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2022 SUBARU WRX – Subie’s Wild Child Adds Refinement

Car Reviews

2022 SUBARU WRX – Subie’s Wild Child Adds Refinement

2022 SUBARU WRX 

Subie’s Wild Child Adds Refinement


SOMEWHERE, USA – On a desolate and winding road with unobstructed views in an undisclosed location in any one of four states, it did not seem necessary to verify the all-new 2022 Subaru WRX’s factory estimated top speed of 145 mph.

Ssshhh. Don’t tell Beautiful Blonde Bride, but I got close.

Hey, it wasn’t my fault. Just rolling into showrooms now, the 5th-generation, rally-inspired WRX sports sedan is built on Subaru’s lighter and tighter global platform, meaning it rides and handles better than any in the WRX’s 20-year U.S. history.

And what a two decades they have been. Built on Subaru’s unassuming Impreza, the WRX in its early years had a successful career with Subaru’s factory World Rally team. Subaru dropped out of that competition in 2008, but the WRX lived on as a favorite of street racers. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety identified it as one of the most ticketed cars of all time, with more than a third of owners reporting at least one moving violation. 

Given a clean-sheet redesign, the WRX now has a premium feel. What was once loud and harsh is now refined but elating. It is quieter, more pliant over road imperfections, and has steering and grip that double and turn like a hunted hare.

The new WRX may not have the combination of power and nimbleness one can find in VW’s GTI or Jetta GLI, nor the refinement of a Hyundai Elantra N or Honda Civic Si, but it offers plenty of performance combined with a reputation for reliability.

With a 2.4-liter (up from 2.0) turbocharged Subaru Boxer® Engine, the new WRX delivers 271 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque across a broad curve from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. The turbo has an electronically controlled wastegate and air bypass valves. All that translates into cat-like responsiveness and acceleration.

Base models come with – ohmygosh! – a six-speed manual transmission, which allows the driver to maximize rpm to minimize turbo lag. Second, through fifth gears have short throws; OK, as tight as shift linkages get in a front-wheel-drive/all-wheel-drive setup, making it easy to optimize engine power through apexes into down-track exit points.

The new platform, with full inner-frame construction and more structural adhesives, increases front lateral rigidity by 14 percent, torsional rigidity by 18 percent, and suspension mounting point rigidity by 75 percent. 

Add to that Subaru’s superb symmetrical all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring (standard on every WRX), and one has a car that at speed sticks to the road tighter than a cockle burr to a sheepdog.

I’m speaking from experience here, but don’t tell Blonde Beauty I said that.

VISCERALLY SWEET

As I crested an undisclosed hill, a wide-open and winding expanse came into view. At the bottom, the road dipped into a left hairpin, crossed a narrow bridge, and then wound up the opposite hill. Using heel-and-toe to match engine speed to road speed, I dropped from fifth, to fourth, to third as I set up for the turn-in.

Hairpins are best managed with two apexes – two 60-degree turns get you 120 – and I hit second just as we approached the first. The engine held steady with a throaty growl until we reached the second, where I quickly but smoothly mashed throttle to firewall. 

Subie rocketed out of the turn and shot up the hill. I was in fourth when I got out of it because I could not see what was on the other side.

There was no one, but if there had been a policeman waiting on the other side of that rise I would have been closer to the speed limit by the time I got into radar range. Clearly, the folks who designed the 2022 WRX understood that power without control is a disaster begun.

That’s how my week with the WRX went: periods of staid, old-man driving interspersed with moments of hair-on-fire adolescence. I was so relieved when the nice man came to retrieve the WRX, and I had yet to draw police attention. 

Don’t tell Blonde Bride I said that.

FAIR ENOUGH

Beautiful Bride hates ‘fair enough’, but it accurately depicts WRX’s value proposition. One will consider it worth the money only if one appreciates its capabilities.

Starting at $30,100, delivered, the base WRX offers the same guts, engine and AWD, found on a top-of-line $42,890 WRX GT. In between are two other trims, Premium ($32,600) and Limited ($36,990). 

Subaru reaches into the parts bins for a host of goodies to help each trim justify its price. The Premium, for example, adds an 11.6-inch multimedia screen that allows for touch control of HVAC, plus LED fog lights, a slick rear spoiler, keyless access with push-button start, dual climate control with voice activation, and all-weather package of heated seats, side mirrors, and windshield wiper deicer.

The near-luxury GT comes with electronically controlled dampers with multiple settings and up to 430 customizable drive options. You can find more information here.

The base, Premium, and Limited models come with either a 6-speed or an automatic, a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters and cooler. Purists tend to dislike CVTs, questioning their durability, but no objective data supports that contention. Frankly, I think the anathema towards CVTs comes because most folks don’t understand them, and few mechanics know how to work on them. 

The CVT adds about $1,800 to $2,000, depending on trim level. The GT only comes with a CVT.

The price difference is caused by more than the automatic transmission. Only with the CVT is Subaru able to offer its terrific driver-assist technology, EyeSight®, and at that, it is still not a complete package. The basic package includes dynamic cruise control, which keeps cars a safe distance behind those in front and sharply eliminates the most common type of crash, nose-to-tail collisions. It also has lane-keep assist, which reduces by about a third the two most lethal types of accidents, head-ons, and rollovers.

Other important accident reduction technologies, such as blind-spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, are available only on Limited and GT models. I generally oppose jacking up prices for technology that Toyota offers free and other companies offer at low cost, but there are two important considerations here.

One is that driver-assist technology relies on drive-by-wire connectivity which does not exist for standard transmissions. The other is that market research indicates many people prefer not to have accident-reduction technology. 

Automakers are darned good at assessing consumer wants and one might reasonably assume a correlation between not wanting new technology and wanting an old-fashioned transmission. 

Just spit-balling here, as I would also be if I tried to guess how the insurance industry might categorize a performance car without modern safety gear. That is probably a discussion you might want to have with your insurance agent before you buy any vehicle.

All I know is that if I get a bunch of tickets, I’ll be in big trouble with Blonde Beauty.

She’s already threatening to dye her hair a different color just to test my powers of alliteration. Purple Partner? Green Goddess? The Rose Red Ragin’ Cajun?

By any name, I’d love her as much.

In four decades of journalism, Bill Owney has picked up awards for his coverage of everything from murders to the NFL to state and local government. He added the automotive world to his portfolio in the mid '90s.

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