Who doesn’t love the WRX, the rally-bred, turbo, all-wheel drive, vape-cloud-blowing machine? And in 2022, we’re getting a new one! It’s going to be epic, right? Wait, why are you looking at me like that? Oh no! Look what they did to my boy! Alright, come on, Subaru. You had one job. Look, let’s chat about what the 2022 Subaru WRX is all about and why everything is terrible. Or is it? It is.
The Looks – Want a Tiny Crosstrek?
To start with, let’s get this out of the way. I’m not some hater. I actually love the WRX. I have dreamed of owning a bug-eye WRX wagon my entire adult life. But, just to make sure it’s not just us, we did a deep dive into the internet to see what other people were saying too. Starting with some really polarizing looks, the first thing that assaults your face is the plastic. Did they do a focus group at Patagonia or something? Why? What WRX owner wanted this? It’s like they wanted to make a Crosstrek sedan.
Look, I get it, a WRX is supposed to be rugged, so maybe that’s why they clad the fenders in cheap plastic. But a WRX is a sports car. Save the plastic crap for Volvos and crossovers. Now, once you get past the fenders, it’s really not a terrible-looking car. It’s pretty modern and has decent lines from the side. I really like the headlights and tail lights on this thing. And it does, thankfully, have that all-important hood scoop. And there are some muscular fenders making a pretty aggressive statement.
Tuners will add some bigger wheels, lower it a bit, add a wing, and suddenly this thing might actually be good-looking. Now, you may already know why I like the look of certain parts of the new WRX if you’ve been watching Ideal Cars lately. I’m a big fan of the new Civics, and it seems so are the engineers at Subaru.
It’s a Civic – A Civic With Plastic
Yeah, it’s another comparison that is unavoidable. It was even the first thing posted in the Ideal team Discord chat. Someone said in a YouTube comment, “It’s a Honda Civic with an AliExpress hood scoop.” That’s pretty harsh, but I don’t think I disagree. Add an HDMI port to the back of the new WRX and you’ve got a Civic Si.
I’m not sure I hate it, though. I think the Civic is a great-looking car, and you could certainly do a lot worse. And when I look at the back of the new WRX, I don’t see it as is. I see it with a huge STI wing on it, and that makes me smile.
Besides, who needs looks, the WRX has always been about driving experience. You know, rally pedigree and supercar-destroying power. Well, not really. Let’s be honest, the WRX has been sailing by on reputation alone for a long time. It’s barely added any power in 20 years. Surely, with the 400-horsepower Z, the 306-horsepower Type R, and even the GR 86 closing in on its power numbers, Subaru had to raise the bar, right? Well, no. The new WRX makes 271 horsepower.
The Power – The Box Says “Add 5 Horsepower”
This one really stings. Now, I’m not going to be the guy that says 270 horsepower isn’t a lot. It’s more than enough to have fun with. The Veloster N is right there with the same figures. But, if you asked me, I think I’d rather have the Veloster N. I mean, we just saw the launch of the 400-horsepower Z. And in the old days, the 350Z and the WRX were neck-and-neck with each other as the two competing platforms. Now, the WRX shares horsepower numbers with the GR Yaris and the base-model Mustang.
The most disappointing part about it, though, is that it’s a whole new engine for the WRX. It’s the FA Global, meaning the world was Subaru’s oyster. The Subaru Ascent was making 260 horsepower with the FA24 three years ago! You’re telling me that after three years they can only manage to squeeze out another 10 ponies? That’s like what every cold air intake claims to add. Did they just tune the ECU a little and call it a day? It’s a joke.
The only redemption arc for the engine is that Cobb already has their hands all over it and people have built the motor to 500 horsepower. So, the tunability is still there. But what you get out of the box will get decimated by a Camry, for practically the same price. And a Camry isn’t covered in plastic.
It is still a WRX. It’s fun, tunable, and it comes with a manual. There’s still hope for it. But, uh, get ready for a bit of that hope to die. Yes, the base model does come with a six-speed manual, but the higher trim GT model comes with a CVT only! Outrageous!
The Transmission – Constant Variable Disappointment
This is the tidbit that surprised people the most. The GT trim with the better suspension and Recaros and other goodies only being available on the CVT is a shock. I legitimately do not understand why they wouldn’t at least give us the option of choosing a manual. They even tried to do a little marketing magic in the reveal, claiming the CVT was an 8-speed manual with flappy paddle shifters. But we all know the truth Subaru. That’s a crossover transmission and it’s a sin.
Why did you put that in the GT? The people who want better suspension and Recaros are the enthusiasts. You think Grandma “I-Need-Something-For-The-Snow” Robinson wants uncomfortable race seats? Nah, that’s something for people who really want to drive. You know what else enthusiasts want? A manual. Did you hear how loud the crowd cheered when Nissan announced the new Z had a six-speed?
Sure, maybe the CVT will feel good. Maybe they finally cracked the code on how to do it. But I’ve rented crappy cars, I’ve driven my fair share of CVTs, and all of them feel sluggish and bad. When the Veloster N comes with a dual-clutch transmission, and the Civic R comes with a manual, I don’t know who Subaru thinks they are trying to attract with this.
Maybe they just know all the real enthusiasts are going to wait for the STI. Anyway, speaking of the transmission, let’s look at the inside for a moment.
The Inside – Meh
Man, give it up to Tesla, you guys. They redefined the entire automotive industry’s vision on interiors. Even the WRX now has a giant Tesla screen right in the middle of it. That’s actually the one redeeming part of this interior to me. The rest is just so Subaru.
Subaru has never nailed interior design. They give you a functional space to sit and drive, and that’s it. It’s fine. It’s meh. There’s just nothing to talk about. The fact that they had to point out “aluminum pedal covers” as a major selling point in the reveal just goes to show how brutally unremarkable this interior ended up being.
I’m sure Doug DeMuro will find lots of quirks and features, but all I see is a basic car that’s completely upstaged by an Accord. An Accord that, by the way, costs less and might be faster in a line. Kick a WRX when it’s down, why don’t you?
It’s not all bad, though. There are some really cool things about the new WRX that I’m actually excited about.
The Good Bits – Rally Into My Heart
To start, the new WRX is a completely new platform, so (and I’m being charitable like the saint I definitely am) that means we are seeing the genesis of possibility. No one thought the Mark 4 Supra was going to become the legend it is today. I mean, they literally couldn’t sell them at the time, but here we are. And everyone I have talked to about the new WRX platform is super excited.
See, by updating the WRX to the Subaru Global Platform it means that, once again, all Subarus will just fit together like Legos. Want to make a Crosstrek WRX? Go for it. Ascent STI? Yup.
So, that is cool, but the best part might be the totally overhauled suspension. Compared to the outgoing WRX, the new WRX is a lot more rigid, has stabilizers everywhere, and the mounting points are super reinforced allowing them to put on some truly potent springs that have more travel but less roll than any WRX before.
So while, yes, it’s utterly disappointing that it’s not getting a power bump, what it should have is faster lap times thanks to that stiffened chassis. And I won’t lie; that’s a very good thing to hear. When you think about what they intended the WRX to be used for, some of their decisions make a little sense.
I think the new WRX is all about off-roading. Think about it. You don’t need horsepower to climb a hill; you need torque. And the FA24 has gobs of that. You don’t need aero for dominating the trails, you need mud-guards and damage-proof fenders. You really don’t even want a manual. What you want is smooth torque applications, lots of ground clearance, and an interior that can take some serious mud and abuse.
The Competition – It’s Lonely at the Top
The Veloster N costs more and is only front-wheel drive. The GR Yaris is all-wheel drive, but isn’t sold in the States. The Nissan Z will have more power, more fun, and cost a lot more. There is an AWD turbo screaming fast hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf R, with 315 horsepower and a turbo. But, again, that’s $40,000.
So, without Mitsubishi putting up a fight against the WRX in the AWD turbo rally car for the street market, Subaru doesn’t have to impress you. You’ll buy their car, even if it’s ugly, even if it’s slow, even if it’s got a CVT. What else are you going to buy?