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This combination of three letters mightn’t mean much to the uninitiated, but to the diehard go-fast car customer, or even just the performance-curious one, WRX means something.
To me, the Subaru WRX stands for a lot. Its lineage stretches back almost 30 years, and over that period there have been some absolutely cracking rally-bred rockets for the road. I’ve personally owned a WRX, so I know what this Subaru sports car is all about.
This new model takes everything we thought we knew about the Rex and makes it considerably more approachable, more palatable, more predictable, and frankly improves the breed for the better.
I’ll explain how - so read on, or watch the video to see what I’m on about.
|Subaru WRX 2022: GT (awd)|
|Engine Type||2.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The WRX sedan range kicks off from $44,990 (all prices MSRP - before on-road costs) for the base grade manual version, up to $50,490 for the RS grade manual and tops out at $56,990 for the top-spec tS model with the CVT automatic.
You can get that continuously variable automatic transmission in the lower grades too, adding $4000 to the price for the base grade and the RS.
If that price premium seems big, it is. But it includes a bunch of additional forward-facing active safety gear that isn’t available on the manual versions - more details on that in the Safety section below.
The CVT auto is the only transmission available if you want the station wagon version.
The WRX Sportswagon, as it’s called, starts at $49,990 for the base model, the mid-range RS is $55,490, and the tS model flagship is $57,990.
Standard equipment on all grades includes dual zone climate control, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and a huge 11.6-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 2x front USB ports, a six-speaker stereo, 18-inch wheels, LED headlights with cornering function and LED daytime running lights, and auto headlights and wipers, cloth seats and manual front seat adjustment.
Step up to the RS and you score a sunroof, sat nav, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo with subwoofer, power adjustable front seats, heated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, ultrasuede seat trim, 2x rear USB ports, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. This grade also adds a driver monitoring camera with facial recognition tech.
The tS adds some go-fast bits, like adjustable dampers, a drive mode selector that allows you to tailor the car’s behaviour to your specific tastes, STI logos throughout the interior (steering wheel and seats), felt-lined door pockets, and being auto only, you get all the available safety gear standard - but it still runs on 18-inch wheels.
All told, the new-generation WRX adds a lot of tech and gear for the money - especially compared to the likes of the new, much more expensive VW Golf R (from $68,990).
You are going to make up your own mind about the look of the Rex. Let me just say this - don’t judge it by the pictures. It looks a lot more, er, agreeable in person.
I’ll admit it - I was a bit uncertain about whether I would like it. I saw the pictures online and thought it looked a bit awkward. Those squinty headlights, the hexagonal wheel arches, the tapered rear quarter panels and small tail-lights… All of that makes it a bit hard to pick a “good” angle of the car.
But in person it is a more cohesive piece of automotive design than it might appear at first glance. And look, the choice by Subaru to fit the WRX with the more aggressive looking lower body kit/rugged plastic finishes to the sedan, rather than the wagon, might seem weird to you.
But the brand insists the decision was made because the WRX sedan is more aimed at those who want the more angry look, while the wagon is more aimed at parents and family buyers.
Now, look, I’m a parent, and a potential buyer of a WRX wagon, and I’m frustrated Subaru doesn’t have a wagon with that lower body effect package. It looks narrower and less purposeful on the road as a result, and there’s even more reason for that - the wagon is narrower in the body, with skinnier front and rear guards.
You might be fine with the look of the wagon, compared to the sedan. But I think it would have benefited from less of the Levorg look, and more of the real Rexxy raucousness the sedan gets.
Now, Subaru has said it might consider customer feedback if there’s enough customer demand for a more macho wagon. And hey, the brand has a history of listening to customers and making the cars more appealing as the generation evolves - think about the third-gen WRX which launched with a narrow body but soon fattened up to look meaner…
Other notes on the design: the WRX wagon has different wheels, which are fitted with narrower, less aggressive tyres - it runs Yokohama Blue Earth GT tyres in 225/45/18 size, while the sedan, in keeping with its more intentful bent, runs far superior Dunlop SP Sport Maxx 245/40/18 tread. As a result, the wagon has a narrower front track (1550mm vs 1560mm) and rear track (1545mm vs 1570mm).
I’d love to see a more hardcore looking WRX wagon. Tell me if you agree or disagree in the comments below.
For context, here are the dimensions of the new WRX in sedan and wagon body styles:
Obviously with a proper station wagon as part of the range now, it’s a much more practical WRX than we’ve ever seen before. But that doesn’t mean the sedan is impractical - rather, both are really quite well packaged and thought out for the most part.
Let’s start at the back, with the boot space. Cargo volume for the wagon is 492 litres with seats up and 902L with the back seats folded down (and 1430L to the ceiling). The cargo capacity of the sedan is 411L (RS and tS) to 414L (base model).
Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see how they fare with the CarsGuide luggage and / or a pram soon, but the boot openings for both versions are big and the load lips easy enough to contend with. All models have a space-saver spare wheel, too.
Back seat space is good for anyone who isn’t much taller than me. I’m 182cm (6’0”) and found my head was almost brushing the ceiling in the sedan, but I had a bit more head room in the wagon. Leg room with the driver’s seat set for me was good, and the toe room was only just adequate (I’ve got pretty big feet).
Storage in the back is okay, with map pockets, bottle holders in the doors, and a flip-down armrest with cup holders.
Parents will appreciate the ISOFIX child seat anchor points in the outboard seats, three top-tether hooks, and adjustable air-vents in all grades - so long as you buy an automatic model (manual versions miss out on rear directional air vents). The top two variants also have heated outboard seats and rear USB ports to keep occupants of all ages happy.
Up front the space is good, with a roomy feeling cabin courtesy of big windows and thin windscreen pillars.
The dashboard is dominated by that large 11.6-inch touchscreen, and it looks typically bold and colourful from Subaru. It’s mostly a really usable screen, with some hard buttons for the dual-zone temperature settings, demister, and volume and tuning knobs as well. The button that’s missing that I found myself cursing was air-con recirculation - it’s instead two touchscreen presses away.
There’s the requisite smartphone mirroring tech with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the top models have sat nav. The top two specs also have a CD player hidden in the centre console bin, which is odd - but maybe the customer who appreciates built-in nav also likes CDs still… what was I saying about this car appealing to an older demographic…?
Storage is okay up front, with bottle holders in the doors, cup holders between the seats, that centre console bin, and a good glovebox. But a lack of wireless smartphone charging is a disappointment, and the section in front of the gear selector is too small for most smartphones.
It now pushes out 202kW of power (at 5600rpm) and 350Nm of torque (from 2000-5200rpm), which represents a modest 5kW increase and the torque figure is dead on what it used to be.
You might be scratching your head at that, thinking Subaru has somehow made a mistake. The engine has 20 per cent greater displacement, but yet no significant difference in terms of the outputs?
I questioned the brand’s boss and engineers about this, and they said “you don’t drive a spec sheet”. That is to say, the usability and drivability of the new engine is where you notice the more linear delivery of the torque, so admittedly, it’s not a wow-factor moment … until you drive the car.
There is a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox (sedan only), or a continuously variable transmission if you choose the wagon or one of the auto variants. Subaru insists it’s not like the CVTs of old, and in fact insists upon calling this gearbox the Subaru Performance Transmission. It has paddle shifters and throttle blipping, and eight ‘ratios’ available, with stepped ‘shifts’ as you accelerate decelerate.
It still sends power to all four wheels using Subaru’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system - manual versions come with a locking centre diff and viscous limited slip diff, where CVT models run a variable torque distribution system.
If you’re wondering, the 0-100km/h time for the manual is 6.0 seconds (identical to the last WRX) and the auto is 6.1 seconds (was 6.3). The auto figure is for both sedan and wagon.
What price do you pay for WRX levels of performance when it comes to the pump? That’ll depend on the transmission you choose.
The automatic versions are better on the official combined cycle, with a stated figure of 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres. Choose the manual sedan and that figure jumps to 9.9L/100km.
On the test loop for the launch - which was hardly what I’d call “regular roads with a normal driving manner” - I saw 13.4L/100km indicated on the dashboard of the manual sedan, and an impressive 9.8L/100km for the auto wagon.
All models have a thirst for the good stuff, though, with 95RON premium unleaded required.
Fuel tank size is decent at 63 litres, so even if you’re driving it pretty hard you should be able to get more than 450km to a tank.
As mentioned in the pricing section, choosing the automatic model means you score additional safety gear. It appears Subaru still hasn’t figured out how to include forward collision safety equipment like autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control or lane-keeping assist to its stick-shift models, so they go without that tech.
Choose the CVT and you arguably get a safer WRX, then, with the automatic models gaining the above, as well as lane centring assist and speed sign recognition, auto high beam lights, lead-vehicle start-off alert and emergency steering assist.
However, it is worth pointing out that all models still have some rearward-facing safety gear, such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and reversing camera, but the CVT models also add rear AEB.
The RS and tS models have side and front view parking cameras as well, and rear parking sensors are only on the top-spec sedan or the mid- and top-spec wagons. None have front parking sensors.
At the time of this review there was no ANCAP crash test rating for this generation WRX, and if there were, you could feasibly expect a difference between manual and automatic versions.
However, all models have eight airbags - dual front, driver’s knee, front passenger cushion (anti-submarining), front side and full length curtain.
One thing to note: the brand has fitted a driver recognition system that uses a camera to monitor where your eyes are at all times while moving. And it can be really, really annoying, especially if you're taking in your surroundings but know the road you're on. It's quite insistent that you keep your eyes ahead, and on the road. Even looking above the road can trigger it to beep and warn you. It's one tech item I could happily do without.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Subaru offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty covering the car, but just be aware that if you drive your car on the track, you might void that. Subaru says it has no plans to follow the lead of Hyundai N to cover track driving, but insists the brand will back its customers.
Either way, the warranty cover is par for the course these days, and roadside assistance is included for one year from purchase. Other rivals offer years more coverage.
What has improved for this generation of WRX is the servicing situation.
There is capped price servicing for five years or 75,000km, meaning the intervals are finally set at 12 months/15,000km - no longer the pesky six-month/10,000km maintenance schedule of the previous model.
It depends on whether you choose manual or auto as to what price you’ll pay for maintenance, but there’s not a whole lot in it. The six-speed manual versions average $487 per annum over the five-year capped price period, while the auto versions are a little more affordable to maintain, at an annual average of $473.
If you’ve scrolled down past all the other sections of this review to the driving part, I understand who you are. You’re the sort of person who actually cares about how a WRX drives – and the good news is that his new generation model drives very, very well. Well, actually, that depends on what you define as a good drive.
If you are after the immature, extremely enjoyable edge-of-your-seat experience that we’ve come to expect from the WRX, then you might think this new generation model has gone soft. And in some ways it has.
The wagon, for instance, has a different suspension tune to the sedan. And it is indeed softer – and that’s intentional. Subaru says the buyer type for the Sportswagon is one who expects a level of comfort and ease of use that isn’t necessarily high on the priority list of the customer looking at the sedan.
As such, the sedan model has a more rigid suspension setup with stiffer springs and firmer dampers to ensure that the boy/girl racer is still appeased by the drive experience. And in the sedan you do feel a lot more of the road surface below you, with a firmer, more unapologetic ride. Where as in the wagon it is more disciplined and comfortable in almost every single situation.
The difficult bit is that the wagon in top-spec guise has even more intent to its suspension, because it is offered with the adaptive chassis control system. That means that it rides as firmly as the sedan when it’s in its sportiest drive mode setting. So, if you are after a more aggressive drive and you want a station wagon version of the WRX, then unfortunately you’re going to have to opt for the top spec wagon. That’ll leave some customers upset, because the extra $10,000 may not be easy to come by.
You need to consider that the tyre package is different between the two body styles as well. Even in the top-spec version of the wagon, you get a less aggressive tyre, and that means that it doesn’t have the same level of aggression in corners and isn’t as grippy, either. The easy solution in my mind would be to select the wagon but see if I could option a set of the sedan's wheels and tyres to improve the drivability and grip in the corners.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t enough grip, just that you can feel the wagon shimmy more in tight corners than is noticeable in the sedan, which has a significantly more sticky road presence. The Dunlops do it justice. The Yokohamas? Not so much.
The steering in both models is quite light and quite darty, and while I wouldn’t say that it’s the best steering of any car in its class, it does seem to be an improvement over the existing model. The drive modes can affect the way the steering behaves, and if you do happen to choose the top spec tS version then you can individually adjust the steering (as well as the suspension, power train, air conditioning, and safety systems). Even so, in the wagon the steering is still more likely to exhibit a bit of push-on understeer in tighter, faster bends. Not as evident in the sedan.
What about the elephant in the room then – it’s a bigger engine but with not a big power increase and has zero per cent torque adjustment over the existing model.
It is a better engine than before – like I said, it lacks that whip-crack personality of the old one, and it has removed a bit of the guesswork as to when you’ll be able to get the turbo to sing the tune that you wanted to. But, it is more linear in the way that it builds speed, and while it isn’t as visceral experience (a sports exhaust option would definitely be welcome, Subaru Australia!), it is a more refined and easy car to drive fast.
The other elephant in the room (yes it’s a big room) is the CVT automatic. This isn’t a new transmission – the last WRX auto had a CVT – but this one has been significantly reworked for a more aggressive characteristic and it is noticeably better. I wouldn’t say that it’s as technically pleasing as a dual-clutch automatic, especially in spirited driving, but it is definitely well suited to the character of the new car.
The auto does have paddle shifters so you can take matters into your own hands, and Subaru boasts that the up- and down-shift response times have been significantly improved. However, I didn’t like that the paddle shifters still overruled me in some situations - I felt like it took a bit of control out of my hands (no doubt in the name of mechanical sympathy, but even so, this is a sports car, right?).
The manual version remains a pick for those who really want to drive their WRX as a WRX ought to be driven. It’s the most engaging of the drivetrain options, and the shift action has been improved over the last model to offer a quicker feel between the gates, and the clutch action is nicely weighted as well. It is a serious shame that Subaru has missed the opportunity to sell a manual Sportswagon version of the WRX, and I sincerely hope that the brand rethinks that strategy at some point in the future. I know that for potential customers like myself, that would make the car even more appealing as a station wagon.
So, in summary, the fifth generation WRX is a more mature and high-tech drive experience than ever before. That comes at the expense of the larrikin nature of the earlier versions – but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you ask me.
The new-generation Subaru WRX is a more accomplished, complete and mature car than ever before. If all of that sounds good to you, you’re going to love it - but I’m also totally going to understand if that would put you off, because it isn’t necessarily the same sort of car we’ve come to expect it should be.
But as the latest example of the breed, the WRX - especially as a sedan - is an engaging, fun car to drive. I just think the wagon would ultimately prove a lot easier to live with.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with accommodation and meals provided.
|(AWD)||2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$43,990||2022 Subaru WRX 2022 (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Premium (AWD)||2.0L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$50,590||2022 Subaru WRX 2022 Premium (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|RS (awd)||2.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$50,490||2022 Subaru WRX 2022 RS (awd) Pricing and Specs|
|STI (awd)||2.5L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$52,640||2022 Subaru WRX 2022 STI (awd) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||9|
|Engine & trans||8|