Let’s get back to the basics of love, the love of driving: the new 2022 Subaru WRX
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There is a simple mantra to driving the 2022 Subaru WRX six-speed manual: Rev, Engage, Shift, Smile, Repeat. Let those horizontally opposed pistons thrum.
And when the cornering gets tight, stab a heel-toe downshift, steady the wheel, look through the turn, power on, smile, grab a gear. And repeat.
The 2022 Subaru WRX is an all-wheel-drive, turbocharged four-cylinder compact-class sport sedan. It is a stealth S-snake hunter with impressive car control, sport-tuned transmission, and modest fuel economy.
This rowdy little “World Rally eXperimental” car was battle-tested in the World Rally Championships of the 1990s and early 2000s. I liked this unassuming all-wheel-drive performer from its first generation in the U.S., 1992-2000. It was distinctive in its Rally Blue hue and gold-painted wheels. The WRX has always been built tough and could be pumped up for 400 horsepower, and more.
Mainstream competitors of the Subaru WRX include the Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra N, and the VW Golf GTI and Jetta GLI.
For the first time, the 2022 WRX is built on the Subaru Global Platform. Subaru says it is a solid architecture for improved dynamics and reductions in noise, vibration, and harshness.
It also was given a new powertrain. The FA24F 2.4-liter turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder engine continues with “boxer” horizontally opposed pistons. The engine spools up 271 hp and 258 foot-pounds of torque from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. Engine updates this year included larger pistons, an electronically controlled wastegate, and air bypass valves.
WRX transmission choices are a new CVT, called the Subaru Performance Transmission, or a six-speed manual. The SPT all-wheel-drive system has variable torque distribution, while the manual transmission uses a center differential and viscous coupling.
The best news for the manual transmission is that there is no more rev-hang between shifts.
Models with the “Drive Mode Select System” get electronically controlled adaptive dampers, a first for the WRX.
Because of ever-increasing emissions regulations, Subaru says it will not offer a second-generation WRX STI high-performance model. At least not yet, and not with an internal-combustion engine.
But there is still STI attitude in the new 2022 WRX GT, the top trim level.
For 2022, the Subaru WRX is sold in four trims of Base, Premium, Limited and GT.
Starting prices range from $30,600 for the Base model to $43,390 for the GT. MSRPs include the $995 freight charge from Gunma, Japan.
Add $1,850 to $2,050 (depending on trim level) for the Subaru Performance Transmission, a continuously variable transmission. The option also adds EyeSight Driver Assist Technology with advanced adaptive cruise control, auto vehicle hold, steering wheel paddle shifters, SI-Drive, and an electronic parking brake.
Standard Base model features include power windows, door locks, and side mirrors; dual USB input ports in the front center console; welcome lighting; remote keyless entry; combination gauge array with color display; roof rack mounting brackets; and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats.
Also included are 17-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires, multi-mode vehicle dynamics control with track mode, and incline start assist.
Standard on WRX is a new center information display with dual 7-inch high-resolution touch screens. The top screen controls smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio, a rearview camera, and satellite radio and Travel Link. The bottom screen manages HVAC and vehicle settings.
No factory upgrade option packages are available for the Base model. But there are lots of accessories (for all trim levels). Among them are:
- STI Duracon (manual) shift knob, $99.95
- STI performance mufflers, $1,200
- Stainless steel exhaust tips, $299.95
- And a cool-looking cherry-red STI starter button, $249.95
Find current pricing and available incentives here.
Pricing Sweet Spot
Many WRX enthusiasts will find all the grip and grin they need in the Base model. But the WRX Premium, $31,605, is the sweet spot for added conveniences at a modest price.
Today’s tester is the WRX Premium, starting at $33,100. The tester included the Harman Kardon audio system (11 speakers) and power moonroof, $1,875. As tested, it cost $34,975.
Standard WRX Premium features include an upgrade to 18-inch alloy wheels in a dark gray finish, LED fog lights, a low-profile rear spoiler in body color, and automatic headlights with on and off when using the windshield wipers.
The Premium model also has standard keyless locking and push-button ignition. The premium black seat fabric is trimmed in red stitching. Other conveniences include dual automatic climate control with voice activation and dual USB charging ports in the rear center console. The standard All Weather Package adds heated front seats, side mirrors, and a windshield wiper deicer.
Also new for upper trim levels is a tablet-style high-definition center information display. The 11.6-inch Starlink Multimedia Plus system has direct-touch controls for multimedia, heat and AC, and vehicle settings. As with a smartphone, app icons on the touchscreen can be moved and configured based on personal preference. The new multimedia system also offers a split-screen display that can simultaneously show two types of information such as navigation and audio.
The new wide-body WRX design strikes a powerful stance without being overhyped by a big rear wing or other fan-racer add-ons.
Aerodynamic improvements include an air outlet at the trailing edge of the front wheel opening. The outlet allows air to exit from the wheel well more freely, which reduces lift on the front tires for more grip and stability.
Aluminum front fenders reduce the overall vehicle weight by 5 pounds, Subaru says. The hood, too, is aluminum, which helps lower the center of gravity.
With a curb weight of 3,320 pounds, the WRX manual is a relative lightweight when factoring its all-wheel drive. (Opting for the CVT adds just 137 pounds.) The usual sport-compact competitors of the WRX are front-wheel drive. For example, the Honda Civic Si weighs 2,952 lbs., the Hyundai Elantra N weighs 3,186 lbs., and the VW Jetta GLI is 3,272 lbs.
Other aero tricks include:
- Another air outlet at each side of the rear bumper to reduce body sway due to air trapped behind the bumper;
- Molded wheel arches and lower body trim have an aerodynamic texture to reduce air resistance;
- An engine undercover also has an aerodynamic texture to help channel airflow and increase downforce at the front of the car.
The Subaru WRX is a visceral performer but not muscle-bound. The FA24F 2.4-liter turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder engine has a clenched-teeth resolve to achieve the driver’s intent.
WRX performance can be lap-dog friendly or turn vicious with a big rev and downshift. And even the stock exhaust has a well-muscled and deep tone.
With peak torque of 258 lb.-ft., Car and Driver cite 0-60 mph acceleration in 5.5 seconds and the quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds at 101 mph.
The manual gearbox has a rewarding, rifle-bolt engagement with a comfortably sprung clutch. And Subaru’s hill-start assist brakes the WRX for a few seconds while the driver engages a gear. If all stick-shift cars had this simple tech, there would be many more manual-transmission users today.
Fuel economy ratings are 19 mpg city, 26 highway, and 22 mpg combined. Premium fuel is recommended for peak performance. My test week’s average mileage ranged from 18.1 to 22.5 mpg. But for a small car, it has a big gas tank of 16.6-gallons.
For my modest mileage numbers, I blame — and praise — the manual transmission.
There is so much low-end pull that there is no need to rush the shifts. It’s a great second- and third-gear speedster. Roll on the power at 15 to 20 mph in second gear, and the engine will get up to speed quickly.
The sport-tuned four-wheel independent suspension is engineered for total car control. There is no front-end push and no rear rotational inertia. The car just sticks where the driver points it, within the bounds of physics.
At speed, the WRX runs flat and steady, but the ride quality of its stiff dampers can become monotonous on a long daily commute. And at 65 mph, the engine is spinning loudly at about 2,500 rpm.
The 18-inch Dunlop Sport Maxx GT 600 A (245/40) tires are a razor’s-edge match to the suspension. But enjoy these soft black erasers because they have a very low treadwear rating (UTQG) of 200. Low means better road adhesion. But these tires might not last a year of driving for the win — and replacements run $350 a pop.
Four-wheel disc braking gives an absolute response without nosedive. The front rotors have 12.4-inch ventilated discs and dual-piston calipers. At the rear are 11.4-inch ventilated discs with a single-piston caliper.
Quick-ratio electric power-assisted steering has light weight but precise resolve, with 2.5 turns lock-to-lock. The turning circle is a trim 36.7 feet, which compares to, or is better than, the front-drive competitors.
The driver area is simple and succinct. The gauge array has bold and functional features for optimum presentation when pushing the redline.
The cabin is handsomely dressed in black with contrast red stitching and legitimate-looking carbon-fiber-pattern trim. The fabric front buckets are grippy in cornering, without extreme side bolstering. The driver’s seat is six-way manually adjustable and heated.
I especially enjoyed the flat-bottom steering wheel, the handbrake at driver’s right, and the big-foot metal-and-rubber trimmed pedals.
The Premium model’s 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system is big and bold but has limitations. While the tablet does have some physical controls for the climate system and stereo, selecting other functions is a two-touch process that sometimes takes eyes from the road. The tablet measures 9 inches across, but the viewable screen is just 6 inches wide, which makes for a narrow rear camera view.
The back seat is roomy enough for the kids, with max legroom of 36.5 inches.
There is a naked honesty to the stick-shift Subaru WRX Premium. There is plenty of power to feel the weight transitions and to coax a little more. There is no semi-autonomous drive mode, wireless charging, or advanced cruise control. But it has all the essentials for driving.
Let’s get back to the basics of love, the love of driving, in the 2022 Subaru WRX.
Body style: compact, 5-seat, 4-door AWD sedan with aluminum
hood and front fenders
Engine: 271-hp, turbocharged and direct injected 2.4-liter 4-cylinder; 258 lb.-ft. torque from 2,000-5,200 rpm
Maximum turbo boost: 12 psi
Transmission: 6-speed manual, with hill-start assist and SI-DRIVE
AWD system: Continuous all-wheel drive with viscous-coupling locking center differential and 50:50 torque split (transfers more torque to wheels with the best traction)
Fuel economy: 19/26/22 mpg; premium fuel recommended for peak performance
Suspension: sport-tuned 4-wheel independent; front, MacPherson-type struts with coil springs and stabilizer bar; rear, double wishbone with coil springs and stabilizer bar
Braking: 4-wheel discs; dual diagonal system with electronic brake-force distribution, 4-channel 4-sensor ABS, brake assist and brake override; front, 12.4-inch ventilated discs dual-piston calipers; rear, 11.4-inch ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (11.8-inch discs with EyeSight option)
Steering: Quick-ratio electric power-assisted rack and dual pinion
0-60 mph acceleration: 5.5 seconds; quarter-mile in 13.9 seconds at 101 mph (Car and Driver)
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 16.6 gallons
Trunk space: 12.5 cubic feet
Front head/leg room: 38.8*/43.1 inches *39.8 w/o sunroof
Rear head/leg room: 36.7/36.5 inches
Length/wheelbase: 183.3/105.2 inches
Curb weight: 3,320 pounds
Turning circle: 36.7 feet
Standard Premium model equipment includes: Keyless entry with push-button start and PIN-code vehicle access, Starlink 11.6-inch Multimedia Plus, rearview camera, 6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel with red stitching, leather-wrapped shifter handle, aluminum-alloy pedal covers, analog speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature and fuel gauges, 6-speaker audio system, auto on/off headlights, power windows with auto up/down, electronic cruise control, steering wheel controls, dual front USB input ports, dual rear USB charge ports, tilt-telescoping steering column, dual cup holders in center console, single bottle holder in each door panel, rear center armrest with dual can holders, sun visors with dual-illuminated vanity mirrors, center console with LED-illuminated storage tray and 12-volt power outlet, dual-zone automatic climate control system, 60/40-split flat-folding rear seatback, LED headlights and fog lights, heated side mirrors, windshield wiper deicer
WRX performance equipment: 18-by-8.5-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with a dark gray finish, 245/40 97Y summer-performance tires, performance-design front seats, fabric upholstery with red trim, sport-design electroluminescent gauges, front and rear underspoilers, rear bumper with integrated diffuser, trunk spoiler, exhaust system with quad stainless-steel outlets
Safety features include: 7 air bags, Vehicle Dynamics Control with active torque vectoring, disc brakes, hill-start assist, and brake assist
WRX Premium base price: $33,100, including $995 freight charge; price as tested $34,975
Options on test vehicle: Harman Kardon audio system (with 11 speakers) and power moonroof, $1,875
Where assembled: Gunma, Japan.
Warranty: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain