2022 Subaru WRX Review: The Last of a Dying Breed

A Different Kind of Tree Hugger

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Hearing the name ‘Subaru’ immediately conjures up images of dogs, trails and all-wheel drive scenery. But the Japanese automaker also sells a pair of cars with stick shifts that are legitimately fun-to-drive including this all-new 5th generation WRX.

  • 2022 Subaru WRX Review: The Last of a Dying Breed
  • Year:
    2022
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    flat-4
  • Transmission:
    6-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    271 @ 5600
  • MPG(Cty):
    19
  • MPG(Hwy):
    26
  • Torque @ RPM:
    258 @ 2000
  • Energy:
    SIDI
  • Displacement:
    2387 cc
  • 0-60 time:
    5 sec.
  • Layout:
    Front-engine/AWD
  • Price:
    30600

WHAT KIND OF TREE HUGGER ARE YOU?

There are two types of tree huggers at Subaru: the kind who take the Love Promise and those who dream of being Travis Pastrana. This car is for the latter - a turbocharged, all-wheel drive sports sedan for the wannabe rally racer. Though no high-performance STI version will be produced this time around there’s still plenty here to satisfy the enthusiast on a budget and get them to their day job in greater comfort.

With a starting MSRP of $30,600, all 4 WRX trims are powered by a new, larger 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with similar output to the 2.0-liter engine it replaces - 271 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual is the standard transmission, now with taller gear ratios from 3rd to 6th helping to keep gas mileage in-check. It’s rated at 22 mpg in mixed driving, down 1 mpg from before, and it still wants premium gas for best performance. But this car is longer with noticeably more passenger volume and the bigger BOXER brings smoothness to the powertrain while requiring less boost to perform so though 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway isn’t anything to write home about it’s barely changed from the previous generation and to compensate Subaru has installed a larger gas tank.

TO STICK OR NOT TO STICK?

2022 Subaru WRX Review: The Last of a Dying Breed
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Underpinned by the new Subaru Global Platform which claims to offer increased safety and noticeably improved dynamics with a lower center of gravity, the new WRX is a more complete car. It’s easier to drive, it’s more comfortable and yet it still excites with an even higher degree of precision. In particular, the steering connects car to driver in a more sophisticated way with a light but very accurate touch working these pricey 18” Dunlop max-performance summer-use tires. The grip is phenomenal, acting in concert with the nominal 50:50 all-wheel drive split and Active Torque Vectoring to burnish driver confidence and carve up the road. And though a new version of the CVT is an option I would put the WRX in the “gotta have a stick” category. Paired with the new engine, the gear shifts are slickly executed and the clutch pedal is actuated with minimal effort. This makes driving the WRX easier in less-than-ideal traffic situations. And the drive is as straightforward as can be with no fancy drive modes or extraneous button pushes. Other than a Track setting for the dynamics control system this is a start ‘er up and go kind of car. The sport-tuned suspension transmits the road in proper fashion but this WRX transports in greater comfort with a far more forgiving ride quality.

2022 Subaru WRX Review: The Last of a Dying Breed
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Back when the rally car war heated up between the WRX and Lancer I was in Mitsu’s corner; I’ve just never been a big WRX guy but this new model has won me over. It’s lost some of its unwanted edge and gained some welcome polish without squashing the fun. Shifting and clutch engagement is more fluid, the ride more compliant and the bigger engine is more refined. Gears 1 and 2 go by in the blink of an eye though, so be prepared to shift. Otherwise, this torque vectoring all-wheel drive system performs beautifully; putting the power to the pavement, and keeping this car fastened to the road. It’s quick, too - taking care of 60 mph in about 5-seconds as long as you don’t bump up against the rev limiter. And there’s quite a deep rumble from the pipes; a cold start-up puts the neighbors on notice.

NEW GT TRIM WITH CVT

2022 Subaru WRX Review: The Last of a Dying Breed
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There’s also a new range-topping GT trim which includes drive modes, electronically controlled dampers, Recaro seats and an automatic transmission. You can’t get it with the stick so this Limited grade is as high as you can go if you insist on shifting the gears for yourself which I highly recommend here. The WRX shifts more easily now making it less taxing while also ratcheting up the fun factor. And with this excellent infotainment system, suede-lined sport seats and a sweet sound system this Limited is my WRX choice for $37,500.

Before seeing it in person I had my doubts but the new styling really does work for me and this Ignition Red paint is the perfect match. The wider track, the lower roofline, the dark wheels, the full-LED front lighting; it’s a looker and that’s something you rarely say about a Subaru.

A MUCH-IMPROVED CABIN

2022 Subaru WRX Review: The Last of a Dying Breed
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Never known for lavish interiors, this WRX Limited actually impresses on the inside. Though simple in a number of ways, this cabin is a winner with the big STARLINK screen taking center stage. Intuitive, ergonomically smart, and full of useful features Subaru has come a long way with its infotainment. There’s no wireless anything in here though other than Bluetooth. And the 11-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is powerful and does a yeoman’s job of sanitizing compressed music. EyeSight Driver Assist Technology isn’t available with the manual transmission meaning there’s no adaptive cruise control but there is high beam assist, steering responsive headlights, blind spot detection with lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert and a backup cam. Passengers onboard? The one next to you doesn’t get a power seat but those in the rear benefit from increased legroom and 2 USB ports…but no HVAC controls. There are still small signs of cheapness inside but overall, it’s befitting a car of this ilk.

There is no 5-door body style and no STI for now, but the WRX has evolved and emerged as a more civilized, dialed-in way to hug those trees.

Steven Hammes
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