Subaru shocked the whole world this past winter when it said the WRX STI would not return. Despite the outgoing generation’s decent sales and all the hype about what the next one could bring to the table, the company pulled the plug. If there’s ever a new STI, it will be a much different car with electrification part of the mix.
The Subaru WRX is still around, mind you, and better than ever for 2022. The Car Guide recently took part in a media event in Kingston, Ontario where we got the opportunity to put it to the test for the first time.
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Subaru kind of took a different approach for the fifth-generation WRX. Instead of a hardcore street car, the new model looks and feels more like a rugged and capable rally car. It all starts with that dark body cladding especially around the wheel arches. We’re usually not fans of such attire, but in the case of the WRX the extra muscle adds a nice layer of aggressiveness and assertiveness. The resulting contrast with a vivid body colour like blue, red or orange is also quite alluring.
It’s a good thing Subaru kept the hood scoop and redesigned the rear bumper and diffuser to better incorporate the quad exhaust. As for the taillights, they look awfully similar to those on the latest BRZ coupe. The two sporty models are members of the same family, after all.
New Turbocharged Engine
The 2022 Subaru WRX gets the turbocharged 2.4-litre engine from the Outback, Legacy and Ascent. Output is increased to 271 horsepower (previously 268 with the 2.0-litre engine) and torque is unchanged with 258 pound-feet accessible from 2,000-5,200 rpm.
A manual transmission comes standard. Though not as stellar as Honda’s, it does a good job overall and makes rowing the gears quite pleasant. A continuously variable transmission is once again available, but don’t call it a CVT—more like SPT (Subaru Performance Transmission). Marketing aside, this unit featuring a simulated eight-speed manual mode is clearly not on the same level as a dual-clutch transmission like Volkswagen’s DSG.
It’s no surprise that 80 percent of WRX customers go with the stick shift. That’s also what we would do, in a heartbeat. The downside is that manual WRX models lack Subaru’s EyeSight safety system, which includes a host of advanced driver assistance technologies. Some of these often stop working when the elements get in the way of the sensors, mind you.
Mad Fun on Dirt Roads
The latest Subaru WRX can be civilized or delinquent depending on how you feel behind the wheel. Driving around Kingston on some of the local dirt roads, it was pretty much like taking part in a rally race. We’re no Antoine L’Estage, of course, but the experience was a whole lot of fun.
Whether on dirt or gravel, the WRX proves highly competent, helped by the same excellent AWD system we all know and love. No other sports sedan would have performed just as well or kept the same pace throughout the course.
Obviously, when you have as much fun revving the engine, fuel consumption increases quite a bit. Our brief test drive took us on more than 200 kilometres and netted just over 13 L/100 km.
This is far from the official ratings posted by Natural Resources Canada, which are 10.8 L/100 km with the manual transmission and 11.2 L/100 km with the automatic. That’s right: the manual is more fuel-efficient! Surprised? Keep in mind that whichever transmission you choose, premium gasoline (91 octane) is required.
Priced to Kill The Competition
Everyone is talking about inflation these days. Gas prices are soaring, but so are those of new and used vehicles. Subaru has decided to take some of the hit, increasing the base price of the 2022 WRX by just $1,000 over the previous generation.
The car now starts at $30,995, which is still a bargain in our book. That being said, if you want 18-inch wheels instead of the standard 17-inch wheels, along with dual-zone climate control, a power sunroof and larger touchscreen, you can move up to the WRX Sport at $35,495—the most interesting model in the lineup as far as we’re concerned.
Ultimately, the 2022 Subaru WRX is more accomplished than ever while remaining attractively priced. Who needs the STI, really?