We took the 2022 Subaru WRX for a drive and found that it is a street-legal, affordable, AWD, manual-transmission rally car that also doubles as a practical daily driver.
In this SUV-crazed world, we’ve watched some great sedans, coupes, and hatchbacks vanish in recent years. But, if anything, Subaru is bucking the trend by delivering updates of two sportscars for 2022. That includes a complete makeover of the WRX, which combines everyday functionality with rally-car manners.
Following the recent relaunch of the little BRZ, the fifth-generation Subaru WRX will land in U.S. showrooms during the first quarter of the coming year. The new WRX borrows heavily from the Viziv Performance Concept first seen at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. And it might not look all that different from the model it replaces.
But Subaru claims there’s really no sheet metal carried over from the outgoing model.
And while there’s not much new under the hood, the 2022 Subaru WRX more than makes up for the lack of any real power increase. As I discovered while driving through Northern California, the new model really does handle like a rally car.
But it’s also perfectly suited for everyday driving, whether you live in the Arizona desert or the snowy mountains of New England.
2022 Subaru WRX Review
The next-gen sedan makes a timely arrival, helping Subaru celebrate the 20th anniversary of the WRX — at least for the U.S. In early incarnations, it was little more than an Impreza on steroids. But the latest version has less in common with that mainstream model than ever before, short of its day-to-day practicality.
Seeing all the changes might necessitate a close look. But the 2022 WRX features more aggressive fenders and a wider, more planted appearance. The projector headlamps now carry a more squint-eyed appearance, riding above the new “solid hex” grille.
The familiar scoop on the hood remains, of course. But the 2022 sedan adds new (and functional) vents up front to help reduce air turbulence around the wheels. And there’s a new, better-integrated rear spoiler that, with other aerodynamic tweaks, is meant to help improve both fuel economy and performance.
2022 WRX Interior
Switching to Subaru’s new Global Platform, the 2022 WRX grows 3 inches longer with a one-inch bump to its wheelbase. It’s also 2 inches wider than the latest-generation Impreza. But its height dips about 0.3 inches.
The good news is that you won’t notice it, at least not from either front seat. And both of those seats have plenty of bolstering to help hold you in place as you charge into a tight corner.
The rear can be a bit claustrophobic, but it’s adequate for two adults if you’re not going on an extended trip. And the trunk is slightly larger, now offering enough room, according to Subaru, for three sets of golf clubs. So for the adventurous folks, three alpine mountaineering bags should fit.
What Subaru describes as a “sport-inspired” interior brings a new, flat-bottomed steering wheel, a new gauge cluster, and other driver-centric tweaks.
Like other new models the Japanese automaker has brought to market over the last several years, the WRX cabin has a more refined and upmarket feel to it. An 11.6-inch, vertically oriented touchscreen is the most obvious example. That’s clearly appreciated when compared to the chintzy plastic that Subaru filled the cabin with in prior generations.
2022 WRX Performance
Under the hood, the 2022 WRX gets a new 2.4L turbo flat-four. Subaru execs spent several minutes outlining for us the changes made to the powertrain. But, somewhat surprisingly, it manages just three more horsepower (271) than the outgoing model while torque remains flat at 258 pound-feet.
Of course, numbers don’t always tell the full story. The engine appears to be a little more free-revving, and power seemed to come on a bit quicker during our long drive. That’s particularly useful for blasting out of a corner.
One disappointment was the need to run on 91-octane fuel to get maximum performance. You can feed it regular if need be, but that will sacrifice a bit of power.
On the other hand, plenty of performance fans will be ready to celebrate Subaru’s decision to retain a manual transmission option. The list of competing models with a stick continues to shrink, the latest crop includes the new 2022 Honda Civic Si and the Volkswagen Golf performance models.
The six-speed, in fact, shows up “a couple of months” ahead of the optional CVT gearbox. Subaru prefers to call it an “automatic,” and it does attempt to replicate step gears when it shifts for an aggressive driver. But there’s reason to believe that the stick will remain the gearbox of choice for the majority of WRX buyers.
There’s no question that buyers would’ve welcomed a higher pony count. But if you’re looking to get some real power, hang tight. We expect to hear more about the new Subaru WRX STI next year. That model should bump the pony count up above the 300 mark at the very least.
The good news is that Subaru has taken many effective steps to enhance the rally-car nature that’s really the most important part of the WRX DNA. It’s using more structural adhesives, and it lowered the center of gravity by about a half-inch. It also now mounts the rear stabilizer bar on the body and has taken other steps to reduce body roll.
Meanwhile, the 2022 WRX will now come with two different all-wheel-drive systems, including a continuous AWD package with a standard 50/50 torque split.
Toss in a new, dual-pinion, electronic power-steering system and you get a sedan that lives to be driven hard. That’s something I discovered during some extensive driving through the hills and valleys connecting California’s scenic Sonoma wine country with coastal Mendocino County.
Drive Test: 2022 Subaru WRX
The WRX is a bit more bouncy on rough pavement than the new Honda Civic Si. But it seems even more capable of digging in when you flog it around a tight corner. It’s the sort of vehicle that helps you build confidence with each mile. And that’s saying something, considering the less-than-perfect road conditions I faced.
On the evening before our test, the skies unleashed a deluge. The pavement was still wet and had runoff from the hills, meaning there was plenty of mud and gravel to contend with. There were even a couple of full-on washouts to avoid.
But Subaru’s all-wheel-drive technology really paid off. I seldom felt the tires lose grip for more than a fraction of a second.
The dual nature of the WRX will keep many potential buyers coming back rather than detouring to Subaru products like the Forester and Outback. It delivers the fun-to-drive factor many buyers crave. Yet it’s got plenty of storage and lots of appealing features. And it can handle inclement weather conditions just as well as most SUVs.
Look for the 2022 Subaru WRX with manual transmission to land in U.S. showrooms in March 2022, with the CVT version to follow a month or two later. Subaru will release pricing closer to spring.
The current version of the WRX starts at $27,495 before delivery fees. And we expect the new 2022 model to start under $30,000 as well.