzy Recaro seats was limited to the top-of-the-line GT spec. I don’t really see why Subaru wouldn’t make them available in a separate package so enthusiasts can drive a manual and have proper seats.
When I first saw the WRX after its online unveiling, I was skeptical about the styling changes. However, when I first saw him in person at the LA Auto Show last year, I let myself believe him – even as he sat next to Travis Pastrana’s 800hp Gymkhana 2020 WRX STI. It’s one of those cases where seeing is believing.
With a major redesign (departing from the Impreza), the WRX has slightly sharper body lines that deliver maximum visual impact. Subaru says some of the design cues, including the flared wheel arches and functional hood, are references to its rally history.
There’s a functional hood scoop that supplies air to the intercooler – a staple of the WRX. Even if it is perhaps not as big as in previous years, it is formative Detail that Subaru has integrated into rally classics such as the Legacy RS since the 1990s.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that most automakers that make off-road vehicles can’t help but add plastic trim around the wheel wells. Case in point: the Mazda CX-5, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, and even the Porsche Taycan Cross-Turismo and the Lamborghini Urus. With fairing on all four corners, the WRX is no exception. Some people love it, some hate it, but it serves to protect the color and easy to replace.
While many will dwell on the fact that the WRX isn’t as bold as it once was, it remains a surprisingly good car. Sure, the engine sound is a little more muted, and the cabin has been modernized to 2022 standards. Despite being more refined and less visually noisy, the experience it offers the driver is still addictive no matter what road (or lane) you take it on.
I’m happy to say that the spirit of the WRX lives on in this car. While its four-wheel drive produces overwhelming traction on the tarmac, it’s just as good when you want to take it off-road. As I drove down the back roads, the car immediately felt in the nearest dirt/snowy parking lot, goading me into misbehaving. It’s an inexplicable feeling that I’d bet only WRX owners would understand.
Despite the odd differences in the various trim levels and options, Subaru’s latest road rally car is something the brand should be proud of. When the entry-level model in the series is already so powerful, the STI becomes a special car.
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