Even in today’s SUV-centric market, the Subaru WRX maintains a loyal following, and its about to get rewarded with an update offering upgrades virtually everywhere that matters.
The fifth-generation rally car starts out with an entirely new design borrowing heavily from the Viziv Performance Concept first seen at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show. It also gets a new and more powerful engine, along with suspension updates and lots more technology. Add a new trim package, the WRX GT, which gives the car adaptive damping for the first time, and fans should be pleased.
Set to land in U.S. showrooms during the first quarter of 2022, Subaru is betting the upgrades will excited the group of devoted fans for the coupe-like sedan.
Subaru is billing the 2022 WRX as a “ground-up” makeover. At first blush, however, it might seem more evolutionary than revolutionary. The new design is based off the Viziv concept but doesn’t stray far from fourth-generation car.
More aggressive and planted
The design does deliver more aggressive fenders and a wider, more planted appearance. The projector headlamps now have a more squint-eyed appearance and there are new — and functional vents — that help reduce air turbulence around the front wheel. Other changes — like the integrated rear spoiler — also appear aimed at improving the WRX’s overall aerodynamics, a double plus for fuel economy and performance.
Meanwhile, Subaru has expanded the use of lightweight materials. The switch to aluminum front fenders alone helped shave overall vehicle weight by 5 pounds.
It’s when you look below the skin that you discover the other significant changes, starting with the shift to the new Subaru Global Platform shared with everything from the little Impreza to the big Ascent SUV. It translates into a 28% increase in overall stiffness, among other things, while also helping lower the center of gravity, and improving noise, vibration and harshness, or NVH.
A declining market
This sporty segment has been struggling through hard times, and both the Mitsubishi Evo and Ford Focus RS have gone away. There are still some key competitors, including the Honda Civic Si — which gets its own major update this coming year. Subaru wants to stay on top and performance will be critical.
So, look for a new engine from the 2022 WRX which now gets a new 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer-4 pumping out 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The pony count is up three while torque remains flat, but Subaru claims it will come on quicker thanks to the added displacement and changes to the turbo.
Serious performance fans are likely going to continue steering towards the 6-speed manual Subaru continues to offer. But the alternative is the Subaru Performance Transmission, a fancy way of saying a sport-tuned CVT. The automaker claims it has made major changes for 2022 that eliminate some of the annoying behaviors normally associated with continuously variable transmissions. It is quicker to shift and, using the paddle shifters and manual mode, can emulate an 8-speed gearbox.
New GT trim
The sedan also gets an upgrade to its suspension that helps minimize body roll. For those who want to take things a step further, there’s the new WRX GT. It adds adaptive damping and the ability to switch between Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. The Driver Mode Select also adjusts steering, and offer vehicle functions — a total of “430 different customization options,” the automaker claims.
Add to the GT package new Recaro sport seats, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels shod in summer tires, and a more expanded line-up of advanced safety technologies, such as active cruise control and automatic emergency steering.
A basic version of Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist system is standard across the WRX line, featuring functions like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, as well as lane departure prevention.
The infotainment system has likewise been upgraded and adds, among other things, a split-screen mode. There’s also a new Harman Kardon audio option with 11 speaker delivering 576 watts of sound.
No pricing has yet been released for the 2022 model, but the current Subaru WRX starts at $28,420, including in delivery fees.