2022 Subaru WRX, All you want to know & watch about a Great Car
2022 Subaru WRX First Test: Was the Old One Quicker? Better?
Our test numbers tell quite the story about Subaru’s latest rally-bred performance car.
- AWD performance
- Charismatic engine
- Higher-quality interior fittings
- Underwhelming performance
- Muted steering
- No upcoming STI model
Subaru’s latest take on its rally-inspired AWD sport sedan is, as senior features editor Jonny Lieberman described it, “fun, if not great, to drive, shockingly competent at sticking to pavement, practical, and a true performance bargain. “
When we inquired at that drive event, the Subaru representatives were surprisingly tight-lipped regarding a 0-60-mph estimate. Not only that, but following the automaker’s announcement that it will not build a higher-performance WRX STI based on the same platform, it’s also curious that the 2022 WRX has almost identical power and torque figures to its predecessor.
Lucky for us, MotorTrend is one of the very few outlets in this industry to actually test vehicles. Allow us to offer a bit of a spoiler here: This is one of the slowest WRXs to 60 mph we’ve tested in the past 20 years. Why? Keep reading to find out.
Back Road Behavior
Our introduction to the World Rally Blue Pearl WRX Limited that Subaru delivered for testing took place on the Angeles Crest Highway, which is one of the best driving roads in the nation and happens to be in our backyard. The wide, sweeping corners of ACH didn’t illuminate the WRX’s strengths the way the damp pavement in Sonoma County did during our first drive, but did highlight the Subaru’s high-speed stability.
The new WRX is a car that doesn’t feel as fast as it is. Subaru’s standard AWD system delivers unshakable grip through ACH’s fast sweepers even at higher speeds, allowing the driver to stomp the go pedal early and tug the would-be rally car through the apex.
That said, we didn’t feel the Subaru shuffling torque around the way we did in a front-drive car with a limited-slip differential like the Volkswagen GTI. As a result, on dry, open roads the handling characteristics are a bit dull; just get up to the limit, hang out for a second, and power out. Through any combination of tighter corners, wet pavement, loose gravel, or snow, the four-wheel traction would come alive.
This car’s 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four feels like it’s producing every one of its 271 hp and 258 lb-ft, but you’ll have to work with it. Unlike a naturally aspirated engine that makes all its power at the top end or a conventional turbo I-4 with a torque peak at 2,000 rpm, the WRX powerplant is all midrange—keep it between 3,500 and 5,500 revs, or it can feel more like a base Impreza. More than one editor expressed wanting for a higher redline, too, but the narrow powerband keeps the WRX feeling distinct from its peers.
As for the engine note, it’s the classic bundle-of-bees soundtrack we expect from a WRX, and we wouldn’t change a thing. The shifter is also classic Subaru: too tall and begging for a short-shift kit, but precise, accurate, and mechanical.
A note about steering: The helm of the WRX is lighter than that of any of its competitors’, taking next to no effort to twirl in the direction of your next bend. Seriously—the steering is fingertip light, so much so that a sharp bump can see you making a big correction if you’re gripping the wheel too tightly. Once you loosen up, though, the feel is rich, almost like that of a hydraulically assisted steering setup.
As for the brake pedal, it’s seriously lacking in bite at the top of its engagement, which can be disconcerting when driving fast in the canyon but makes for easy limo stops around town. Actual braking performance is acceptable once you’re in the meat of the pedal travel, but the initial feel leaves us wanting.
Why Isn’t The New WRX Faster?
Here’s where Subaru fans get disappointed. At 6.1 seconds to 60 mph, the new WRX is the second-slowest Subaru World Rally eXperimental we’ve tested since its North American debut for the 2002 model year. (The only example that took longer to reach 60 mph was a 2018 WRX Premium.) Even the original was quicker, and we tested a 2013 example that accomplished the same deed in just 4.7 seconds. So what gives?
According to road test editor and seasoned 0-60 specialist Chris Walton, it all comes down to the clutch, and specifically how it’s damped. Subaru protects its clutches now more than it did in the past. Older models allowed violent, 5,000-rpm clutch dumps that produced rapid acceleration times but also frequently resulted in broken press cars sent back to the manufacturer for repair. Today’s WRX clutch is heavily damped such that it won’t tolerate aggressive engagement either at launch or between gears. The modern car feels plenty quick in gear, but the adoption of more aggressive clutch protection keeps it from posting more impressive numbers.
Case in point: The new WRX posts a figure-eight number that’s much more competitive than its acceleration figures, partially because there isn’t as much shifting involved. The 2022 car posted a lap in 25.0 seconds at 0.74 average g, faster than any WRX without an STI suffix. This chassis could easily handle more power, though. Walton called it essentially neutral around the figure eight and praised how it put the power down. We’re excited to see what the aftermarket dreams up in the coming years.
Braking performance is midpack among WRXs of the past but hardly impressive. The 2022 WRX stops from 60 mph in 113 feet. Road test analyst Alan Lau mentioned decent braking distance but that the brakes themselves didn’t last long, fading over the course of testing and smoking at its conclusion. If you’re going to push your wannabe rally car, upgrade the stoppers.
Numbers Don’t Tell Full Stories
Based on what we’ve said so far, it may seem as if Subaru has lost its way with the WRX, but that’s not the case. Sure, there’s room for improvement, but more than one staffer recalled the days when the WRX name was preceded by Impreza. The 2022 WRX will be familiar to anyone who’s driven its ancestors, from the fingertip-light steering to the beehive engine note, truck-tall shifter, and AWD performance. This may not be the generational leap in performance we were hoping for, but it’s 100 percent WRX.
Looks good! More details?
2022 Subaru WRX (Limited 6M) Specifications
|PRICE AS TESTED||$36,990|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.4L Turbo direct-injected DOHC 16-valve flat-4|
|POWER (SAE NET)||271 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||258 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,412 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||183.8 x 71.9 x 57.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.3 sec @ 97.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||113 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.94 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.0 sec @ 0.74 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/26/22 mpg|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||365 miles|
- HIGHS: More refined and quieter than before, ride quality is better than before, still delivers a jubilant driving experience.
- LOWS: Adaptive dampers require CVT, driver assists require CVT, large touchscreen is more flashy than functional.
- VERDICT: The new WRX sedan remains an entertaining sport compact and is more refined than ever, for better or worse.
Rally-inspired sport compact cars are on the verge of extinction, but the new 2022 Subaru WRX aims to reignite interest for this enthusiast-focused breed. With the adoption of a new architecture aimed at better driving dynamics as well as the addition of more powerful 271-hp turbocharged flat-four engine, the new WRX promises to be an improvement over the outgoing version.
Its contemporary interior design and 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system also now better align with newer rivals that include the Hyundai Elantra N and the VW Golf GTI and Jetta GLI. Of course, among this group, only the WRX features all-wheel drive. Without the muscle to take on the 315-hp VW Golf R, Subaru has said there won’t be a gasoline-powered STI model this time around, but the vaunted WRX STI has a future as a performance-oriented EV.
The company hasn’t commented on when that electric STI could come to production though. Until then, the 2022 WRX and its bold bodywork give enthusiasts something fast and fresh to be excited about.
What’s New for 2022?
The 2022 Subaru WRX is the latest generation of the well-known, all-wheel-drive sport compact. It rides on a new platform, boasts more distinctive bodywork, and is motivated by a larger and slightly more powerful turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four engine.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
We would choose the WRX’s Premium model with the standard six-speed manual transmission. It offers a good combination of equipment without getting too expensive like the loaded automatic-only GT model.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Under the WRX’s hood is a turbocharged 2.4-liter flat-four-cylinder engine. Its 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque routes through either a standard six-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Per tradition, every WRX has all-wheel drive. Those who opt for the automatic, which can also be controlled via paddle shifters on the steering wheel, can also select from three different drive-mode settings.
The auto-only GT trim also comes with adaptive dampers. A set of 17- or 18-inch wheels shod with summer performance tires are also available. We’ve driven the new WRX and appreciated its smoother ride and improved refinement. But most importantly, it’s still very entertaining to drive. At our test track the six-speed manual WRX powered through to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds at 101 mph.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The WRX is rated by the EPA to deliver 22 mpg combined with the manual transmission and 21 mpg with the optional CVT automatic. On our real-world 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, our six-speed manual WRX Limited managed 28 mpg. For more information about the F-type’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, the WRX looks a lot like other contemporary Subaru models, except that it’s dressed up with carbon-fiber-like accents and red contrast stitching. There’s a thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed steering wheel as well as a set of analog gauges. The top-tier GT trim comes with heavily bolstered Recaro front seat covered in microsuede. The trunk can be accessed from inside the car via the 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Every WRX comes with a vertically oriented 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system. While it relies primarily on touch inputs, it does have some physical controls for the climate system and stereo. An 11-speaker Harman-Kardon sound system is also available. Otherwise, the WRX’s list of standard multimedia features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The WRX is available with a variety of popular driver-assistance technology, but such equipment is only offered on models with the automatic transmission. For more information about the WRX’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Subaru’s limited and powertrain warranty aren’t anything special. Plus, rivals from Hyundai and Volkswagen benefit from some level of complimentary maintenance.