Redesigned WRX still offers rally car products

July 30—There’s something endearing about mainstream sports cars that proudly, loudly and shamelessly wear their hearts on their fenders. Subaru’s popular WRX is a case in point: it’s a rally-inspired all-wheel-drive compact sedan that seems to beg to be driven and embraced, in equal parts.

The 2022 WRX arrived in Subaru showrooms as a completely redesigned vehicle, a notable fact due to the previous generation’s eight-year service period. The new car rides on a new platform that sports a bigger and more powerful engine under its hood. This being a Subaru, all-wheel drive is standard on all trim levels.

There are four trim levels on offer – Base, Premium, Limited and GT – all of which are powered by a 2.4-liter turbocharged flat-four engine producing 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The engine replaces last year’s 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four that had slightly less horsepower (268) but delivered the same level of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with a new-for-2022 continuously variable transmission (the automaker calling it a “performance transmission”) offered as an option. The CVT is standard on models equipped with the GT version.

Subaru has shelved the more demanding WRX STI variant for now, with talk swirling around rumors that the legendary badge will at some point reappear as a performance-focused electric vehicle, Tesla-style.

Pricing starts a hair north of $29,000 for base models and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic climate control, a suite of security sensing systems, a six-channel audio system speakers and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

Sticker prices increase the higher you go up the trim level tree, with added perks like power sunroofs, a larger center console-mounted infotainment touchscreen, larger alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, premium Harmon-Kardon audio, leatherette upholstery with grippy microfiber inserts, alloy pedals, carbon fiber cabin inserts and much more .

Our tester was dressed in do-it-all GT duds and as such featured the standard continuously variable transmission (OK, Performance). Subaru also added adaptive dampers for the suspension system, but only offers them when paired with the GT trim package’s CVT system. Given that a majority of driving enthusiasts would likely consider anything other than an unthinkable shift, the company’s choice here is a bit of a puzzle.

Unlike the rubbery CVT units of many other vehicles, this one seems well suited to the turbo-four; acceleration is snappy in the best WRX tradition without any engine drone so often associated with this particular setup. The transmission also includes a manual mode and a pair of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters that perfectly mimic a rack-and-pinion gearbox.

The WRX GT’s razor-sharp handling, quick acceleration (expect 60mph to arrive in around six seconds) and interior appointments are all true to the model’s purpose. The newly sculpted exterior features a more dedicated design, particularly with respect to the muscular rear fenders and low profile. Likewise, the interior exudes a high-tech look and feel, especially with the oversized iPad-like touchscreen interface dominating the center stack.

Our GT’s base MSRP of $41,895 packed everything into the WRX wishlist. Standard equipment included the full array of Subaru’s suite of safety-sensing systems (though we found the forward collision warning sensors too sensitive), a set of 18-inch alloys shod with performance tires summer, an eight-way power driver’s seat, performance drive mode selection (which works oddly via the infotainment touchscreen; a console-mounted selector would be easier to use), a pair of sports seats Deeply beefed-up Recaro up front, twin-tip steel exhaust outlets, heated front and side seats-mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, 11-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio system and more.

Given its rally car roots, the WRX’s sport suspension provides a firm yet still comfortable ride. Occupants are constantly aware of road conditions passing beneath them, but harsh shocks from potholes or tarmac cracks are summarily dampened and rejected.

There’s plenty of room for full-size adults in the front seats (though the snug-fitting Recaros reminded me to take a weight-loss diet seriously). The 60/40 split second also offers surprisingly graceful legroom. The narrow but deep trunk will swallow up to 12.5 cubic feet of cargo.

JOHN COLE reviews automobiles for the Times-Tribune. When he’s not driving cars, he runs the pen behind Times-Tribune editorial cartoons. Contact him at [email protected]

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