This is the 2022 Subaru WRX Sport-tech SPT, and the WRX (World Rally Experimental) has been Subaru’s everyday sports car since its launch in 1992. The formula has always been a turbocharged boxer engine mated to a symmetrical all-wheel drive system offered up to the masses as a true performance bargain. For a decade Subaru denied North America the WRX for fear that Rally was not a popular motorsport here. Still, their success in the World Rally Championship (WRC) was something to be proud of and in 1998 we got a small taste with the Impreza 2.5RS – complete with a commemorative WRC championship badge on its trunk.
2.5RS owners had the bones to build their own WRX and enough of them did to convince Subaru Canada to officially bring the WRX over in 2002. The WRX has been a favorite among Canadian drivers ever since providing a sports sedan capable of year-round use. Now in its fifth generation, the 2022 WRX may be the final iteration to use a turbocharged boxer engine as Subaru shifts focus onto electric powertrains. In light of the cancellation of an STI version we spent a week with the WRX Sport-tech with EyeSight (SPT) to see if it’s enough to keep the Subaru faithful appeased.
Subaru paraded a full lineup of “Viziv” concept cars around the auto show circuit for the past five years leading up to the WRX’s launch – all of which were well received. The new WRX’s exterior design elements are not far removed from the concept cars so it may have come as a surprise to Subaru’s designers to see all the vitriol across social media platforms when the final design was revealed.
The overall dimensions are lower and wider than the outgoing model – good things when talking about a performance car. The side profile carries over most of what we saw in the Viziv with wide aggressive side skirts and bulging rear fender arches. The taillights have also been a point of contention but they are closely tied to the Viziv and BRZ in overall design, with a neat lava like effect embedded inside. The rear end is very busy with a little too much black plastic for our liking – it’s unfortunate that the diagonally stacked tips of the Viziv didn’t make it to the production model, though the triangular space for them remains.
The plastic cladding seems to be the most controversial element and visually it works better on bright colors like on our Ignition Red tester. More than just a design element, the cladding is covered in a golf ball like texture for aerodynamic effect including functional vents to guide air around the most turbulent areas. Any long time Subaru owner will appreciate the idea of easily replaceable wheel arches that won’t rust, never mind the possibilities that the aftermarket will bring forth.
Climbing into the WRX the first thing we notice is the excellent visibility though it does come at the expense of a lower hood scoop – long time WRX fans will lament not being able to see much of the iconic power bulge from behind the wheel.
The interior is a bit of a disappointment– a combination of lackluster design and materials that look and feel cheap. The switch gear feels of inexpensive plastic and lack positive engagement – it’s like pressing on an eraser. The steering wheel feels like the hard plastic ones found in economy cars despite looking like soft leather with no heating feature to be found. The worst offender for us are the turn signal stalks with their “one touch” lane change feature requiring the user to cancel the signal by pressing the lever half way without any sort of detent making it a frustrating departure from the tried and true.
One needs to only try and start the engine for a quick example of the design issues, as you can’t see the engine start button when seated behind the wheel. Subaru has opted for a portrait orientation for the infotainment interface and so the central air vents are also vertically oriented making the whole center console look like an afterthought. At least they’ve left us with physical volume and tuning knobs along with buttons for climate control that are functional in use.
The large touchscreen is nice when looking at maps but the huge fonts and vibrant color palette lack visual sophistication. Opting for a portrait layout also renders the horizontal reverse camera into a small rectangle further adding to the lack of overall design cohesion. To make matters worse we found the software to be buggy, on one occasion refusing to tune into any radio stations.
The best interior element is also a bit contentious; we’re talking about the seats. We found them quite comfortable and supportive with decent sized bolsters though they may not be comfortable for larger folks. Our Sport-tech trim has fancy ultra-suede inserts which look and feel great, however our neighbors down south get even fancier Recaro seats in the top WRX GT trim which, like the S209 is disappointingly not available in Canada.
Firing up the FA24 engine results in one of the better cold starts we’ve experienced. The distinctive boxer burble from the stock exhaust has just the right tone and volume. The sense of occasion is enhanced as the car won’t let you select “S#” mode until the engine warms up which makes the moment that you can feel a bit more special. With dual variable valve timing, direct injection and a twin scroll turbocharger this latest Subaru boxer puts out 271 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 258 lb-ft. from 2,000 to 5,200RPM. The engine is punchy and powerful with no sign of turbo lag and linear power delivery; a definite upgrade from the outgoing model.
Although it is natural to be critical of what we don’t get, we do have to acknowledge the gift of the six-speed manual transmission as it’s nowhere to be found on Japanese market WRXs. That’s right, if you want the full JDM experience you’ll need to give the new Subaru Performance Transmission (SPT) automatic CVT a go.
Scoff all you wish, the new Eight-Speed SPT is a triumph in the world of performance CVTs. Subaru cleverly rotated the tachometer such that 3,000RPM is at the 12 o’clock position giving the illusion that there are plenty of revs despite the 6,000RPM redline. With eight gear ratios the WRX always seems to be in the power band. The SPT is equipped with an electronically controlled transfer clutch allowing for active torque vectoring. The whole experience of driving the SPT adds a layer of refinement making for a better street car 90% of the time compared to the manual – though we do long for the manual handbrake.
WRX fans will appreciate the 13.5:1 ratio steering rack, the quickest rack ever for WRX making this new car feel quick to react to driver inputs with a great connection to the road. Suspension setup is a little on the firm side but not so much so that you can’t live with it every day. Subaru Canada has decided to deprive us of the electronic adjustable damper system found in other markets– at least that simplifies things for owners looking to fit their own aftermarket dampers.
Perhaps the weakest part of the performance equation are the brakes. Basic two-pot sliding calipers are a far cry from the six-piston Brembos fitted to STI models and four-piston Sumitomo calipers found on previous WRX models. True to its roots, the WRX is still a bit of a gas guzzler. Though rated at 12.7L/100KM city, 9.4 highway and 11.2 combined, our week yielded a rather thirsty fuel consumption of 13.4L/100KM, though to be fair we manually shifted the SPT most of the time.
The WRX is all grown up from its raw hooligan rally roots. Those looking for a refined all season sports sedan will appreciate the refinements and safety offered by the 2022 Subaru WRX Sport-Tech SPT for an as tested $41,895. For fans that prefer things more as they were, the base manual transmission model is still a bargain starting at $30,995 for a capable sports sedan with plenty of potential. While we anxiously await the new STI EV, we expect Canadian fans will do as they’ve always done – take what they are given and build their own.