Bigger, Faster, Stronger: The 2022 Subaru WRX Returns with a New Platform & Controversial Design
The Rally Legend Returns to the Street
Gibberish to some, but for fans of Subaru these three letter acronyms symbolize the crown jewel of rally racing history, fun and capable sedans, and endless modification possibilities. Although we’ll have to wait a bit longer for a new STI, Subaru’s latest iteration of the street-going World Rally eXperimental (WRX) has just been revealed – cladding and all.
Subaru is calling the new design “bold,” and it has certainly made a bold impact on enthusiasts. Looking very much like a sedan version of the Subaru Levorg wagon (which doesn’t come stateside – thanks Subaru), the 2022 WRX carries over Subaru’s new front fascia and narrow LED headlight design. The signature hood scoop makes a return, feeding air into a top mount intercooler and adding to the aggressive front end. The boxy fenders are now aluminum and harken back to Subaru’s of old, giving the car a more aggressive and muscular look. The rear Honda Civic-esque taillights glow like “volcanic magma” and use similar internal reflectors to those seen on upscale European cars like Mercedes.
Most controversial of all is the use of black plastic throughout all of the exterior. From the lower half of the front and rear bumpers to the side skirts and fenders, black plastic cladding protects the lower half of the car and gives it more rugged off-road look. Similar in philosophy to Subaru’s new Forester Wilderness, Subaru is eager to push the brand’s outdoor-ready image. Taking a quick peak at talks on online forums, it looks like most enthusiasts aren’t fond of the cladding – but they shouldn’t be surprised. The VIZIV Performance Concept shown off in 2017 is very similar to the new WRX and has the same style cladding throughout the exterior (albeit in carbon fiber).
We’re probably in the minority at this point, but the family here at Drift Merch are fans of the new design and can’t wait to see it in person. For those worried about the look of black plastic, we’re sure the aftermarket will have remedies for those concerns. Also expect the unannounced (but inevitable) STI version to turn the knob to 11 with more aggressive styling and the iconic big wing.
The 2022 WRX is the first WRX to ride on Subaru’s Global Platform (SGP). Shared between all Subaru models except the rear-wheel drive BRZ (which uses a bespoke chassis), SGP lowers the WRX’s center of gravity and improves chassis rigidity by 28% and suspension mounting point rigidity by 75% over the outgoing model. As a byproduct of the new platform, the WRX has grown 2.9 inches longer and 1.9 inches wider from the previous generation – increasing track width by 1.2 inches and wheelbase by 0.8 inch in the process.
Scott Speed, former F1 driver and current Subaru Rally Team USA driver, says chassis improvements are the most apparent in the new WRX. He commented on the car understeering much less than before and feeling more planted with heaps of grip (it’s still an all-wheel drive car, so there will be inherent understeer).
Surprisingly, Subaru claims the new WRX only weighs 3 lb. more than the 2021 model. Not a bad tradeoff for all the improvements in safety, stability, and handling. Though we don’t have interior dimensions yet, it’s safe to assume there’s slightly more seating space in the cabin as well. The new GT trim also comes with adjustable dampers and fully-customizable drive modes, offering even more control over the vehicle’s driving dynamics.
Improving on Subaru’s last generation FA20, the 2022 WRX brings a juiced up boxer to a bar fight*tdun tss* (sorry). The new 2.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder boxer engine is an upgraded version of the FA24 seen in the 2022 BRZ and Ascent. It makes 271 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque – only three hp more than the outgoing model and the same amount of torque.
So wait, why the minuscule increase in power figures with an engine 0.4 liter bigger than the outgoing model’s 2.0-liter? Subaru claims the torque kicks in sooner and pumps out a broader power band from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. The larger displacement engine and improved turbo with electronically controlled wastegate and air bypass valves also increase both engine response and acceleration. We suspect Subaru is leaving a lot on the table with this new engine – reserving much larger gains for the STI model (which will drop the long-running EJ-series engine in favor of a highly-tuned FA24).
Mated to the FA24 is a standard six-speed manual gearbox or optional new eight-speed Subaru Performance Transmission (SPT for short – not to be confused with Subaru’s other SPT: Subaru Performance Tuning). Subaru is reluctant to call the new transmission a CVT, which is what it is, but they claim it upshifts and downshifts much faster and comes with a dedicated transmission fluid cooler to maintain durability under demanding conditions. As expected, all WRX models come standard with Subaru’s famous symmetrical all-wheel drive system and active torque vectoring, sending power to the wheels with most traction.
Sitting front and center is undeniably the largest change in the WRX’s interior: an optional massive 11.6-inch full-HD display. This screen will look familiar if you’ve sat in a newer Outback or Legacy. All the expected conveniences of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and bluetooth connection are here; but most notable (and annoying, if you ask us) is the integration of touch climate controls. Thankfully, Subaru took notes from the backlash Honda received on the 2017 Civic Type R’s digital volume controls and opted for a traditional volume control knob; otherwise, everything else is controlled on the touch display.
A redesigned telescoping flat-bottom steering wheel sits in front of analog gauges – a surprise given the new BRZ has shifted its cluster to a full-digital unit. On the plus side, the analog gauges are clear, well-designed, and retain the cool startup dance familiar to anyone who’s driven a WRX or STI.
Sporty black seats with red stitching come standard, while the new GT trim comes with exclusive leather and ultra-suede clad Recaro seats. Unfortunately, it seems the GT trim only comes with the new CVT; so those who want the upgraded interior accents and Recaro seats with a manual transmission will likely have to upgrade to the STI. 60/40-split folding rear seats carry over the same materials as the front seats and provide the utility WRX’s are known for.
A specially tuned 11-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is also optional for those who want cleaner audio. We personally recommend this factory upgrade for anyone buying a new Subaru, as the standard speakers tend to lack clarity and punch in Subaru’s other models.
All automatic models come standard with Subaru’s EyeSight safety and driver assist technologies. The revised system gets upgraded cameras, software, and braking to avoid collisions and keep everyone safe. The interior overall maintains the utility of a spacious sedan and stays true to the WRX formula with a few material and tech improvements to push the car into the modern era.
Subaru hasn’t released any price figures yet, but we expect a small bump compared to the outgoing model due to the complete ground-up redesign. The new WRX is set to reach dealerships in early 2022, but with recent news of chip shortages and COVID-related delays, it’s unclear if these dates can be met.