2022 Subaru WRX Sedan

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2022 Subaru WRX Sedan First Drive Review: The Art Of Evolution In Action

by Ian Wright

In 2014, Subaru separated its legendary rally-related WRX performance trim for the Subaru Impreza Sedan into its own model. The WRX has been based on the Impreza platform since 2002, but with a specially tuned engine, upgraded suspension, and changes to the bodywork. For 2022, though, Subaru is introducing a second generation of the standalone all-wheel-drive performance sedan that moves onto the Subaru Global Platform and separates itself further from the Impreza. Under the hood is a new 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine making 271 horsepower to power all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT that the automaker calls Subaru Performance Transmission. Subaru has gone nuts for the rest of the car to bring a tighter, wider, more aggressive-looking, and even more dynamically talented driver's car to the road while keeping an eye on practicality and utility. We got behind the wheel to see if the Japanese automaker has succeeded.

2022 Subaru WRX Sedan Models

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Sedan
2.4L Turbo Flat 4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$29,605
Premium
2.4L Turbo Flat 4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$32,105
Limited
2.4L Turbo Flat 4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$36,495
GT
2.4L Turbo Flat 4 Gas
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$42,395

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See all Trims and Specs

2022 Subaru WRX Sedan CarBuzz / Ian Wright
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Exterior Design: Evolution

At first glance, the new WRX doesn't look much different from the previous model, including its prominent hood scoop. Look closer, though, and you can see the narrowed headlights have been pushed right out to the corners to make space for a more prominent grille and the changes made for aerodynamic effect. Every intake and vent is fully functional, and the contentious plastic cladding around the arches is hexagonally textured to improve airflow similarly to a golf ball. The new generation of WRX is also wider, and, under the paint, the front fenders are now made of aluminum. Under the car, Subaru has paid more attention to aerodynamics and cooling with new covers underneath the car. At the same time, a newly integrated spoiler and vehicle stabilizer are present at the back. Other aero features include a new front bumper with an under spoiler and front-wheel well air outlets. The hood scoop steals the show, and that too is larger.

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Engine And Transmission: Throat Punching

While the Subaru WRX's flat-four packs a turbocharged 271 hp and 258 lb-ft torque, it's not a frenetic engine. In fact, it's only 3 hp more potent than the old one with no torque increase, despite adding an extra 0.4 liters of displacement. However, it's more about punching off the line and out of corners, and it does just that with more refinement and verve than previous iterations while adding an instantly-recognizable throaty soundtrack. Our test model bore the manual transmission as the CVT version has been delayed, but that was fine with us as it's now a slick setup with a light clutch and a well-measured pedal layout for rev-matching. Off the line, the AWD system uses a viscous-coupling locking center differential to split the power 50/50 front/rear and shifting torque to the wheels with more traction when things get slippery. In short, if you pile up the revs and drop the clutch, the WRX shoots away with rowdy glee and is eager to find the first corner.

When the CVT-equipped models arrive, they will use a Variable Torque Distribution system with a more rearward bias (45/55) to aid agility.

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Driving Impressions: Building On A Legacy

The chassis is where Subaru has done the WRX name justice. The new platform is more torsionally rigid with a minimal weight penalty, which has allowed Subaru to tune the suspension to focus even more on keeping the tires firmly connected to the road, even when that road surface has dramatically deteriorated. We spent a couple of hours on single-lane roads through the redwood forest of Northern California giving the new WRX a complete workout, including pushing through tight turns over broken tarmac. The WRX is fun out on normal sweeping back roads but at its riotous best when taming rough-and-ready roads normal sports cars would typically balk at. Thank an extra half-inch of ground clearance and suspension travel for that.

Grip from the suspension, all-wheel-drive system and tires working together is exceptional, and when it's time to leave a corner, if you've worked the engine right, it'll eject you with vim and vigor to hunt down the next. The WRX isn't a point-and-shoot car, though, and rewards talent and driving skills as an enthusiast car should. It's more refined as a car, but Subaru hasn't forgotten its roots as a car that rewards precision driving.

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A new dual-pinion electric power-assisted steering system separates the driver's input shaft from the motor-assist shaft, adding a new layer of responsiveness and accuracy to the steering and bringing back a sensation of natural feedback. Drive modes complete the experience with a basic Comfort, Normal, and Sport setting. The latter sharpens everything up to a point the WRX starts feeling manic when you get it nearer the limit than you probably should on a public road. To get to the limit, you have to push the WRX hard, though, as the grip levels are high and the body control exceptional for its class.

When settling down on a normal road, this is the most comfortable-riding WRX yet. Initially, the suspension led us to expect a rough ride no matter what, but it's soon forgotten about. Gone are the days of bumpy daily driving a WRX, and, dare we say it, the ride is refined enough passengers won't notice they're in a car designed to attack both paved and gravel roads in any weather.

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Interior: Function Before Form

With a sophisticated and punchy all-wheel-drive drivetrain housed in a sharp chassis, costs have to be cut somewhere to keep the WRX in its sub-$30,000 starting price range. Previously, that's meant a sea of plastic in the interior, and not much has changed. Still, build quality seems excellent and Subaru has done a decent job not making the driver-focused interior feel cheap by concentrating on a great-feeling steering wheel, comfortable seats that keep you in place when cornering hard, and a new 11.6-inch touchscreen. The gauge cluster isn't flashy, just crisp and straightforward as it should be, and the controls and buttons are intuitively placed. We also appreciate the now old-school mechanical handbrake rather than a button-operated parking brake in this context.

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Interior space is decent, with plenty of elbow room up front and adequate legroom for adults and taller kids in the back - 36.5 inches. The rear seat has a 60/40 split-folding back as standard so packing skis or a snowboard is easy, and, as expected, it's easy to add roof bars or a rack to the roof. The trunk has a decent 12.5 cubic-foot capacity with a broad opening. Other important measurements include 43.1 inches of legroom in the front paired with up to 39.8 inches of headroom without a sunroof - that decreases the figure by an inch. The rear headroom is 36.7 inches and tapers down as a result of the roof's shape. Despite that, a six-foot-one adult isn't going to complain too much over shorter distances.

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Trims And Pricing: More Choice, But The Price Remains A Mystery

Subaru doesn't have pricing ready yet, but we were told to expect it not to be radically different from the current WRX's $27,495 starting price. All trims will come with Subaru's STARLINK multimedia system accessed through the 11.6-inch touchscreen featuring Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming connectivity, AM/FM stereo, SiriusXM Platinum Plan, SiriusXM Travel Link, HD Radio. Also available is an 11-speaker Harman Kardon sound system tuned specially for the WRX with a 504-watt equivalent amplifier.

Standard on all trims with the CVT transmission is Subaru's EyeSight Driver Assist Technology. That includes an improved Lane Departure Prevention system, Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering, and an available Automatic Emergency Steering system to compliment the Pre-Collision Braking System.

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Along with the Base, Premium, and Limited trims, Subaru has added a new top-of-the-range GT level. It's only available with the CVT transmission and features electronically controlled dampers and an extra drive mode that allows the driver to tailor steering feel, damper tuning, and drivetrain settings themselves. The GT trim also adds exclusive Recaro front seats wrapped in black Ultrasuede material and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels in matte gray finish shod with summer performance tires. Advanced Adaptive Cruise Control and the new Automatic Emergency Steering system add extra safety and convenience.

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Verdict: Hasn't Grown Up Too Much

The Subaru WRX has existed in a class of one since the true rally sport-inspired sedans like Mitsubishi Lancer Evoseries ended production a few years ago. Instead of resting on its tried-and-tested laurels, Subaru has taken advantage of a new platform and honed its all-surface assailant for a fresh generation. It's sharper, more agile, and refined before, but the refinement hasn't smoothed out its character too much. The new WRX is still one of the most fun grocery-getting commuter cars around and an accomplished yet riotous hunk of fun on a back road or gravel track. Its newfound ride quality for daily driving will make it more attractive for the less hardcore, while the more hardcore will appreciate the new WRX's even sharper performance abilities. Assuming pricing stays close enough to the 2021 models, the new WRX is going to be, pound-for-pound, one of the best enthusiast cars on the road for a few years to come.

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