For such a storied history, the 2022 Subaru WRX tS has a lot to live up to. Find out how it fares in this performance car review.





What we love
  • Easier to live with day-to-day compared to its predecessor
  • Spacious cabin with nice materials
  • Still handles great

What we don’t
  • Dislike the use of a CVT in a performance car
  • Lack of aural character
  • Very high fuel consumption

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Introduction

It’s with great trepidation that I get behind the wheel of the 2022 Subaru WRX.

I, like many others, have always looked to the WRX as a true driver’s car that offered something unique among its competitors – an all-wheel drivetrain and a warbly boxer exhaust note. But this new generation seems to have changed its tune.

Colleague Rob Margeit recently remarked that the WRX has shunned its hooligan beginnings and traded them in for a newfound grown-up character that better aligns with the ageing customer base it once appealed to.



But is this the best way forward for such a revered nameplate?

It goes hand-in-hand with Subaru’s decision not to offer an all-out STI version, as is customary for the brand when a new WRX comes out. It points to a more refined, more adult version of the larrikin WRX we know and love.

The new WRX certainly looks different to usual. Now sporting plastic cladding around the lower portions of the car, the 2022 WRX eschews its angry angular styling for a seemingly off-road look.



Prices have risen with the new generation, with most grades in the line-up coming in more expensive than their preceding counterparts. But the 2022 Subaru WRX tS CVT variant on test is a new flagship variant in the range and costs $56,990 before on-road costs.

This rise in price brings it closer to popular performance cars such as the Volkswagen Golf R and Toyota GR Yaris. They’re not nearly the same in terms of size or body styles, but offer similar levels of performance from their turbocharged, all-wheel drivetrains.

Each 2022 WRX is fitted with a turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder boxer engine that outputs 202kW/350Nm to all four wheels. Seemingly incongruous with the car’s performance nature is the fact the top-spec tS variant only comes with a continuously variable transmission. Subaru says the transmission is segmented into eight ratios to simulate gears, which can be selected using paddle-mounted shifters.



Special for the tS variants is the addition of adaptive dampers, more advanced drive-mode selectors, unique wheel designs, and tS and STI branding.

Key details 2022 Subaru WRX tS
Price (MSRP) $56,990 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car WR Blue Pearl
Options None
Price as tested $56,990 plus on-road costs
$62,592 drive-away (Melbourne)
Rivals Volkswagen Golf R/GTI | Toyota GR Yaris | Hyundai i30 N

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Most obvious of all changes inside the 2022 Subaru WRX is the huge portrait-mounted centre touchscreen embedded within the dash, but we’ll deliberately ignore that until the next section.

The cabin of the tS variant scores Ultrasuede upholstery to make sure your butt doesn’t slide around too much on hard cornering, while surfaces of the dash and door cards are covered in soft-touch materials. The top-most dash portions of the instrument binnacle and above the infotainment screen do have hard plastics.

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It’s nice to see a sunroof included as standard in all but the base variants of the WRX. Almost comically large is the gearshifter in automatic variants. It’s a big bulbous thing sticking up from the centre console and feels cumbersome to use, though perhaps it was just me.

Door pockets stock a good amount of space for bottles and small items, and are helpfully lined in felt to reduce rattling and noise – a nice touch. Likewise, the sides of the centre console are covered in soft-touch material to ensure knees don’t get crushed when rounding corners.

The two pews up front contain a great amount of adjustability thanks to eight-way adjustable memory seats, while also featuring heating. In fact, the two outboard rear seats score heating too. The headrests have a cool ergonomic tilt function that is super easy to get in just the right spot.

Storage-wise, the WRX has a small slot in front of the shifter for phones, keys and the like, though it’s a real miss that the specification list does not include wireless phone charging.

Space for the driver is comfortable, with a high-perched driving position giving decent visibility out over the bonnet nostril. The second row has a surprising amount of room for passengers. There is loads of space for your legs and a decent-sized slot to stow your feet under the seats. However, head room is limited for taller occupants like my 194cm self.

It seems like there’s a good amount of boot space for a sedan when you open up the gooseneck-hinged rearmost door, but according to Subaru there’s only 411L of space inside. In any case, it was enough space to load backpacks and camera gear.



You do have to lug large items over a tall boot lip, however. Not ideal for families who would be better served by the WRX Sportswagon.

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

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Infotainment and Connectivity

The new 2022 Subaru WRX gets an 11.6-inch colour touchscreen mounted in portrait fashion. It’s embedded within the dash rather than being a stuck-on tablet like you see on some other cars.

It uses a nice starry sky background to display relevant functions in a grid/tile format, while air-conditioning controls are found along the bottom of the screen. There are no button shortcuts alongside the screen, though you can control some functions like skip track, volume, source, and voice control on the steering wheel.

The tS model grade features an 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and I loved it. It features a really high clarity of sound and a good resounding bass that reverberates around the cabin.

It runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though not wirelessly. You’ll have to connect up your phone using one of the two USB-A ports to enable. I tried CarPlay for much of the week as I wasn’t a fan of the car’s standard satellite navigation display. The smartphone mirroring system displays in a neat portrait way I hadn’t seen before.

Controlling Subaru’s infotainment software is sometimes slow to respond to touch inputs, and is particularly laggy when inputting navigation instructions. This is why I moved to CarPlay, whereas I’d normally make do with a car’s native system.



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Safety and Technology

Being an automatic model, the Subaru WRX tS scores a suite of active safety measures, whereas its manual WRX alternatives do not. This means our car is serviced by Subaru’s EyeSight safety systems including autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, lane-centring, adaptive cruise control, and speed sign recognition.

It also gets blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-change assist, which is standard across the range.

Subaru’s driver monitoring system is one of the most insistent I’ve come across, and will regularly make judgements on whether a driver is paying attention or not by sounding an alarm. The new-generation Subaru WRX has not undergone local ANCAP safety testing at the time of this review.

2022 Subaru WRX tS
ANCAP rating Untested

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Value for Money

Subaru products are covered off by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. They are also covered by capped-price servicing for the same period. Three years are scheduled to cost $1267, or five years’ worth comes in at $2366. These services are recommended every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever is first.

As the flagship model variant in the WRX range, the $56,990 tS variant competes on price with the Volkswagen Golf R and GTI that cost $65,990 and $54,990 respectively. Admittedly, the WRX range begins more affordable than the performance Golfs. It is more expensive than the Hyundai i30 N Premium, however.

At a glance 2022 Subaru WRX tS
Warranty Five years / unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1267 (3 years), $2366 (5 years)

Even though the Hyundai can’t boast all-wheel-drive performance like the WRX, it is still one of our favourite performance cars at Drive, and is well worth a look-in when considering your next performance car.



Subaru says the WRX tS automatic sips 8.5L/100km on a combined fuel cycle, but our experience was different. After a week’s worth of urban driving, along with some spirited spurts up Mount Macedon, our tS returned a 15.0L/100km fuel rating. This is inordinately high for a turbo petrol four-cylinder car of the WRX’s size, performance car or not. Subaru recommends a minimum of 95RON when refuelling.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 8.5L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 15.0L/100km
Fuel type 95-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size 63L

For all visual indicators that Subaru has matured its WRX, the driving part was where I was most worried about its rate of change. Familiar, at least, is the turbocharged boxer engine under the bonnet, though its displacement is now 2.4 litres. Power has risen 5kW to 202kW overall, though torque output has remained the same at 350Nm.

This drive is sent through Subaru’s synonymous Symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Together with the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres fitted to our tester, the system faithfully puts as much power as possible to the road without breaking traction. Especially in the wet, grip is very well maintained in all manner of conditions.

Press your foot to the firewall and the powertrain feels very responsive, resulting in a shove in the back as the tyres deliver power to the ground. It’s a much more linear delivery than I’ve experienced in WRXs of old, which were plagued by turbo lag from low revs.

Sadly, the surge of power is no longer accentuated by a warbly boxer exhaust note. The WRX really could have used a variable exhaust system because it’s disappointingly silent. You can hear the car when you’re in a parking garage with the windows down, but they’re pretty extreme lengths to go to in order to hear a performance car.

Also on the negatives, I really found it hard to gel with the CVT inside a performance car. It’s an odd sensation where it basically does everything you need, but feels very weird put into practice. It rarely found itself in the right power band for what I wanted, which ended up frustrating me and making me wish I was behind the wheel of a six-speed manual car. Naturally, the experience is helped once you’re in Sport modes, but the CVT unfortunately left me cold.



It should be noted the CVT is stepped into eight ratios, which can be selected using steering wheel paddles. Perhaps it’s just me that didn’t enjoy it – colleague Rob Margeit enjoyed the CVT experience – but leave me with a conventional auto or manual please.

With regard to how it feels on the road, it is still fun to drive with a darty and lively feel to the steering – it is a quick system that weights up nicely around a corner. Somewhat related to the steering are the indicators attached to the column beside the wheel, which feature a funny return-to-home configuration. I absolutely despised them at first, as it was difficult to cancel after flicking on an indicator, but rest assured you do get used to them.

Brakes are also super strong and bitey, as is the stability control when you do get things wrong. Both systems feel super tied-down in the wet and bring the car promptly back into line.

The WRX’s ride control feels good on the whole, only feeling slightly brittle over minute imperfections that are translated through to the cabin. The tS specification gets adaptive dampers, which firm up the ride and keep the car nice and composed around bends when driving spiritedly. You never quite get jolted around inside the car when going over mid-corner bumps or speed humps, it’s just those little bumps that find their way through.

I noted some road noise that permeates the cabin when touring on freeways – it sounds as though it reverberates around your head near the sunroof. Otherwise, the car was put together well and there were no obvious creaks or rattles from any parts of the trim.

Key details 2022 Subaru WRX tS
Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power 202kW @ 5600rpm
Torque 350Nm @ 2000–5200rpm
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission Continuously variable transmission
Power to weight ratio 127kW/t
Weight (tare) 1585kg
Turning circle 11.2m

Conclusion

The Subaru WRX has a long and storied history, which is perhaps why we’re so quick to judge it against its character and reputation. It’s a lot to live up to for a new 2022 generation coming into the fold.



Parallels can be drawn with its purposeful driving character that covers ground in very fast fashion. But you simply don’t feel as connected as you once did, with the car feeling somehow less raw and exciting than expected. Things like the subdued exhaust note go a long way in subtracting from this nameplate’s legendary status.

You can’t deny it remains a good performance package, though. The interior is a comfy and feature-laden place to spend time 9-to-5, when it can then go on to a fun twisty road and give you a rewarding drive experience.

But it’s not as fun or as emotional as it once was, and no longer offers that unique WRX feel. I’d love to drive a more affordable manual one to see whether it claws back some character, but I’d pass on this top-spec WRX tS.

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Ratings Breakdown

2022 Subaru WRX tS Sedan

7.7/ 10

Performance

Handling & Dynamics

Driver Technology

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Fuel Efficiency

Value for Money

Fit for Purpose

Budget Direct

Insurance from

$1,407/yr

Estimate details

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive. As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories. He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content. Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.

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