January 20, 2022

2022 Subaru WRX First Drive: Heritage simply is not sufficient


Because the reasonably priced sports activities automotive market enjoys a revival of its glory days, with revived classics (Integra, anybody?) and fully new sport-line nameplates within the $30,000-ish value vary popping up seemingly weekly, it’s made all of it that more difficult for producers which have by no means given up on everyman efficiency to tell apart their choices on this newly-crowded market. And so Subaru’s all-new 2022 WRX, now getting into its twentieth 12 months of American manufacturing, has a more durable job to do than just about any of its legendary predecessors. Not solely does it have to make a compelling case for itself towards the brand new children on the block, it has to enchantment to these wistfully recalling the glory days of McRae blasting a Group A monster via Scottish forests.

Subaru’s consistency with the WRX components continues into this fifth-generation automotive, however with a couple of twists. The fundamental substances of the 2022 mannequin shall be very acquainted to long-time WRX aficionados: a turbocharged boxer-four is nestled into the engine bay and it, as all the time, powers all 4 wheels in a 50:50 torque break up (though the automated transmission shifts a bit extra energy rearward, with a forty five:55 torque break up, entrance/rear). Look deeper, and there are extra similarities: displacement is now bumped up 400ccs from the outgoing mannequin, to 2.4L, however regardless of the engine measurement enhance the facility is just about unchanged with 271 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque on faucet.

Weight can be practically an identical, with the latest base mannequin sedan solely packing on three further kilos over its older sibling, for a 3,297 lb curb weight. As with 2021’s WRX, a six-speed handbook or Subaru’s Variable Torque Distribution CVT automated direct energy from the flat-four to all 4 corners. Pricing continues to be unannounced, however I might count on it to be much like the outgoing mannequin too, doubtless coming in at only a tad beneath $30,000 after vacation spot charges for the bottom trim.

On the spec sheet, then, it sounds fairly a bit like its older, retiring sibling. Laying eyes on it, nonetheless, makes it clear it’s a bolder step than the statistics would possibly suggest.

For the primary time within the WRX’s two-decade-long lifespan, it not shares a single panel with the Impreza it was born from. Each crease within the sheet metallic is solely etched for the sporty turbo sedan and, personally, I admire the liberty the designers felt with the latest automotive. It continues the grown-up sports-car feeling of the outgoing era, with out falling into both bland commuter territory (within the vein of the final era) or including too many boy-racer try-hard accoutrements (sure, I’m you, Bugeye, as beloved as you’re).

The broader flares main into the understated, intricately textured taillights assist give it 90s-era rally-box-flare character strains with out wanting comedically offended. The entire visible package deal works properly collectively, particularly in lighter colours that showcase the angular cladding extra cleanly.

The inside is considerably revised over the fourth era’s as properly, with the standard double-screen middle console of Subaru’s older automobiles changed with a single, portrait-oriented 11.6” touchscreen embedded within the sprint in trims above the bottom. Sadly, the bottom trim will get two vastly smaller touchscreens, clunkily slapped into the identical sprint design; the bottom mannequin feels vastly cheaper inside because of dropping the bigger display the console is clearly meant for. Irrespective of which trim patrons go for, nonetheless, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are commonplace.

Supply: Subaru

In increased trims with the bigger, vertical display, it’s acceptably responsive and straightforward to make use of with out feeling like the huge measurement is just too distracting in movement. Subaru additionally affords the flexibility to make use of the big portrait show as a break up display, in order that a number of options – navigation and radio, for instance – will be seen concurrently. Regardless of the centerpiece presentation of the huge display, the WRX UI designers additionally made the good move to not conceal key options deep in menus. The HVAC controls and primary radio capabilities nonetheless get bodily knobs and switches.

However let’s be sensible: nobody contemplating Subaru’s turbocharged sports activities sedan goes to be solely weighing it on the deserves of display measurement. World Rally Blue continues to be probably the most well-liked colours on provide – regardless of the corporate not having campaigned a World Rally Championship group since 2008 – and the take fee for handbook transmissions on the final era was a staggering 85% of complete gross sales. The WRX is right here to have enjoyable, and so Subaru threw me the keys to a six-speed and aimed me on the mountain passes of Sonoma to present me an opportunity to see how a lot of a superb time it actually is.

I instantly started working having enjoyable, womanhandling the wheel via tight uphill esses and switchbacks as I labored my method in direction of the coast. With the WRX in movement on the sports-car-paradise roads, it wasn’t unhealthy, however with a crowded sport sedan market and twenty years of historical past to hold on its flared haunches, it wasn’t actually enjoyable, both. The steering was my instant first criticism; it’s newly revised, with a twin-pinion rack that enables for the electrical energy help to stay divorced from the steering column, guaranteeing that inputs are all the time linear and resistance is all the time constant.

This can be a nice concept in concept, however as I wound via ensuing S-curves the place the automotive ought to be speaking weight switch or understeer or energy slides, I merely felt nothing.

The response from the brand new rack is too robotically constant, with no communication of what’s truly occurring on the street beneath the entrance wheels. That linear response removes the entire further steering heft that ought to accompany transitioning the comparatively weighty mass of the WRX from left to proper and again once more. On the uncommon broad corners the place I might strategy something resembling the WRX’s limits, it was positively quick, and the comparatively stiff suspension tuning – together with its 28% stiffer chassis – does assist it carry a terrifying quantity of pace via the turns.

With out the steering wheel speaking me via my maneuvers and the street circumstances beneath me, nonetheless, I by no means felt fairly assured or clear on the place its limits have been, and it made my drive a lot much less joyful.

The remainder of the automotive, too, I discovered deeply hit-and-miss. The six pace handbook (the one transmission out there for me to check – manufacturing points have delayed the CVT mannequin till Q1 2022) is satisfying to shift, with a comparatively crisp and easy-to-slot throw and a properly mechanical feeling when I discovered my gear of selection, and it’s accompanied by a delightfully gentle flywheel that made rev-matching downshifts a pleasure. Sadly, the gear ratios are irritating on 55 mph winding nation roads: second gear ends at round 50 mph and the bounce to 3rd appears like an enormous chasm the turbo is desperately making an attempt to maintain momentum via.

At increased speeds, preserving the automotive pulling onerous from third to fourth is mainly unattainable. Regardless of this irritating energy supply, 80 mph nonetheless retains the motor – which redlines at a comparatively low 6,000 RPM – churning at 3,000 RPM, which makes me surprise what the oddly broad gear ratios have been in service of if not high-speed poise or gasoline economic system.

To its credit score, the two.4L punches onerous because it approaches that 6,000 RPM redline, with peak energy not hitting till 5,600 RPM; the final digit of the tachometer within the WRX earlier than the needle bounces is a righteously radical blur. However, regardless of most torque kicking in at 2,000 RPM, the Boxer felt prefer it couldn’t throw a punch beneath 3,000 RPM, and in truth didn’t begin to hit tougher till near 4,000 RPM. This unlucky energy supply, at the side of the strangely-geared handbook, made the facility band frustratingly tough to remain inside.

None of it is a knock towards its daily-driver credentials. It’s a fantastic commuter; the cabin was agreeable; and I discovered even the bottom seats comfy. Round city in sedate driving, it’s well-mannered. Subaru nonetheless clearly owns the sub-$30,000 sporty AWD sedan market outright, and in case your standards demand 4 pushed wheels, a handbook transmission, and a trunk, it’s a fantastic selection.

All the identical, plainly the times of opposite-locked four-wheel slides via distant nation roads are as distant a reminiscence because the Mitsubishi Lancer that Subaru sparred with. Sadly for the 2022 WRX, there are extra new sporty four-doors on the town than ever earlier than and, should you’re prepared to forgo all-wheel-drive, they know the right way to occasion tougher.

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