Subaru is known for two things in the U.S.: SUVs with a flair for adventure, and the WRX. SUV fans like their SUVs, and WRX fans sure as hell like their vape pe- er, WRXs. With the 2022 WRX, which is truly all-new for the first time in a very long time, the company has seemingly tried to design a vehicle that appeals to both camps.
That’s what all the black cladding, hexagonal wheel arch surrounds and the Crosstrek-aping orange paint are saying to me, anyway. But it’d be an injustice to reduce the new WRX to its appearance, because there’s so much more to discuss under the hood.
First, there’s the new engine: a 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four producing 271 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It comes with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic which is actually a CVT, though Subaru would prefer you didn’t call it that. In fact, the company has a hip new name for this CVT, having dubbed it the Subaru Performance Transmission (no, really). It’s got paddle shifters, and the company claims changes between the simulated second and third gears are quicker than ever.
But enough about the transmission you probably don’t want. The new WRX’s other big upgrade pertains to its chassis, which has switched to the Subaru Global Platform and, in doing so, has become considerably stiffer. Torsional rigidity has increased by 28 percent, while suspension mounting point rigidity is up 75 percent, according to the manufacturer’s data. As with the new BRZ, the rear stabilizer bar now connects directly to the body, not the subframe. Everything’s tighter, snappier, more immediate — you know the deal.
That extends to the new dual-pinion electric power steering system, where Subaru says the driver’s input shaft has been separated from the motor assist shaft for quicker and more accurate changes in direction.
The WRX has never been known for its interior, and people don’t buy it because it’s nice to sit in. Nevertheless, the sport sedan’s cabin has badly needed some sprucing up for a while now, and the 2022 model brings it with a big vertical touchscreen front and center, as well as a dash design that certainly looks more at home in this decade. Interestingly, the instrument cluster is still predominantly analog, which is strange given that the new BRZ’s is all digital.
And that brings us back around to the exterior of the WRX, which just isn’t doing it for me. The front is fine enough, but the heavy cladding along the sills and arches, the bulky haunches dominating the rear fenders and the ill-at-ease back end scream overdesign. Like, why is the back so weirdly pinched and uptight? It looks like it’s straining. Relax bro — here, hit my pen.
These are all cues of outdoorsy crossovers — particularly Subaru’s outdoorsy crossovers — and I can’t help but wonder if the strategy here is to pass the WRX off as a crossover to play to that piping hot segment. My colleague Rory responded to a picture of the WRX in our Slack with an image of the Legacy Outback SUS — that stood for Sports Utility Sedan (it has nothing to do with Among Us) — and now I can’t unsee the spiritual resemblance.
Subaru hasn’t revealed pricing for the new WRX yet, but it’s expected to hit showrooms in the early part of 2022. There will also be a new GT trim this time around, above the typical Premium and Limited packages, that adds electronic dampers, customizable Drive Mode settings and exclusive Recaro seats.