2022 Subaru WRX Review: All Grown Up, to Mixed Effect

It’s time to discuss Subaru’s latest sport sedan, and I can hear the screeching about plastic body cladding already. Let’s put that aside for the next thousand words because there is more to the 2022 Subaru WRX than its divisive styling.

I first experienced a WRX in college, when a friend in our motorsports club purchased a few-year-old 2002 WRX to be his daily driver. It was a great all-weather fun car that could take him into the mountains to go skiing and clean up at autocross on dry days. The interior was simple, the styling was fine but not especially “pretty,” and the focus was on the driving experience and related capability.

The newest version of the WRX does keep that O.G. formula in mind, although I was left with feelings about its, um, feel.

2022 Subaru WRX gray

What Is It?

This is a 2022 Subaru WRX, the sportiest sedan in their lineup that is all new for this model year. Now on the Subaru Global Platform, you can stretch and say the WRX shares a platform with an Outback Wilderness, but plenty of automakers share platforms across their lineup to great success.

Benefits of the new platform include a lower center of gravity and a 28 percent stiffer car over the outgoing model – I don’t hate that. Subaru is also using a new dual-pinion electric power steering setup that separates the driver input shaft from the motor assist shaft for “quicker response, improved accuracy, and more natural feel.”

2022 Subaru WRX engine

Every 2022 Subaru WRX is powered by a 2.4 liter turbocharged flat four making 271 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Power peaks high in the revs, at 5,600 rpm, but the torque curve is pretty flat from 2,000 rpm to 5,200. Subaru continues to offer two transmissions on the WRX, a standard six-speed manual or a CVT that they call a “Subaru Performance Transmission” for… reasons. If offering (and selling) enough CVTs in the WRX means the car can live on and also offer a stick, fine.

All-wheel drive is, of course, standard on every WRX. Not standard on every WRX are adaptive dampers, variable drive modes, and Recaro seats – those all require the GT trim level, which requires the CVT. Boo. At least the standard seats are good.

MSRP of my 2022 Subaru WRX Limited with six-speed manual was $37,490.

2022 Subaru WRX interior

Driving the 2022 Subaru WRX

The new WRX feels grown-up. It’s modern enough inside, with a simple, purposeful interior that doesn’t feel chintzy or spartan, as David’s 2002 WRX did. As a sporty sedan to drive every day, it is undoubtedly the best one they’ve built. As a sporty sedan to do sporty things with, I had a difficult time warming to it.

Subaru’s got this turbocharged 2.4 under the hood, and it’s a good around-town engine. Torque coming in (and staying there) for a broad spectrum of revs creates a drama-free driving experience to run errands or get to the office. But when you want the drama and put your foot in it, it doesn’t feel much different until you get to about 5,500 rpm. At that point, the power swells and you have this brief moment of “oh yes, I love this” before the tachometer’s needle smacks the rev limiter and you run out of gear. Another 500 rpm of revs – or that surge of power delivered a touch lower – would go a long way.

If you’re keeping the engine toward the tippy-top of the tach, you’ll be shifting a fair amount. Thankfully, the six-speed manual is a solid transmission. It’s paired to an easy clutch that doesn’t kill you in stop and go traffic yet offers good feel for modulation as you hustle. Shifts are on the good side of notchy – it’s an enjoyable stick to shift.

2022 Subaru WRX gray

Fixed dampers provide a good ride when the road gets twisty or you find a good off-ramp. On lousy D.C. roads – the WRX was stiff. But that’s about what I expected, and I’d rather have the suspension set up to handle a turn than coddle me through every pothole. And it’ll handle a turn. You can tell there is a ton of grip under the WRX, which inspires confidence and adds to the fun. The all-wheel drive, a Subaru hallmark, is fully automatic and shifts power around to keep you moving despite doing Dumb Things as you take that empty off-ramp with far too much speed.

But then, Subaru giveth and Subaru taketh away. All that grip from the chassis and tires and all-wheel drive routing power around is so fabulous, and it’s let down by the fancy new steering rack. Subaru claims the rack adds more accuracy and more natural feel – compared to what, though? The steering is perpetually a bit light, even loaded up in a corner, and the wheel itself communicates almost nothing about where the front wheels are pointed and how they’re doing mid-turn. It’s frustrating given how the rest of the car seems pretty composed.

2022 Subaru WRX gray

Final Thoughts

I’m glad the 2022 Subaru WRX continues to exist and be offered with a manual transmission. Die-hard Subaru fans will likely love the car – I had waves and stares from other WRX and STi drivers throughout my week with the car. Someone even rolled down their window in moving traffic to yell at me and ask how I liked the car.

At the 2022 Subaru WRX’s price point, it faces competition from Honda (Civic Si), Hyundai (Elantra N) and Volkswagen (GTI and Golf R, if you’re cool with a hatch). Some are more expensive and some are less – and they are all fun in their own right. Subaru got a lot right with the new WRX, but I also turned it back in feeling like they were oh so close with a few key elements of the driving experience that didn’t entirely work out for my tastes.

The older WRXs had personality; they were the embodiment of “cheap and cheerful” though you had to acknowledge they were not especially “nice” or “refined” places to spend a ton of time. Subaru’s focus as a company has shifted since that 2002 WRX – the notion of being a quirky sporty rally-bred car company was fun in theory but didn’t move enough cars. Their new formula is working out swimmingly from a sales perspective, but I found myself wishing the 2022 WRX was a bit more soulful and driver-focused in its demeanor.

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