In the rolling hills of the Mendocino National Forest, when you point the 2022 Subaru WRX through the apex the way we did, this car slices through corners like a letter opener. For the fifth-generation WRX, Subaru product managers, designers and engineers weren’t shy about highlighting the brand’s motorsport lineage.
All new for 2022, the turbocharged sports sedan’s hood scoop, flared fenders and wide stance make its performance intent clear, yet underneath the striking exterior is a more sophisticated and refined machine.
We sampled the WRX in the pouring rain. When most performance cars run for shelter, the WRX continues to be the foul-weather monarch of the mountain roads.
Updated Subaru WRX Platform
Big changes are afoot here, and they start with what’s under the skin. For the latest generation, the WRX moves to the Subaru Global Platform (SGP). The SGP architecture gives the WRX a 28% increase in torsional rigidity,¹ the ability for the vehicle to resist twisting under heavy cornering loads.
The SGP also delivers a 75% increase² in suspension mounting-point rigidity – allowing the suspension components to provide a much more direct connection between the chassis and the wheels.
What’s that mean? It means that the entire structure is working to keep the tires’ contact patches in direct connection with the asphalt. That rigidity allows the springs and struts to be more compliant, so your kidneys aren’t bearing the brunt of all that cornering ability. The WRX is hilarious fun, but it’s not the punishing ride you’d experience in a car that hasn’t been this thoughtfully engineered.
The transition to the new platform also allowed designers to give the 2022 WRX its own unique bodywork for the first time in the model’s history. Every vent, scoop and aerodynamic component serves a functional purpose.
The WRX is bigger as well, coming in about 3 inches longer and more than an inch wider than the fourth-generation car, and those expanded dimensions provide more legroom, shoulder room, and front headroom for a more spacious cabin overall.
But don’t assume that the WRX has gone soft even though it has a more grown-up ride quality in normal driving conditions. While the footprint has grown and the suspension is less stiff, the WRX model’s curb weight is nearly the same – in fact, it’s actually a few pounds lighter than its predecessor in some configurations.
The New WRX 2.4-Liter SUBARU BOXER® Engine
The motivating force is a new 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder SUBARU BOXER engine that dishes out 271 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque while also offering up a broader torque curve than the outgoing 2.0-liter engine.
The WRX has always responded to choosing a lower gear, and this one still does. But the new car’s got juice where you need it. Merge out onto the highway now, stab the throttle and there’s low-end power there, enough to spool up the WRX and slingshot out of an on-ramp or past a slow-moving tractor trailer, even in the higher gears.
Of course, the new engine is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission as standard – an incredible 85% of all fourth-gen WRX buyers opted for the 6-speed – but a newly engineered automatic transmission with paddle shifters is available as well.
It might not be cool to say it, but we fell in love with the last automatic at the Subaru Winter Experience, flinging the car around a frozen course without having to worry about shifting gears. The all-new Subaru Performance Transmission (SPT) is even better, improving acceleration by 29% versus the outgoing WRX while still keeping the fun factor alive with paddle shifters.
As you’d expect from Subaru, power funnels to all four wheels regardless of transmission: It’s evenly distributed 50-50 between the front and rear wheels with the manual. In another nod to the automatic, torque bias shifts to 45-55, giving the WRX a more rear-biased feel when you’re on the track.3
In most WRX trim levels, you can choose between the manual and automatic, but the SPT is the only gearbox for the new top-level GT trim. The all-new WRX GT also includes standard electronically controlled dampers that provide dynamic ride and handling customizations tailored to the driver’s preferences with Comfort, Normal and Sport settings. Drive Mode Select allows the driver to configure steering feel and SI-DRIVE settings with up to 430 different customization options.
Upgraded 2022 WRX Interior Features
Depending on the trim level, you’ll find design, material and functional enhancements in the interior. The WRX Premium, WRX Limited and WRX GT all feature three levels of front seat heating intensity while the GT has lightweight Recaro®4 chairs up front with eight-way power adjustability for the driver.
A new 11.6-inch tablet-style infotainment system is standard equipment on all trim levels except for the Base trim, providing a massive increase in screen real estate over the 7.0-inch unit. Subaru also made sure that frequently used features would still be just a twist of a knob or a press of a button away, so physical buttons and knobs for volume, climate control, and other common settings remain.
It’s all new, but the fifth-generation WRX also feels instantly familiar from behind the wheel, offering a nicely weighted clutch, excellent outward visibility, and a performance-focused seating position tucking you deep into the heavily bolstered bucket seats with your eyes pointed straight over the instrument panel.
A press of the ignition button ignites the new Boxer Engine into a distinctive Subaru growl, and it doesn’t take long to discover that the turbocharged, midrange shove that we’ve come to associate with WRX performance is still at the beck and call of your right foot.
The additional compliance provided by the new springs and struts soaks up more imperfections on the road and transfers less noise and harshness into the cabin. Meanwhile, other suspension tweaks – like the body-mounted rear sway bar and the reintroduction of rebound springs – also effectively control squat, dive, and roll at higher speeds.
The revised chassis tuning is paired up with a new dual-pinion steering rack that’s designed to improve turn-in response and steering feel. Combined with the proven all-wheel drive system, it makes the new WRX feel like a precision instrument even on the rain-soaked pavement that we encountered while carving through the rolling hills of the Mendocino National Forest.
Youthful exuberance is still the hallmark of the WRX, but with age comes wisdom. The fifth-generation car benefits from this new approach not only in terms of daily driving comfort and practicality but also in its performance capability. That newfound maturity makes this a car that’s more enjoyable to drive, whether you’re dominating a road course or dispatching the daily commute.
1 Torsional static rigidity comparison to 2021 model. Reference values based on internal studies. 2 Suspension mounting-point rigidity comparison to 2021 model. Reference values based on internal studies. 3 All Subaru vehicles sold by Subaru of America are designed and built for normal driving conditions. The Subaru Limited Warranty, as well as the Subaru Added Security program, may exclude damage or failure resulting from modifications or participation in competition or racing events. See the Subaru Warranty and Maintenance booklet for further details. 4 Recaro® is a registered trademark of RECARO Holding GmbH LLC.