The Subaru WRX is a car for the PlayStation generation—quite literally. It was thanks to the success of racing games like Sony’s Gran Turismo that helped convince Subaru to release its high-performance WRX in the North American market. And as that generation of gamers grew up, so did the WRX. Through the years, Subaru’s rally-inspired sports sedan grew in size, power and refinement. Though the WRX continues to earn accolades as a driver’s car, this all-new fifth-generation 2022 WRX looks to mark the end of an era.
First, the bad news: Subaru has recently announced that there will be no STI edition of this current WRX. While many love the overpowered, hardcore nature of the STI, it no longer aligns with Subaru’s ethos of environmental stewardship. If a new STI is to come, it will arrive on a new platform that will be electrified; something this newest WRX can’t provide. What the WRX does provide is one of the last great analog driving experiences you’ll find in this increasingly digital world.
Visually, this WRX is polarizing. Previous iterations weren’t necessarily considered beautiful, but the latest WRX is such a radical departure from what came before, even diehard enthusiasts have yet to warm up to the new design. One could infer that the acres of black exterior plastic are meant to evoke the design language of Subaru’s super successful line-up of crossovers. But just like every WRX before it, function informs form in this model, with each aspect of the exterior crafted to help Subaru extract every last ounce of performance. That hood scoop helps cool the charged air entering the 271-horsepower, 2.4-liter turbocharged boxer four. Front fenders are constructed of aluminum to help shave weight. Every exterior vent you see is engineered to direct turbulent air out from cavities inside the body for enhanced stability.
The most dramatic exterior accents, the over-fenders and lower door trim, are finished in matte black for a reason—specifically their aerodynamic texture which similar to the dimples on a golf ball help further reduce air resistance.
Given all that’s happening with the Subaru WRX’s exterior, this is one car where color choice significantly impacts its appearance. Warmer tones, like the Solar Orange Pearl hero color, do make this sedan feel more like a crossover. Neutral tones, like Ceramic White, help the WRX feel more like the sports sedan it is. Most Subaru fans, we imagine, will likely hide the plastic by opting for a WRX finished in Crystal Black Silica.
Inside, the Subaru WRX offers a blend of the new and familiar. Almost everything not directly related to the drive—from typical infotainment duties to climate control settings—is handled from the 11.4-inch tablet-style center display. It’s functional and presents as modern for now, but for a vehicle designed to deliver an amplified, tactile experience, perhaps physical controls would be more at home here.
The rest of the interior, however, delivers on that sensory promise. From the deeply bolstered front sport seats to the contoured, flat-bottom steering wheel, each touchpoint is designed to help the driver feel at one with the car. There’s ample adjustability for the driver, allowing even those standing at six feet tall to place the controls directly at hand and have plenty of headroom. Its optional six-speed manual transmission (while not as precise as something from Porsche or Honda) offers nicely weighted, direct throws. Pedal placement is optimized for performance driving, and an old-school, cable-actuated handbrake sits next to the driver to at least let them imagine they can execute a Colin McRae-inspired J-turn on gravel.
The drive is exemplary. 271hp is more than enough for the real world, and with its flat torque curve offering all of its 258 lb-ft between 2000 and 5800rpm, this Subaru never feels slow. Turn-in is direct, and the steering feel is so excellent, we were certain this car still used an old-school hydraulic steering system. So it was surprising to find that the Subaru WRX now uses a dual pinion, electric steering system, which actually separates the driver’s input shaft from the steering rack’s motor assist shaft. Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive continues to work wonders, putting power to the ground to the individual wheels that need it most for superior cornering ability. Find an open, twisting mountain road and you’ll find yourself, and this Subaru, on a delightfully enjoyable ride.
Other cars may be faster or prettier than the Subaru WRX, but it does so many things so well, and for a relatively affordable price, it almost feels sensible. It’s got four doors and all-wheel drive capabilities for when the weather gets bad. It’s the car you can justify buying when you want a sports car but need something for a family.
Those who buy Subarus due to the company’s environmental message should probably skip the WRX; unlike other cars in Subaru’s line-up, the WRX doesn’t boast a PZEV emissions rating and only gets an EPA-estimated 22mpg combined. But opting for the WRX is an emotional decision, not a rational one. You could say that buying a 2022 Subaru WRX is kind of like buying a PlayStation 5: it may not be the most responsible choice, but it certainly is a joyous one.
Images courtesy of Subaru