The just-redesigned Subaru WRX does not have a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine – making it different from others in its class – like the VW Golf GTI and the Hyundai Velosyer N – that do. It also comes standard with a high-performance all-wheel-drive system, as t always has. This is a feature neither of these two front-wheel-drive rivals offer.
It also comes standard with a manual transmission, too – a fun-to-drive feature that another rival – the Mazda3 Turbo – doesn’t offer, either.
All of which makes the WRX has always been.
That being something special.
The WRX is the street-going version of Subaru’s successful World Rally Cup race cars. It is a modern example of what is still called a “stock” car – though the race cars on today’s Nextel Cup circuit have almost nothing in common with the “stock” (i.e., factory production) cars they’re made to sort-of resemble.,
It once meant that the car on the showroom floor – a ’69 Dodge Charger, for instance – was the car upon which the race car was based. Which meant that, once upon a time, you could buy – and drive – the same basic car that the racers were driving.
The WRC cars are based on the “stock” WRX production cars; they share common underthings – and engines – as opposed to common names.
As for example the current Nextel Cup “Camry” – which is about as “stock” a car as Bruce Jenner is a “woman.”
The race car has a V8 engine no stock Camry every offered, driving the rear wheels. The Camry sold at Toyota stores – while a great car – is nothing like the race car, except insofar as the shared name and a vague visual resemblance.
The WRX, on the other hand, is the car on which the race cars are based.
Prices start at $29,605 for the base trim – which comes with most of the essential equipment you’d need to go racing – including the high-performance turbocharged “boxer” engine, six speed manual transmission and Subaru’s race-winning, torque-vectoring AWD system, specially calibrated to maximize handling tenacity via modulation of power delivery in both the straights and the curves.
Just add a rollbar.
Premium and Limited trims ($32,105 and $36,495 respectively) add amenities such as dual-zone climate control, heated seats and a larger (and dual screen) 11.6 inch LCD touchscreen. They are also eligible for options such as a premium 504 watt, 11 speaker Harmon Kardon audio system.
If you’d like a WRX that’s closer to WRC-spec, there’s the top-of-the-line GT – which adds an adaptive suspension, Recaro sport buckets and additional (more aggressive) drive mode settings for the standard Subaru Performance (CVT automatic) transmission that’s optional in other trims.
It stickers for $42,395.
What’s New for 2022
The visual differences are subtle but significant. They include hunkier fenders and several aerodynamic tweaks to increase high-speed stability.
Functionally, they are major – including a new 2.4 liter turbocharged engine and (for those who prefer an automatic) a new CVT that Subaru says upshifts 30 percent faster and downshifts 50 percent faster. This box also comes with a separate oil cooler – for the obvious reasons.
The new WRX is also slightly wider and longer, with a wider track. Its suspension has also been changed up. It features more travel than previously (a boon in Rally racing) and a new “dual pinion” electrically assisted power steering system. The front fenders are made of lightweight aluminum now rather than steel, although the new car’s curb weight (3,297 lbs.) is about the same as the old car’s (3,294 lbs.)
Race car kinship – and experience.
Standard manual transmission and AWD.
Most “driver assistance” systems (including EyeSight) are delete-optioned if you don’t buy the automatic.
What’s Not So Good
Sedan-only bodystyle limits everyday practicality due to small (12.5 cubic foot) trunk.
Highest-performance GT trim comes only with the CVT automatic – and all the “driver assistance” systems, including EyeSight.
WRX STi isn’t available . . . for now.
The new WRX has a larger – 2.4 liter – boxer (i.e., horizontally opposed cylinders) engine in lieu of the previous 2.0 liter boxer engine.
The only other new car that still has a boxer engine is a Porsche, which is lot pricier than a Subaru.
Boxer engines are lower (and lighter) than upright engines and their weight is spread out more evenly on either side of the vehicle’s centerline – as opposed to being in line with it and taller. This improves handling and balance, which is why Porsche uses the layout.
But it’s not necessary to buy a Porsche to get it.
The new 2.4 liter engine is only negligibly more powerful – 271 horsepower and 258 ft.-lbs. of torque vs. the outgoing 2.0’s 268 horsepower and the same 258 ft.-lbs. of torque – and the fuel economy it delivers is slightly worse: 19 city, 26 highway vs. 20 city, 27 highway, previously (with the standard six speed manual transmission).
It’s also not any quicker.
Both the new car and the old car take about 5.3 seconds to get to 60.
But the new engine may be better, being bigger. Or rather, longer lived – because it is bigger.
Little engine that are heavily boosted are under a great deal of pressure. Specifically, their internals – such as bearing surfaces. When these are smaller, it is harder on them. Larger pistons also have more area to absorb the pounding they’re subjected to. In a high-performance car especially, a larger – physically stronger – engine will probably last longer than a smaller one subjected to repeated stress.
Subaru says the new 2.4 liter engine – which is equipped with an electronically (rather than mechanically) controlled wastegate – is more responsive and that its torque curve is broader, peaking at 2,000 RPM and maintaining peak through 5,200 RPM – both of which are true (more on the latter follows below). But it may be more important to keep the WRX on the road – rather than in the shop.
So as to keep buyers coming back to the showroom.
Another element that may contribute to that is the boxer four is only lightly boosted. Just 12 psi, max. Many new vehicles with turbocharged engines are running close to 20 psi – which is a lot of boost.
A new optional automatic is also part of the newness. It is still a continuously variable (CVT) automatic, as before – but Subaru says it “shifts” (in air-fingers quotes, because CVT automatics do not shift, because they aren’t geared; instead, they transition through variable ranges, with electronics mimicking up and downshifts) much more quickly. Subaru says “shifting” up from “second to third” is 30 percent faster and “downshifts” from “third to second” are 50 percent quicker. The Subaru Performance Transmission (SPT) also emulates rev-matching downshifts during braking.
It is standard equipment in the also-new GT trim, which comes with adaptive dampers, Recaro sport buckets and a higher-performance wheel/tire package (light-weight, grey-anodized 18 inch rims wearing 40 series “summer” tires).
Also standard with the GT – and the CVT – is a bevy of “driver assistance technology,” including something styled Evasive Steering Assist, plus Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Mitigation (the car brakes when it thinks you’ve failed to notice the need to brake) plus adaptive cruise control.
The good news – if you feel no need for such “assistance” – is that most of the above is deleted if you don’t buy the CVT (or the GT trim).
As before, every WRX comes standard with Subaru’s “symmetrical” AWD system, so named because it splits the power transfer down the Soobie’s centerline and from wheel to wheel, not just front-to-back.
Finally – importantly – the new WRX still has a pull-up emergency brake rather than a push-button electric parking brake. People who follow drifting/rally racing know why this is important.
The WRX has always been a very everyday-drivable performance car. Its boxer engine has never been a “peaky” engine that required a lot of revving before the car got going. And its AWD system makes it formidable on both wet and snow-slicked roads, which usually impose their own harsh discipline on performance cars.
It’s the same again, just more so.
The bigger engine is easier-going – requiring even less revving to get the car going. See that bit earlier above about the more generous torque curve. It pulls with more authority with less apparent effort, so even though the new model isn’t appreciably quicker than the outgoing model, it is stronger feeling in the stop-and-go. This will also probably further serve to increase the lifespan of this Soobie, as less revving usually means less wearing and tearing.
The sound is as good as before.
A boxer engine produces a distinctive – and pleasing – sound. Not just to the performance-attuned ear, either. People know (and never forget) the sound of an old Beetle – which was also powered by a boxer engine.
The Soobie’s boxer is quieter – the sound being muted by the water that cools it. But it does not sound like anything else, except perhaps a 911 (also now water-cooled).
The ride – still firm – isn’t as hard as it was, before. This is no doubt due to the new underlying “global” (rather than Impreza) platform. The revised suspension has more travel, which probably accounts for the increased give – without increasing roll. Subaru says the rear swaybar’s mounting arrangement (directly to the unibody rather than the subframe) plus a lowered center of gravity and a wider track (by 1.2 inches) are responsible for that. All of this improves what was already very good – in the sense that the WRX has always been a performance car that’s also an easy-to-live-with everyday car, too.
Subaru is wanting to get people to appreciate the virtues of the new CVT automatic – standard in the GT, optional in other WRXs – by arranging the kit such that if you want the adaptive dampers, the Recaro seats and the unique-to-this trim 18 inch matte grey anodized 18 inch wheels and 40-series “summer” tires – you have to buy the GT, which is the only WRX that offers these performance upgrades. But that means you have to buy the CVT.
It is not a bad transmission. By the numbers, it is a very good one.
It “shifts” fast – without the harsh transitions (being a CVT) and it’s almost always exactly in the right range for whatever the driving situation is. It is probably true that the GT – with the CVT – is the best racer, in terms of delivering the quickest (and most consistent) acceleration and lap times.
But numbers aren’t always everything, unless you actually are racing. Lots of people who buy cars like the WRX prefer to shift for themselves because it is part of the fun – even if it means not always winning the race.
Because, after all, this isn’t a race.
As before, the WRX is a compact-sized sedan. This means it has a small trunk (just 12.5 cubic feet) relative to the cargo areas that hatchback sedans offer. Which Subaru used to offer but for some reason decided to stop offering. It’s a practicality deficit relative to “hot hatches” such as VW’s GTI, which have more than twice (34.5 cubic feet) the cargo-carrying capacity and the Hyundai Veloster N, which has nearly four times (44.5 cubic feet) the capacity.
While the Soobie’s trunk is tight, its back seats aren’t. With 36.5 inches of legroom and a decent 36.7 inches of headroom, the WRX can comfortably accommodate most adults up to 6 ft tall back there.
The appearance of the new WRX is hard to distinguish from that of the old one – and this is probably good for the same reason that it’s a good idea Coke never changed the shape of its bottle. Once you have something people like, leave it alone – else they might not like it.
But there are differences – you just have to look for them. They include contrast-color chip guards around the lip of each fenderwell, a larger (and lower) grill, rear fender bulges and more of a scoop on the hood than the previous duct. The interior has been massaged as well, with the most obvious being the 11.6 in center touchscreen that’s standard in the Premium and up trims.
If you’re not into that, you can skip it – by sticking with the base trim.
While you can’t get the adaptive dampers – or the Recaro seats from the factory – without also getting (and paying top dollar) for the CVT-equipped GT, you can get a factory-installed short-throw shifter for $427 extra – as well as a factory installed STI performance exhaust system for $1,200 extra with any WRX.
You could also get everything except the adaptive dampers over the counter – the Recaros, the matte-grey rims with the 40 series “summer” tires, etc. – and install (or have the dealer) install them on your manual-equipped WRX.
Which might be the best WRX of all.
Well, until the new WRX STi shows up.
The Bottom Line
If you ever wanted to drive a “stock” car . . .
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