2022 Subaru WRX First Look & Ride | Rest easy, Subie faithful
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WRX fans can breathe out. The newly unveiled 2022 Subaru WRX shows that the development team hasn't lost sight of what's special about this car. The designers haven't given the thing an outrageous grid or unnecessary appendages to stimulate social conversations and generate shares. The new WRX of the 5th.
It would have been easy to hate the new shape if they had closely followed the somewhat awkward contours of the 2022 Subaru Impreza sedan when they updated the new "Rex" to the Subaru Global Platform. But the WRX is far more pleasant because the nose and headlights are tidier and its front apron has familiar fog lights at the corners. At the rear, the rear fenders, roof, doors and “Magma” taillights flow together more cohesively, and the fender stampings themselves have been reshaped to create a sweeping, wide body that goes well with the car.
Perhaps the most controversial new design element is the use of generously sculpted panels along the side gaiters and wheel arch surrounds. The specific texture of the plastic is said to have a positive effect on aerodynamics, as it prevents air flow detachment, which can increase air resistance. This advantage seems very theoretical to us, but it will still be useful for concealing unsightly rockfall damage if an owner invariably collects his in the dirt. This seems entirely appropriate given the WRX's rallying heritage, even if the treatment creates a slightly chunky three-quarter view from the rear and makes the orange look like Halloween's official car.
Much of this is secondary to WRX believers who yearn for an affordable, well-balanced four-wheel drive sports sedan with a turbo boxer engine and preferably a manual transmission. That last point is surprisingly important to the WRX, with Subaru representatives telling us that over 75% of the previous model was sold with the six-speed manual transmission. Well, the manual is back, and it's back to the standard offering in the Base, Premium, and Limited trims. This car is very popular among Save the Manuals people and will continue to be so in the future.
Even so, Subaru seems intent on improving the performance and appeal of the optional CVT. Our hosts went out of their way to characterize the Subaru Performance Transmission (SPT) as an automatic transmission, which is fair enough as a CVT is a multitude of automatics. But this is a CVT indeed, albeit a highly functional one with a simulated eight-speed manual mode that can fire off crisp shifts so much faster than last year that it acts like a dual-clutch transmission. The SPT comes with an additional oil cooler when optional in the Premium and Limited trim levels and is the only offering in the new top of the range GT trim. For the time being, this is at the highest level, because there is still no talk of a new STI.
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The new GT pictured above differs from a Limited not only in terms of the standard gearbox equipment. You also get grippy Recaro seats, matt gray wheels, paddle shifters and adaptive multi-mode dampers - a WRX first. The steering force and the aggressiveness of the transmission can also be selected by the driver, and you can choose from various preset configurations via a Drive Mode Select touchscreen menu or put together your own individual setting. However, these features are only available on the GT, so you have to be willing to forego the manual to get them.
Regardless of which gearbox or equipment variant you choose, it is bolted to a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder boxer engine with turbocharger. In addition to the larger displacement, this engine also has a turbocharger with an electronic wastegate. The end result is difficult to judge from the specs because on paper the new engine only adds 3 horsepower (271 versus 268, both at 5,600 rpm) and produces the same 259 pound-feet of torque over the 2,000 range to 5,200 rpm in both cases. Subaru reps are quick to point out that outside of these peaks, the power and torque curves are both wider and flatter, which is true given the additional 400cc displacement.
Driving was not allowed at this event, so we could only get an idea of it by putting on a helmet and driving a shotgun on a racetrack with former Formula 1 driver and current Subaru rallycross ace Scott Speed. The engine pulled hard and felt like it wasn't in the slightest pointed, and both the new ultra suede seats in the Limited (which replaced leather) and the Recaros in the GT held a firm grip. There was no need to look for a grab handle as Speed raced headlong through the corners. The SPT circuits in the GT actually felt as seamless as a good DCT, and the car devoured the top curbs equally well, whether we were in a GT with adaptive dampers or the Limited with its fixed valve dampers.
The car seemed to be attacking the corners with a hint of understeer, but that could easily have been Mr. Speed's immense ability showing through. It's a shame that we couldn't test it ourselves, because behind the new skin of the WRX there are many changes that we could only assess behind the wheel. The body structure itself is initially about 30% stiffer in torsion, a property that the suspension should address in a much more predictable manner. Thanks to a new, direct-acting stabilizer, which is screwed to the strut instead of the lower wishbone, the front roll stiffness is also 20% higher. A new two-pinion electric power steering system should improve the steering feel, as this time the steering linkage connects the wheel to the rack directly, with the help of a second pinion at the opposite end of the rack being added.
All of this runs on the same tire sizes as last year: 235 / 45R17 tires for the base model and 245 / 40R18 tires for the Premium, Limited and GT. All of them are Dunlop SP Sport Max GT summer tires. So if you live where it snows, consider buying a set of extra wheels and winter tires.
Inside, every version except the basic model is equipped with a new 11.6-inch portrait format infotainment system based on a tablet. There are plenty of physical buttons and buttons for the most important functions, so it doesn't get too touchscreen-heavy to the point of frustration. The GT version is connected to a high-end Harman Kardon stereo, and even the base model without the huge 11.6-inch screen can support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The height-adjustable seat and tilting telescopic wheel make it space-saving to find a comfortable driving position, and the additional legroom in the rear of the Impreza-like Subaru Global Platform made it easy for me to sit in the back myself.
Detailed specifications such as the weight and fuel consumption of the new WRX will not be released until the start of production in January 2022. The actual horsepower and torque curves would be nice to see, but the final calibrations may not be complete yet. We couldn't feel the power and torque differences for ourselves this time, and the precise feel of steering, handling and handling are still a big unknown. But the WRX looks great in person, and what we learned in our walkaround and felt in our shotgun ride-along gives us great confidence that WRX fans in North America won't be disappointed with the 2022 Subaru WRX here in the Trading comes next January or February depending on the chips.
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