2022 Subaru WRX debuts with new look, evolutionary upgrades
Meet the new 2022 Subaru WRX, the fifth generation of Subie's rally and racing legend. The new model sticks pretty close to the established formula of the previous generation and at first glance, it doesn't look all that different. However, Subaru assures me that it is "all-new from the wheels up" and after some ridealong time at a media preview, I'm intrigued. It may not be radically different, but there's lots to talk about, including fresh looks, a new, larger engine that makes a bit more power, a retuned suspension and Subaru's latest cabin and safety tech.
The biggest change for this new generation is the move to the Subaru Global Platform, which now underpins most of the automaker's lineup from the Impreza compact to the Ascent three-row SUV -- the sole exception being the rear-wheel-drive BRZ sports coupe. These new bones mean a chassis that is 28% stiffer than last year's WRX, with suspension mounting points that are 75% more rigid. Interestingly, this -- along with a lower center of gravity -- has allowed Subaru to give the WRX greater suspension travel, which should pay dividends when banging around on a gravel rally stage and also keep the chassis from upsetting when rolling over curbs on the track. It'll probably make for a more comfortable late-night Slurpee run, too.
Beyond suspension geometry tweaks, the 2022 WRX also features a new rear stabilizer bar mount. The latter now directly connects to the chassis rather than the subframe, which should help it control body roll more efficiently. There's also a new dual-pinion electric power steering system laying claim to quicker response, improved accuracy and a more natural feel.
Wider and longer than the previous generation, Subaru has also massaged the WRX's widebody design with beefier fenders that have unusual, SUV-like asymmetric wheel openings. Those rear fender bulges are so dramatic that the 2022 WRX has a totally different trunk opening shape from the Impreza sedan it's based on. Framing that rear end are new tail lights that look like they were pulled straight off of the BRZ -- not necessarily a bad thing.
Up front, Subaru's hawk-eye projector headlamps are a bit smaller and the grille is a skosh larger. The WRX's front fenders are now made from aluminum, which saves about 5 pounds overall. The model's iconic functional hood scoop is still in full effect, but there are also new functional vents behind the front wheel arches and tucked into the rear bumper to help curb aerodynamic drag.
The new WRX's burbling heart is a new 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder that outputs 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That's not a huge bump over last year's 268-horsepower 2.0T, but Subie promises a heartier torque curve thanks to the increased displacement. Additionally, the turbo's new electronic wastegate and bypass valves should reduce lag and improve responsiveness and acceleration.
Of course, Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive is standard, as is a six-speed manual transmission. Alternatively, the Rex can be optioned with Subaru's Performance Transmission, a sport-tuned continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters and an 8-speed "manual" mode. The new SPT is said to upshift 30% quicker than the old unit, downshift 50% quicker and Subie claims to have eliminated the "rubber band" effect that turns many enthusiasts off of CVTs.
I wasn't able to drive the new WRX, but I did hit the track riding shotgun for two laps at the Thermal Club, a private circuit near Palm Springs. My first ridealong with Subaru's hot-shoe rallycross driver, the appropriately named Scott Speed, was in the six-speed manual model, followed by a stint in the automatic.
The SPT CVT certainly felt fast around the track in the hands of an experienced driver and the transmission's shifts were nigh-imperceptibly quick and smooth. But the six-speed just looked like more fun. Evaluating from the passenger seat is tough -- let alone in two short laps -- but both configurations were wicked quick and I came away impressed.
One benefit of opting for the SPT is that it comes standard with the spanking newest generation of Subaru's EyeSight driver assist technology. This latest system features a wider field of view for its optical sensors along with improvements to its software and logic. Plus, EyeSight rolls in features like lane-centering steering assist and adaptive cruise control, both firsts for the WRX. This full suite of advanced driver assist system features is not available with the manual gearbox, as indicated by a single forward camera rather than EyeSight's stereoscopic setup.
The fifth-generation WRX also sees the introduction of a new top-spec GT trim level which features electronically controlled dampers that can go from track firm to rally compliant with the touch of a button. The GT also upgrades to Recaro seats with Ultrasuede upholstery and 18-inch alloy wheels shod with summer tires. (17-inchers are standard, though the Limited trim also comes with 18s.) The catch? You can only get the GT with the CVT, which is kind of a bummer, but that also means that the model features the most customizable version of Subaru's SI-Drive Performance Management System, essentially a drive-mode selector.
In the cabin, you'll be able to spec a new version of Subaru's Harman Kardon premium audio that's tuned specifically for this model. This 11-speaker system packs 576 watts of power and like just about everything else inside, those tunes are accessed through a new 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment system. This is the same vertical, tablet-style touchscreen system that recently debuted on the new Outback. The system comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
The new 2022 Subaru WRX is scheduled to start arriving in dealerships in early 2022. Pricing has yet to be announced, but I'd be surprised if it strays too far from the current model's $28,420 starting price (including $925 destination). I'm guessing the new GT line will stretch the top of the price range to around $35,000, sliding in just below the eventual STI model. We expect to learn more about specific pricing and fuel economy figures as we approach the launch window.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.