So, it’s easy to be a fan of Subaru – we’ve recently tested the Outback, the Forester, and the Ascent and loved them all. That’s the SUV outdoorsy type of owner. But you’ve also got the performance-type Subie lover, and that means the BRZ and the WRX.
We recently tested the BRZ rear-wheel drive sport coupe and it’s a huge step forward for an already great driver’s car. So, when we heard there was an all-new WRX, we gladly got in line. Introduced in 2002, the WRX stunned the performance world with turbocharged all-wheel-drive performance that gave rally car goodness and amazing thrills for affordable money.
So does the ‘Rex keep the faith 20 years on? Let’s find out.
Still Bold, Still Unique
On the outside, Subie continues the theme of function over fashion – it looks like a serious performance car over a “stylish” one. And we love it. Also continued from the previous model, the WRX is exclusively offered as a sedan. Sorry hatchback fans.
Up front it starts with the wide oval hood scoop that’s a WRX tradition. The signature hexagonal grille has grown compared to last year, but it’s certainly not in danger of becoming a BMW 4-series. Signature LED headlights give an angry stare-down to opposing traffic, while a blacked out lower fascia looks rally-tough to handle kicked up gravel. Not that any car would dare kick dirt in a WRX’s face!
That lower cladding carries around to the profile, and you’ve got tough-looking black overfenders, which on the trailing edge of the front wheels feature aerodynamic cut-outs help airflow and reduce lift. The front fenders are now aluminum for some added weight savings. You’ll also find a texture on the overfenders and lower trim designed to enhance airflow as well.
Along with the plastic-fantastic stuff, you’ve got muscular fender flares, and a nice rake to the stance. While the new WRX is just 3-inches longer than the previous model, the design looks less stubby. Finishing off the capable look are blacked-out 18-inch alloy wheels.
The rear may be the most visually exciting part, with the very cool “volcanic magma” LED taillights, sporty rear spoiler, and black lower fascia echoing the front. And of course dual exhaust pipes poking out on the left and right sides give some added menace. And LOTS of sound. More of that in a minute.
A Trip To the Upscale Department
Inside, the WRX plays catch-up with other Sube models, and feels much closer to the Outback and Forester.
Open the door and it feels a bit roomier than the previous model – the rear seat gets extra legroom, which is a plus, and we also noted how easy it is to get in and out of the car, another plus. The rear seats are not only adult-friendly – for two – but they also split fold for loads of carrying room. It’s a very livable situation.
Which does not mean it’s lost its sportiness. There’s no flashy digital dash here – Subaru serves up a nicely-sized analog speedo and tach, with a handy digital driver info display in-between. Our favorite is the turbo boost gauge. 14 psi, anyone?
The literal big difference is in the center console, where a massive 11.6-inch tablet style display looks a bit oversize for the interior, but who doesn’t love a big screen? On Limited models like our tester, you get STARLINK multimedia plus, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, Sirius XM and Rearview monitor – the usual suspects.
The big screen also gives you access to multi-media, climate control, app icons that can be moved around and more. A first on a Subaru, you can now split screen the display and see two types of information, such as navigation and audio at the same time. Nice stuff, but even better, Subaru gives you traditional volume and tuning knobs. Yay!
There’s other goodness at your fingertips, including a fat, leather-wrapped, D-shaped steering wheel with intuitive remote controls, dual-zone climate control, and pushbutton start. Higher trim levels offer an 11-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system – ours didn’t have it, but the standard system sounded great. We also liked the faux carbon fiber accents and the contrasting red stitching. Sporty, but tasteful.
One other interesting fact – Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology is not available on manual transmission models like our tester. That’s too bad, we’ve really enjoyed the system on other Subies, but maybe those that drive stick are paying better attention!
A Drive That Gets Your Attention
An all-new Subie gets us salivating about what may be in store, and the WRX doesn’t disappoint.
The excitement starts with a new 2.4-liter, turbocharged boxer 4-cylinder engine, now producing 271 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque. The previous 2.0-liter turbo pumped out 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque, so on paper it seems like a wash. But don’t be so sure, because a wider torque curve and a quicker-responding turbo makes a noticeable improvement off the line.
We were also impressed with how easy-revving this engine is, considering it is a relatively large 4-cylinder engine – you find yourself bumping up against the 6,100 rpm redline quickly. A quick shift from the solid and direct 6-speed manual, and back into the boost zone you go. This makes for a seriously quick car.
We kept thinking about our recent test of the 200-horse Honda Civic Si, with a 1.5-liter turbo, that you had to rev the life out of to get moving quickly, but it was so much fun to do so. The larger, more powerful WRX has bags of reserve power wherever you go, so it’s easy to keep up with quick moving traffic, and when you want to leave it far behind, a bit of throttle and you’re gone.
For those who don’t want a manual, Subaru has done a major revamp of the CVT transmission – something we felt lacked sportiness in the past. We were very impressed with the updated CVT in our recent test of the Subaru Ascent and can’t wait to see how it does here.
The WRX is more than just a power player – with its symmetrical all-wheel drive it puts down the power in the corners as well as the straights, and if you live in an area that gets real weather, you can’t beat the all-season confidence and grip.
The steering has a light feel that is very precise, and the response to a turn of the wheel at low speeds is extremely quick – this would be a great car for your favorite autocross. Thankfully, the steering boost ramps up at freeway speeds so the WRX feels stable, confident and relaxed. In fact, wherever you go, the 2022 WRX feels more notably smoother and refined.
This is still a performance-tuned vehicle, though and you’ll find the ride is firm. For some perhaps, too firm. Thank goodness for the supportive front seats! While we’d say the ride is never harsh, you do feel bumps, and a series of speed bumps may have you bouncing around. If you live in area with really bad roads, you may want to opt for the smaller 17-inch alloy wheels. A good test drive is in order before you decide.
Still a Performance Bargain?
We think so. You can get into a base WRX for just $29,605. When you consider that the 2022 Civic Si we tested started at $28,000 the ‘Rex is a huge increase in performance for a relatively small outlay. At the other end of the spectrum, there is a new WRX GT trim level starting at $42,395 and it offers some unique goodies, including electronically controlled dampers, and new Drive Mode Select that sums up with 430 different chassis/drivetrain customization options. Something to think about while you enjoy the GT’s unique Recaro front sport seats.
Our tester was the well-equipped Limited trim, starting at $36,495. Add in $995 for delivery, and we rang the bell at $37,490.
Outside of the previously mentioned Honda Civic Si, we think you could also look at the VW Jetta GLI a bit less at $32,685 but like the Honda it is front wheel drive, and although more powerful it’s still over 40 horsepower less.
The WRX has always punched above its class, and with its new-found refinement, you might consider looking at the Audi A4 at $44,190. You will have Quattro All-Wheel drive, but with only 201 horsepower the Subie would stomp it but good.
The 2022 Subaru WRX takes everything the old model did but does it better, smoother, without losing the joy it brings to every drive. It’s the king of fun!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.