Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 28, 2022
Subaru’s rally-inspired road car, the WRX, finally gets a rework for 2022, allowing it to keep up with the rivaling Volkswagen Golf GTI and Acura Integra. The update includes a new chassis, a more powerful 2.4-litre flat-four engine with 271 hp, and an improved interior. Subaru has retained two transmission options, a six-speed manual and a continuously variable transmission that they call SPT, or Subaru Performance Transmission. The latter is the model we drove, and aside from letting the WRX row its own eight fake gears, we still found it engaging and entertaining.
The new 2.4-litre turbocharged flat-four is a joy to wring out. Its maximum torque output of 258 lb-ft now peaks at 2,000 rpm, but we still noticed a considerable amount of turbo lag, especially when caught in the wrong ‘gears’. In the manual car, we could remedy that by always keeping the turbo spooled up in the higher RPMs, but it’s harder to manipulate the SPT here to do the same. Acceleration is quick, more than enough for any casual driver, with 0-100 km/h coming in 6.1 seconds with SPT, one-tenths slower than the manual WRX. That disparity is expected, as the SPT weighs 63 kg more due to the added weight of the gearbox and safety technology.
The SPT is not an embarrassing choice for those who don’t want three pedals. It inherently demands less involvement from the driver but it actually feels more relaxing behind the wheel as a result, allowing us to concentrate on the other improved nuances of the WRX. Thanks to better cabin insulation, the SPT isn’t as physically or as audibly harsh as before. We would even call the fake gear shifts smooth and convincing - the only thing that threw us off was the unnatural speed that it downshifts at, and the lack of any powertrain movement when we pulled the paddle.
The SPT did display some rough edges during low speed creeps and during hard braking manuevers, where it doesn’t seem to know where to land in the rev range to make use of the situation. Otherwise, drivers would be hard-pressed to notice any difference or change in driving style with this compared to a traditional torque converter, and those who desire a WRX but are intimidated about a manual don’t need to be worried about missing out on the WRX’s performance potential. Rather, we think the SPT properly suits the car’s newfound civility.
The WRX handles well, enjoys being thrown into corners, and grips onto sweeping high-speed curves with tenacity and confidence. It takes purposeful shifting of the car’s weight and balance to truly unsettle the WRX. There is an exorbitant amount of mechanical grip with its sticky tires and full-time AWD system, which doesn’t just send power to the front or rear wheels when grip is needed. It’s powering all four wheels, all the time. This is both a good and bad thing. Fuel economy suffers since wheels are being powered 24/7. The SPT is theoretically more efficient than the manual but it’s actually the latter that gets the better fuel ratings. The result with the SPT is an average 10.8 L/100km, which isn’t terrible but a few notches higher than the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Si. Subaru also recommends premium 91-octane fuel for the motor.
The WRX leans and exhibits less body roll than before and straddles an impressive balance between stiffness and comfort. Speaking of which, the ride is more comfortable than before, and is probably the largest improvement for 2022. It is less punishing on the road, is better damped when negotiating uneven pavement, and doesn’t become unsettled with minor bumps on the road.There is still an excess of wind noise that penetrates the cabin, moreso than a Civic Si or Golf GTI, but it’s bearable and can be drowned out with the Harmon Kardon audio system. We have always berated Subaru’s audio systems for their lack of bass, tinny registers, and hollow frequencies, but it’s slightly better here. That said, it still lacks enough bass and treble to make your songs sound truthful and authentic, and is subpar to say the least.
On the flip side, the WRX exhaust is booming and bass-filled as usual, even on engine start. It’s not a drone per say, but more like you’re towing a buzzing beehive. The noise isn’t terribly intrusive but can get tiring on longer road trips, where the constant bass reverberates every water bottle stowed in their holders. It sounds aggressive but not immature or overly boisterous. We noticed that the manual-equipped models sounded a bit louder, probably because we were revving them harder in lower gears. The CVT doesn’t take advantage of that, but what matters is that the turbo-four sounds exactly like a burbly WRX should.
The interior has been given a decent nip and tuck. Black plastics run rampant, as it should in a $40,000 sports sedan, but the fit and finish is excellent. The switchgear do not have an expensive feel to them but they feel solid and durable, responding with positive and unambiguous feedback. There’s no wiggle when the buttons are depressed. It’s also odd to call analog gauges a refreshing sight in this day and age, but when storied brands such as Porsche and Rolls-Royce have already migrated to a digital world, it is what it is.
They flank the substantially sized steering wheel and vertically-oriented touchscreen, the latter of which is a standout. It offers lag-free interfaces and is thoughtfully designed to be user-friendly. We appreciate how there are still real buttons and dials for higher traffic functions such as cabin temperature and audio volume. Of note, there is no dedicated auto brake hold button. You have to go into the touchscreen’s car settings menu everytime to toggle it, and it will default to its off position everytime you shut off the car. A minor annoyance.
The 2022 model delivers the same engaging WRX experience but with a sprinkle of civility and a splash of comfort, no matter which way you choose to row the gears. Subaru’s popular sports sedan still sounds and takes off like a WRX should, but is a much more usable and tolerable appliance in the toolbox, and the SPT adds to its daily driver appeal. Same sport. More sedan.
Model: 2022 Subaru WRX Sport-Tech w/ Eyesight
Paint Type: Ignition Red
Base Price: $41,895
Price as Tested: $41,895
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,670 / 1,825 / 1,465
Curb weight (kg): 1,621
Engine: 2.4-litre turbocharged flat-four cylinder
Horsepower: 271 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2,000 - 5,200 rpm
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 12.7 / 9.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.8