An all-new Subaru WRX has landed in Australia and it’s an altogether more refined performance car than it ever was. But, has the new ‘Rexie’ lost some of its edge?





What we love
  • Cracking turbo 2.4-litre boxer engine
  • Handling as good as ever
  • The CVT is a peach (no, really, it is)

What we don’t
  • It lacks the raw emotion of Rexies of old
  • Manual WRX misses out on key safety items
  • Fuel consumption is on the thirsty side

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Introduction

It’s hard to believe the Subaru WRX is 30 years old, harder still to reconcile today’s WRX with the all-wheel drive, lightweight, compact performance car that once tore up the forests and roads of the world at the hands of the legendary Colin McRae.

A quick first glance at the new 2022 Subaru WRX gives pause for more than a little head-scratching. For a start, it looks a little ungainly, sporting chunky cladding over angular wheel arches that look they’ve been borrowed from Marcello Gandini’s 1981 sketchbook. But, they serve a purpose other than just lending the WRX a high-riding stance, even if the older model is 10mm taller than this new one.

Those cladding garnishes, that actually run all the way around the car, serve a purpose, according to Subaru. Finished in a honeycomb texture, they act as an aerodynamic aid, minimising the disruption of air around the vehicle, improving stability. Function over form.



All the hallmarks of the WRX are there, though – pumped up guards, that inviting air intake dominating the bonnet, a cracking turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine, and an all-wheel drive platform refined over decades of engineering know-how.

Gone though, is the relationship the old WRX enjoyed with its Impreza donor car. Yes, Subaru dropped the ‘Impreza’ badge from its naming convention in 2014, but for all intents and purposes, the previous generation car was still a Subaru Impreza WRX.

Now, though, the WRX has moved out from under the shadows of its long-standing Impreza legacy and enters the world as a fully-fledged model in its own right – the 2022 Subaru WRX.



The new range encompasses two body styles – sedan and station wagon – four trim levels – base, RS, GT and tS – and two engine/transmission combinations.

The range starts with the WRX sedan (base) with a manual transmission for $44,900 and reaches its peak with the WRX Sportswagon tS auto at $57,990, both before on-road costs.



In all, there are eight Subaru WRXs to whet your appetite and for a full run down on specs, you can visit our comprehensive guide here.

Key details 2022 Subaru WRX RS manual sedan
Price (MSRP) $50,490 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Sapphire Blue
Options Pearlescent paint – no cost
Price as tested $50,490 plus on-road costs
Rivals Hyundai i30 Sedan N | Volkswagen Golf GTI/Golf R

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The cabin of the WRX is filled with intent. There’s plenty of red contrast stitching – on the seats, the steering wheel, the dashtop – to enhance the sporty vibe.

The seats themselves are well bolstered and supportive and depending on the grade, are finished in cloth, leather-accents or suede-like materials. There’s seat heating too on all but the base models, both front seats and in something of a rarity, the outboard seats in the rear.

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The cabin doesn’t ooze premium, but it’s a well-resolved layout with everything within intuitive reach. Storage options include a central storage bin, a pair of cupholders and a smaller cubby fore of the gear lever while the door pockets can swallow bottles.

Helpfully, in range-topping tS models, those door pockets are flocked in felt, helping to keep noise and vibrations down. Models further down the ladder make do with hard plastic door pockets.

Analogue dials flank a small driver display screen which can toggle through various driving data as well as route guidance. It’s simple, but effective.

The second row is spacious and comfortable, Subaru claiming there’s increased space in the back thanks to the new WRX’s slightly larger dimensions over the outgoing model. Overall length is up by 75mm (to 4670mm), width by 30mm (to 1825mm), while the wheelbase has increased by 25mm (to 2675mm).

That adds up to better packaging inside and, says Subaru, extra legroom and shoulder room in the back. The overall height of the new WRX is down by 10mm, though, to 1465mm.

Also down is boot capacity in the sedan, from 460 litres in the old model to 414 litres (base) and 411 litres (RS and tS grades). The Sportswagon boasts 492 litres expanding to 909 litres with the second row stowed away in 40:20:40 in Sportswagon models (the sedan gets 60:40 split-fold seats). Both models are equipped with a temporary spare wheel under the boot floor.



Nice to have features include a sunroof in all but the base models of sedan and wagon.

There’s an overall maturity to the WRX’s interior design. It’s not too flashy, but neither does it feel too cheap. The 11.6-inch portrait-orientated touchscreen that also incorporates climate control buttons within its framework dominates the dash, perhaps a little too much, but overall, the interior offers the right blend of sportiness without compromising on comfort.

2022 Subaru WRX RS manual sedan
Seats Five
Boot volume 411L
Length 4670mm
Width 1825mm
Height 1465mm
Wheelbase 2675mm

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Infotainment and Connectivity

The centrepiece of the WRX’s infotainment system is a portrait-style 11.6-inch touchscreen. It runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although not wirelessly. You’ll need to use one of the two USB-A connections up front for your smartphone mirroring.

Satellite navigation is standard across the range except for base model sedans and wagons, leaving smartphones to do the heavy-lifting for route guidance in those entry-level WRXs.

A six-speaker sound system is standard, with RS and tS sedan models scoring a premium 10-speaker Harman Kardon setup. Curiously, this is not available in the Sportwagon range at all.

All the radio bandwidths, AM/FM/DAB+, are standard across the range.



The touchscreen’s operation is slick and responsive, with easy swipes through screens and menus. The home page is resplendent with icons akin to a smartphone, making for an intuitive user experience.

We used the WRX’s inbuilt satellite navigation and while the graphics are decidedly simple, so too is the user interface. And that makes for a relaxing experience navigating your way around roads unknown.

The infotainment screen also features voice commands, but like we’ve experienced time and time again in makes and models of all colours, it proved a bit hit and miss. Siri remains the gold standard. Not a dealbreaker by any stretch, but if you’re going to offer it up as a feature, it should be as near to flawless as possible.

Second row passengers in all but entry-level models score a pair of USB-A connectors, helping to keep their devices juiced up.

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Safety & Technology

At the time of writing, the new Subaru WRX remains untested by ANCAP.

Safety technologies standard across the range include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist. There’s also a decent rear-view camera with sharp resolution across the range.



But, it’s the elephant in the room, those models equipped with a manual transmission miss out on advanced safety tech such as autonomous emergency braking, autonomous emergency steering, a host of lane functions including -centring, -departure warning and prevention, as well as adaptive cruise control, and speed sign recognition.

Those techs from part of Subaru’s EyeSight suite of safety features and they are only available in models with automatic transmissions. Subaru says it’s continuing to work on having the broader EyeSight suite available on manual models. The Japanese brand will need to get its skates on, however, with autonomous emergency braking set to be mandated in Australia on all new passenger vehicles by 2023.

Eight airbags cover both rows of occupants while those looking to haul little ones will be served by two ISOFIX mounts on the outboard rear seats.

2022 Subaru WRX RS manual sedan
ANCAP rating Not yet tested

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Value for Money

The buy-in price for Subaru’s halo car remains within reach. Starting at $44,990 plus on-roads, the new model is around $4000 more expensive than the model it replaces. But, that pricing still stacks up when compared against some obvious rivals, certainly in terms of performance if not body style, like the Volkswagen Golf GTI ($54,490 for the automatic) and Hyundai i30 N ($44,500 hatchback, or $49,000 Sedan, all before on-road costs).

Subaru also improved service intervals for the WRX range, now at 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first. Previously, those intervals sat at six months/12,500km.

Those annual workshop visits will set you back a total of $1266.27 for three years (manual and auto), or $2433.06 (manual) or $2365.74 (automatic) for five years coverage.



Subaru’s standard five-year/unlimited km warranty applies.

Subaru claims the manual WRX will use 9.9L/100km of 95-octane premium unleaded on the combined cycle. Our launch drives, which included plenty of spirited driving saw an indicated 11.1L/100km.

At a glance 2022 Subaru WRX RS manual sedan
Warranty Five years / unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1266.27 (3 years), $2433.06 (5 years)

We fared slightly better with automatic models, returning anywhere between 8.9 to 11.1L – depending on driving situations – against Subaru’s 8.5L claim.

While those numbers might seem a touch on the high side, we suspect they will tumble down over a more prolonged period of regular day-to-day driving. But when presented with the types of roads we faced at launch, it was hard not to exploit some of the WRX’s unquestionable performance credentials.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 9.9L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 11.1L/100km
Fuel type 95-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size 63L

So how does the new WRX perform on the road? In a word, brilliantly. The new 2.4-litre turbo four-cylinder boxer engine remains true to Subaru’s roots. It’s at once linear in its delivery, happy to rev long and hard, and plenty powerful enough, even if its 202kW and 350Nm don’t seem breathtaking on paper.

It’s interesting that despite increasing displacement from 2.0 litres to 2.4L with this new engine, the power gains are meagre, just 5kW over the old 2.0-litre’s 197kW and 350Nm. But, numbers don’t tell the whole story. Subaru says this new WRX isn’t just about outright performance numbers, but rather in how that power is delivered.



A lot of work has gone into the 2.4-litre engine that belongs to the same FA family as found in non-turbo form in say, the BRZ. It’s a newly designed engine, with Subaru claiming there are 56 changes over the older units. The focus for Subaru’s engineers was on power delivery while also reducing the weight of the mill, down seven per cent.

It’s the same engine doing service in the entire WRX range, matched to either a six-speed manual or ‘eight-speed’ Sport Lineartronic automatic, or more conventionally, continuously variable transmission (CVT). But, before you groan about CVT and throw up all the old tropes about transmissions of this type, it’s worth noting Subaru has done a lot of work to ensure the WRX ethos is not compromised.

No matter the transmission choice, drive is sent to Subaru’s all-wheel drive system, although there are two systems at play here. Manual sedans feature a more conventional setup with a viscous limited-slip diff situated in the middle providing an even 50:50 front to rear torque split.

In CVT models, a new variable torque distribution centre diff features a nominal split of 45:55 biased towards to the rear wheels. But that split can be altered depending on drive modes selected, with the WRX’s sportier settings favouring rear-wheel bias.

But, what does all that mean on the road? Let’s find out.

Subaru says the new WRX has matured when compared against its forebears. The customer for WRX is maturing, reckons Subaru, and the Japanese brand wants to go along for the ride.



And that’s evident from behind the wheel where, certainly in terms of drama, everything has been dialled down a notch. Make no mistake, the WRX hallmarks of power delivery, grip and handling are all still there. It’s just a lot more refined than previously.

And that’s both a good and a bad thing. Good? Because this new WRX is still blisteringly fast with a torque band that never gives up. Bad? It lacks some of the raw emotion Rexies of old are known for.

But, emotion isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. A modern performance car needs to serve multiple masters.

On the one hand, it needs to deliver scintillating performance, with an agility and poise that inspires confidence behind the wheel. On the other, it needs to provide a level of comfort suitable for daily use. The new WRX provides both in equal measure.

In manual trim, there’s a level of engagement that’s hard not to like. Subaru says it has re-engineered the manual gearbox to offer more precision and tactility. And it has. Shifts are felt in the palm of your hand, with satisfying mechanical changes that feel right.

Under the bonnet, the 2.4-litre turbo delivers on Subaru’s promise of linear power delivery across a broad rev range. Acceleration from standstill is rapid, but not manic. Subaru says the manual can scoot from 0-100km/h in around 6.0 seconds which, while not supercar-fast, is right up with there with the armada of hot hatches from mainstream manufacturers on our roads.



Rolling acceleration is also a boon, the Subaru jumping forward readily and easily even from higher up in the gear ratios.

Thanks to its AWD platform, handling remains a bouquet in the WRX’s arsenal. It’s agile, and it feels solid, even under harder cornering. The chassis remains nicely balanced, while the steering offers good feedback, leaving little doubt as to what the car is doing underneath you.

We also sampled the CVT-shod WRX, in both sedan and Sportswagon trim. Despite having some initial misgivings about a performance car being fitted with a CVT, the reality is that Subaru’s engineers have done an incredible job in calibrating and tuning an automatic transmission that is at once razor-sharp and quiet.

Leave the CVT to its own devices and it remains intuitive and slick, whether hunting fuel economy on the highway, or letting the WRX off its leash during more spirited driving.

There are eight steps to the CVT, acting as defacto gear ‘ratios’. And while CVTs have been known to be sluggish and underwhelming, this one is a peach.

Drive the WRX hard, and the CVT will happily let the engine sing to its 6000rpm redline before selecting a new step. Rarely, does the CVT override the driver with unnecessary up- or down-changes.



Better yet, throw the gear selector into manual and plot your own destiny via the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters and the CVT offers razor-sharp changes that keep the momentum going. There’s no delay, no sluggishness, no tell-tale drone. Instead, Subaru’s iteration of the CVT acts and feels like a more dual-clutch automatic. It’s a good ’un.

Interestingly, the Sportwagon enjoys a slightly more relaxed suspension tune so if comfort is your thing, this is the WRX for you.

That’s not to say the sedan is hard and brittle, far from it. But, there is a firmer edge to the way it tackles the road that’s ever so slightly dialled out in the wagon.

The range-topping tS variants score adaptive dampers and drive modes that can sharpen any number of things – from engine and transmission response to suspension settings. But, even in its firmest Sport+ setting, the dampers remain compliant and comfortable, if a little firmer around the edges.

It all adds up to a car – or wagon – that can be confidently driven with intent and some gusto, feeling like a WRX should. However, what’s missing is that raw edge, the sonorous grumble of the turbo-four from days of old replaced by an altogether more refined – and quiet – WRX, one tailored for a more mature buyer.

Key details 2022 Subaru WRX RS manual sedan
Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder ‘boxer’ turbo petrol
Power 202kW @ 5600rpm
Torque 350Nm @ 2000-5200rpm
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission 6-speed manual
Power to weight ratio 133.2kW/t
Weight (tare) 1516kg
Turning circle 11.2m

Conclusion

The WRX has a long legacy, and justifiably so. When it emerged in 1992 (’94 in Australia) it joined the ranks of instant classics.



Does the all-new 2022 Subaru WRX build on that heritage. Well, yes and no. ‘Yes’, in that it’s undeniably still a really decent performance sedan priced well within reach of most people. ‘No’, in that’s it’s lost just some of its edge, that gruff and ever-so-slightly angry demeanour that gave the impression it could never be completely tamed, no matter how hard you tried.

This new WRX is fast, and it’s accomplished. But it’s been softened around the edges, tamed by the people who made it, who engineered it.

Today’s WRX is missing is that raw edge, the sonorous grumble of the turbo-four from days of old replaced by an altogether more refined – and quiet – car, one tailored for a more mature buyer. The mature man in me thinks ‘how nice’, but the young fella that’s still lurking somewhere inside laments the loss of that raw emotion.

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Ratings Breakdown

2022 Subaru WRX RS Sedan

7.9/ 10

Performance

Handling & Dynamics

Driver Technology

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Fuel Efficiency

Value for Money

Fit for Purpose

Rob Margeit has been an automotive journalist for over 20 years, covering both motorsport and the car industry. Rob joined CarAdvice in 2016 after a long career at Australian Consolidated Press. Rob covers automotive news and car reviews while also writing in-depth feature articles on historically significant cars and auto manufacturers. He also loves discovering obscure models and researching their genesis and history.

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