By now, everyone’s seen press shots of the new 2022 Subaru WRX. Takes abound concerning the plastic fender cladding, the cheap-looking black rear bumper, and the CVT-only Recaro package. What most people haven’t done, however, is actually seen the thing in person. I did, at this year’s Wicked Big Meet, and let me tell you folks: it’s good.
There’s some important context to lay down in terms of Subaru design. Namely, function usually begets form rather than the other way around. A Blobeye isn’t classically beautiful in the same way as a Toyota 2000GT, but its performance still makes it appealing — despite the misshapen, melted-looking headlights.
The latest entry in the WRX line will likely outperform its previous counterparts. It’s grown in both displacement and horsepower, and Subaru is claiming substantial improvements in the rigidity of the chassis. If tradition follows, it should only need to be fast — not to look good doing it.
And yet, it does.
The 2022 WRX is sleek in a way the outgoing generation simply isn’t. The body’s silhouette, from a side profile, looks clean and well-proportioned. The hood flows into the pillars, which flow back down from the roof to the trunk without hard creases or broad, flat panels. Even the Hofmeister kink at the rear now comes neatly to a point, unlike the outgoing model’s straight vertical cutoff.
A WRX with nothing but smooth lines, however, brings back unwanted memories of the 2008 model year with its boring, slab-sided appearance. Subaru, it seems, took the same approach here that they did when facelifting that model in 2011 — they slapped some big, angular fender flares on the side. After all, what’s a rally car without an aggressive wide body kit?
Of course, with Subaru designs, the little details matter. While representatives from the company were quick to say that their 2022 WRX show car was a preproduction prototype (down to the completely blank VIN plate), they focused too much on the “magma design” tail lights for them not to make it to production. Twitter may make comparisons between the new WRX and tail lights off of old Civics, Accords, or Kias, but none of those brands have ever made a tail light as interesting as these.
Is the plastic fender cladding ideal from an aesthetic standpoint? Probably not, but it’ll certainly keep the paint on these cars a little fresher after a late-night gravel road drift session. The plastic rear bumper may be offputting at first, but in practice it’s not dissimilar to the BRZ’s fake rear diffuser. As for the Recaros? Maybe we’ll yet see them on the stick. It wouldn’t be the first time an automaker changed course on auto-only options.
The 2022 Subaru WRX may not be a perfect design, but it’s a great entry into the World Rally Experimental line.